Written by Georgie Scotchford, edited for online by Sam Mortimer.
US space agency NASA announced the detection of more than 1200 new planets in an astronomical discovery which increased the chances of finding life in outer space.
Launched in 2009, the Kepler Space Observatory located the distant planets by watching them orbit in-front of their star – a process known as a ‘transit’.
Astrological Society of Brisbane vice president Tony Surma-Hawes explained it was likely there were many more.
“It’s only looking at tiny parts of the sky, and statistical averages mean that planets are very common in our galaxy,” he said.
“By that you can bring it down and say there’s a really good chance that there’ll be lots and lots of planets in the habitable zone.”
CSIRO’s education and public outreach manager Glenn Nagle said it was a huge opportunity, and there were plans of even more detailed missions in the future.
“NASA in the next few years is launching a new satellite called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), which will do even further studies in higher detail of even wider ranging parts of the sky, to really map more of the galaxy so we can understand what other planets might be out there,” he said.
Of the planets found, NASA said nine of those were theoretically livable.
University of Queensland Professor of Astrophysics Michael Drinkwater said certain criteria must be met for a planet to be habitable.
“(What) we can often tell from this sort of measurement is whether the planets are in the habitable zone, whether they’re similar in size to the earth, and at a suitable distance from the sun for the temperature that you have liquid water – which is certainly essential for life,” he said.
Professor Drinkwater said the prospect of confirming the existence of extra-terrestrial life was not so alien anymore, but admitted the technology still needed additional development.
“In the last decade it’s become a lot more real,” he said.
“I don’t think we can do it yet, but where we’re going to get a lot of traction is actually when we can chemically analyse the atmospheres of these planets.”