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New Kepler data could change our odds of meeting aliens

Earlier this week we reported on the astounding revelation that 22% of sunlike stars in the Milky Way are orbited by potentially habitable, Earth-sized worlds. Given that there may be billions upon billions of life-friendly planets out there, it's time to revise the numbers in the Drake Equation and estimate how many… » 11/08/13 9:38am 11/08/13 9:38am

Two Billion Reasons Why We're About to Find Earth 2

Planet-hunting scientists announced today that 22% of sunlike stars in the Milky Way are orbited by potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds. This remarkable finding indicates that there may be as many as two billion planets in our galaxy suitable for life — and that the nearest such planet may be only 12 light-years… » 11/04/13 1:42pm 11/04/13 1:42pm

The most accurate 3D map of our galaxy reveals a peanut-shaped core

Our solar system is located in an offshoot of one of the Milky Way's spiral arms, so we don't have a clear sense of what our galaxy looks like edge on. Now, two groups of astronomers have pooled their data to create the most detailed map yet of the galaxy's core — and its shape comes as a surprise. » 9/12/13 9:00am 9/12/13 9:00am

There's something weird going on with our galaxy's planetary nebulae

This weird, hourglass-shaped structure is a planetary nebula, the not entirely accurate name given to the clump of gas that forms after a dying sun ejects it outer layers. Astronomers recently looked at over a hundred of these nebulae in the Milky Way's galactic center. Shockingly, a huge number of the nebulae appear… » 9/08/13 2:00pm 9/08/13 2:00pm

Astronomers say there are at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets in…

Back in June of last year, astronomers working with the Kepler space telescope made the bold proclamation that all stars have planets. While this is all fine-and-well (if not intuitively obvious), what was not known is how many Earth-sized planets are out there. But now, a new analysis of Kepler data may be providing… » 1/08/13 9:00am 1/08/13 9:00am

It's Full of Stars: 84 Million Stars of the Milky Way in 9 Billion…

It's impossible to capture the scale of our galaxy on your computer screen, but darned if the European Southern Observatory isn't going to try. The observatory has released a 108500×81500 pixel mosaic of the central parts of the Milky Way. You weren't planning on doing anything else with your weekend, right? » 10/27/12 1:00pm 10/27/12 1:00pm

One of the first exoplanets ever discovered could actually be made of…

Remember 55 Cancri e? Sure you do — and if you don't, you should. After all, it may be the first diamond planet ever discovered that orbits a Sun-like star. At least we think it is; if there's one thing 55 Cancri e is good at, it's fooling astronomers into thinking it's something that it's not. » 10/11/12 11:28am 10/11/12 11:28am