by Lee Speigel
This artist’s conception shows an Earth-like planet orbiting its host red dwarf star. In a new study, astronomers estimate that 6 percent of all red dwarf stars have these kinds of planets in the habitable zone of the sun.
If ET phones home today, his long distance charge might not be as much as people believed when Steven Spielberg’s classic film came out three decades ago.
That’s because recent data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope suggests that billions of Earth-like planets are much closer than ever before imagined.
“The information we presented today will excite the general public because we now know that the nearest potentially Earth-like world is likely within 13 light years of the sun,” astronomer Courtney Dressing said in an email to The Huffington Post.
“Astronomically speaking, 13 light years is practically next door.”
While we don’t know if intelligent life exists on any of these planets, it raises the chances of that possibility.
The scientific team studied the huge number of red dwarf stars in our galaxy — stars that are smaller and have a longer life span than our own sun.
Just doing the math, the odds of Earth-like planets in our galaxy are, well, astronomical.
Scientists estimate 6 percent of the 75 billion red dwarf stars may have Earth-size planets orbiting them at a possible habitable distance. That works out to approximately 4.5 billion Earths out there.