As a planet with liquid water in abundance, just the right temperatures and a moving, fluctuating internal structure of rock, earth is pretty darn lucky. But it is our placement in relation to the sun that makes life possible. We had always assumed we were a rare occurrence, lucky beyond the odds of the universe. But now, we’ve found that we are not so special after all. Scientists now believe we are but a statistical minority, not an impossible rarity. Of the sun-like stars we know of, they claim, roughly 23 in 100 have planets in the same area and of the same basic dimensions of earth. Masses ranging from one-half to two times the size of earth are relatively common, present near roughly one in four stars systems similar to the sun. Much of this research is the result of extensive study of stars 166 G and K, just 80 light years away and very similar to our own sun in most respects. They found that there is almost a sort of formula, with planets sized similar to those found in our own system at relatively the same locations. For example, there is a planet roughly the size of Jupiter within a few thousand miles of where it is located in our own solar system.
Scientists found 156,000 stars that fit this formula, and the Keck telescope being used for the project will be able to detect roughly 120-260 possible planets in the next two months. What does this matter? We are not the mathematical anomaly we always imagined ourselves. There are planets with the same opportunities for life that we have had over the last 4.2 billion years, some of which have existed for a similar period of time. Is there life out there? Could we find it in the next 100 years? Or 200? Or ever. We don’t know everything. We know almost nothing. The universe, my friends, is the greatest mystery.