Researchers Using NASA’s Kepler Telescope Say Galaxy May Have 40 Billion Habitable Planets

NBC Nightly NewsVideo (11/5, story 9, 0:25, Williams, 7.86M) reported, “Well, good news for travelers, when we have all decided we have once and for all trashed planet Earth, a new analysis from NASA says there could be as many as 40 billion habitable earth size planets out there in the galaxy, the nearest place that could be considered to be truly hospitable to humans, is 12 light years away, visible to the naked eye at night but a long trip any way you look at it.” The PBS NewsHour (11/5, Ifill, Brown, 81K) reported in its final story, “Scientists now say they think there are many planets tens of billions, actually beyond our solar system that feature at least some of the right conditions needed for life.” The story featured Geoff Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley who said, “about one in five of the sun-like stars out there really do have planets the size of the Earth, the temperature of the Earth, and perhaps conditions conducive to life as we know it.” Using the NASA Kepler telescope, the researchers have surveyed “150,000 stars for four years.” Marcie also called the building of the telescope “a brilliant stroke by NASA.” He concluded, “It’s possible that in the next few years or decades there could be the first detection of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.” The AP (11/6, Borenstein) reports, “the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and exist in the Goldilocks zone not too hot and not too cold for life.” NASA’s Bill Borucki was quoted joking about “traffic jams” in deep space. NPR (11/6, Greenfieldboyce, 465K) reports, “Kepler’s goal was to find out if planets like Earth were cosmic rarities or a common occurrence.” Borucki said, “We’re finding about 24 planets that are actually less than twice the size of the Earth.” The Christian Science Monitor (11/5, Barber, 540K) reports, “There could be some 11 billion possibly habitable, Earth-sized planets in our galaxy, according to calculations based on data from the now hobbled Kepler spacecraft.” The US News & World Report (11/6, Beard, 620K) reports that researcher Andrew Howard said, “For NASA, this number that every fifth star has a planet somewhat like Earth is really important, because successor missions to Kepler will try to take an actual picture of a planet, and the size of the telescope they have to build depends on how close the nearest Earth-size planets are.” CBS News (11/6, 3.87M) reports that Borucki said, “If we’re looking at smaller stars at shorter [orbital] periods, we may find, in fact, many of those are also in the habitable zone.” Kepler “has been incredibly successful.” The article says that NASA has been working on a new mission for Kepler since its original abilities have been compromised. CNN (11/5, Lendon, 14.53M) comments, “given that there just more than 7 billion of us on this planet, that means a planet for each of us with some spares for your picky neighbors.” NASA’s discovery of over 800 candidate planets received a significant amount of local TV coverage, with more than 100 stories on broadcasts throughout the day, nationwide. For example, KVVU-TVVideo Las Vegas (11/5, 5:14 p.m. PST, 21K) reported, “If shopping on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t get you excited, maybe a new discovery in the universe will.” That discovery is that “NASA says there at least 833 new candidate planets orbiting stars throughout the galaxy. Of those, at least ten are within their star’s habitable zone, meaning they could have liquid water and, potentially, life. The announcement came at the Kepler Science Conference and uses data from the Kepler space telescope. These newly-found planets are added to a list of more than 3,500 such worlds. Scientists say their data shows most stars in our galaxy are orbited by at least one planet.”