300 Million Earths: The Search for Life in the Cosmos (from a science journalist's perspective)

Nadia Drake, National Geographic
Location: Online

Friday, 09 April 2021 02:30PM PDT

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Our galaxy is stuffed with planets -- on average, every star you see has at least one alien world in orbit. But how many of those worlds are habitable? A new estimate, based on data from NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, suggests that as many as 300 million Earths populate the Milky Way galaxy -- defined as planets that are rocky, that orbit sun-like stars, and that have surface temperatures allowing liquid water to pool and flow across their surfaces. That's a bigger number than scientists expected. Pinning down that value brings us one step closer to finding an answer to the Drake Equation, a formula devised by my dad that calculates how many detectable intelligent civilizations exist in the Milky Way. In this presentation, I'll talk a little bit about how such results become news stories, and how the new estimate fits into the Drake Equation and the search for life in the cosmos -- from the perspective of a scientist who became a science journalist. (For more information, check out "How many alien civilizations are out there? A new galactic survey holds a clue," published by National Geographic.)