Researchers at the Neils Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and the Australian National University undertook a study of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by the Kepler satellite. Examining these planetary systems, they calculated the probability for the number of stars that might have planets in the habitable “Goldilocks” zone. The results of the new study suggest that billions of stars in the Milky Way will have one to three planets in the habitable zone where where water and life could possibly exist.
The results of the study were published in the most recent edition of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Astronomers used the Titius-Bode law to find number of habitable planets
The calculations regarding the possible number of habitable planets are based on a method called the Titius-Bode law. This law, which was developed in the 1770s, predicts the distance and orbits of planets in a solar system. The researchers applied the T-B law to the 1,000 exoplanets (and 3,000 possible exoplanets) discovered by NASA’s Kepler satellite ovedr the last few years. They examined 151 planetary systems (systems where Kepler had detected between three and six planets), and determined that the Titius-Bode law accurately described the 124 of the systems.
The researchers then evaluated the number of planets in the Goldilocks zone based on the extra planets that were added to the 151 planetary systems based on the Titius-Bode law. The final calculation determined there should be 1-3 planets in the habitable zone of each planetary system.
Future studies can confirm conclusions
“We then made a priority list with 77 planets in 40 planetary systems to focus on because they have a high probability of making a transit, so you can see them with Kepler. We have encouraged other researchers to look for these. If they are found, it is an indication that the theory stands up,” noted Steffen Kjær Jacobsen, a researcher from the University of Copenhagen involved in the project.