The sun is an ordinary star, but it’s not the only kind of star out there. Most stars in our galaxy are M dwarfs (sometimes called red dwarfs), which are significantly smaller and redder than the sun — and many of them may have the potential to host life, new research shows.
A new reanalysis of data from the planet-hunting Kepler mission shows that one-third of planets around M dwarfs may be suitable for life — meaning there are likely hundreds of millions of habitable planets in the Milky Way alone.
For the analysis, astronomers at the University of Florida incorporated new information from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, which precisely measures the distances and motions of stars, to fine-tune measurements of exoplanets’ orbits. The researchers wanted to pin down a parameter of each orbit known as eccentricity, a measure of how stretched out the planet’s path around its star is.
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