DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Earth-like extrasolar planet. Artwork of an Earth- like planet (centre) seen from orbit around one of its moons. Two other moons, the planet's Sun-like star, the Milky Way, and several galaxies are also seen. An alien (or extrasolar) planet has to fit a narrow range of sizes and distances from its star if it is to have a surface temperature suitable for liquid water, and to retain an atmosphere. The number of other habitable planets in the Milky Way galaxy is not known, but has been estimated at anything between 1 (just Earth) and as many as 10 billion. Many planets have already been discovered orbiting nearby stars.
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