The scientists analyzed Kepler-32′s structure, compared it with other planetary systems discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope and sat down to do some math. The result: an estimate that the Milky Way is home to at least 100 billion planets.
"It's a staggering number, if you think about it," Caltech astronomer Jonathan Swift, said in a news release on the research.
"Basically there's one of these planets per star," he said.
"It's like unlocking a language - the language of planet formation," added John Johnson, an assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech.
Interestingly, another team of astronomers last January came up with the same estimate using a different database and different technique. What spurred that team's work was an original estimate by Kepler scientists in 2010 that the Milky Way had at least 50 billion planets.
The new research is being published in the Astrophysical Journal and online.
Image: More than 100 billion planets likely call Milky Way home sweet home. Credit: Univ. of Texas