The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has stated that there are roughly 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy.
The study was a collaboration between scientists at NASA who have worked on the Kepler mission as well as researchers from numerous international agencies.
The US space agency’s Kepler Space Telescope spent nine years on a planet-hunting mission, successfully identifying thousands of exoplanets in our galaxy before running out of fuel in 2018.
But the original mission’s core question remained: how many of these planets are habitable?
Scientists around the world pored over Kepler’s data for years — and they think they’ve found the answer. According to research released in The Astronomical Journal, there are roughly 300 million potentially habitable worlds in our galaxy, meaning rocky planets capable of supporting liquid water on their surface.
That figure is a rough estimate on the conservative side, and “there could be many more,” said NASA in a news release. Some of these planets could be close enough to be considered “interstellar neighbors” — the closest is around 20 light-years away.
“Kepler already told us there were billions of planets, but now we know a good chunk of those planets might be rocky and habitable,” said NASA researcher and lead author Steve Bryson in the release.
“Though this result is far from a final value, and water on a planet’s surface is only one of many factors to support life, it’s extremely exciting that we calculated these worlds are this common with such high confidence and precision.”