According to findings released by the 219th American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, every star we see in the night sky has, on average, 1.6 planets orbiting it. This implies that in our galaxy alone there may 10 billion Earth-sized planets.
Gravitational microlensing is a method that uses the gravity of a far-flung star to amplify the light from even more distant stars that have planets.
Astronomers used a number of relatively small telescopes that make up the Microlensing Network for the Detection of Small Terrestrial Exoplanets, or Mindstep, to look for the rare event of one star passing directly in front of another as seen from Earth.
"Just the recent 15 years have seen the count of known planets beyond the Solar System rising from none to about 700, but we can expect hundreds of billions to exist in the Milky Way alone," said co-author Dr Martin Dominik, from the University of St Andrews, UK.
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