A European team said Wednesday that about 40 percent of red dwarf stars, the most common in the Milky Way, have a planet called "Super-Earth" orbiting in a habitable zone that would allow for water surface.
Since there are about 160,000 million red dwarfs in the Milky Way, the number of worlds that are potentially hot and humid enough to support life is enormous.
Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology of Grenoble and Astrophysics and the team leader, said the figure was 40 percent at the upper end of what was expected and that the findings highlighted the prevalence of small rocky planets.
His team is the first to calculate the number of Super Earths planets with a mass between one and 10 times that of Earth in these areas habitable, although previous research has concluded that the Milky Way is full of planets.
Red dwarfs, which are pale and cold in comparison with the Sun, representing about 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way.
After studying 102 of these stars in the southern sky with a telescope of European Southern Observatory in Chile, Bonfils and colleagues found that rocky planets are much more common than gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system.
However, rocky worlds orbiting red dwarfs are not necessarily friendly places alien life forms.
Because red dwarfs are much cooler than the Sun, any planets with liquid water need to orbit much closer to the star than the Earth from the Sun That could mean being bathed in harmful ultraviolet radiation and X-rays.
Scientists want to look more closely at some of the Earth-like planets as they pass nearby red dwarfs, which could produce information about their atmospheres and assist in the search for possible signs of life. ADS HERE