Friday, July 23, 2010

More than 100 'Earth-like' planets discovered in past few weeks

More than 100 planets that are a similar size to Earth have been discovered in just the past few weeks, it has been announced.

The discovery was made by the space telescope Kepler which has been scanning the skies for planets that are orbiting stars since it was launched in January last year.

The breakthrough raises the tantalising prospect that we may not be alone in the Universe.

Scientists now believe that there are likely to be around 100 million planets in the Milky Way that harbour exactly the right conditions for life.

And they expect to be able to identify around 60 of these habitable Earth-like planets within the next two years.

Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov told a conference that a space telescope has uncovered 140 different planets which are around the same size as Earth.

He described the remarkable breakthrough as ‘fulfilling the dreams of Copernicus’.

Kepler finds planets by detecting almost imperceptible 'winks' - the tiny amount of dimming that occurs each time a planet moves across the face of a star.

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