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How Many Alien Civilizations Are Out There? A New Galactic Survey Holds a Clue

More than 300 million worlds with similar conditions to Earth are scattered throughout the Milky Way galaxy. A new analysis concludes that roughly half of the galaxy’s sunlike stars host rocky worlds in habitable zones where liquid water could pool or flow over the planets’ surfaces. “This is the science result we’ve all been waiting for,” says Natalie Batalha, an astronomer with the University of California, Santa Cruz, who worked on the new study. The finding, which has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal, pins down a crucial number in the Drake Equation.

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