NASA scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered what they believe are 16 new planets deep in the Milky Way, leading them to conclude there are probably billions of planets spread throughout the galaxy.
Over the past 15 years, astronomers have identified more than 200 planets outside our solar system, but the new ones identified by the Hubble are at least 10 times as far from Earth.
That planets can be found at the center of the galaxy, as well as near our solar system, has given NASA researchers confidence that they are likely to be everywhere. If that is the case, then the likelihood of other Earth-like planets becomes greater.
"We all are dreamers, and part of that dream is to find life somewhere," said Mario Livio, head of the science program at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which oversees Hubble operations. "We're finding that the galaxy is full of planets, and the chances are, somewhere out there, we will find one with the conditions necessary to be habitable."
As that excerpt from the article states, astronomers have been looking for planets outside our solar system for a long time. But due to the limitations of our technology, we were really only finding massive planets that-though they could possibly harbor life of some kind-were certainly not Earth-like. But if there are this many planets in our galaxy, literally billions, then the odds of finding one very similar to ours, with or without life on it, have risen considerably. And the possibilities for the future are simply incredible.