Great news. For all of you folks who got wedgied in high school for reading a copy of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and praying that a UFO would take you away from this cruel world, cheer up! It seems that it's virtually statistically impossible to not have planets capable of sustaining life. From Live Science:
Now if only NASA could get something into space without it getting blowed up, maybe we could accelerate civilization's destiny before we all end up killing each other.
There are about ten thousand billion billion habitable planets in the observable universe, and some of these Earth-like worlds could be found by a mission set to launch early next month, a leading planet-formation theorist now speculates.
Alan Boss, astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., and author of "The Crowded Universe" (Basic Books), published this month, came up with that rough number by estimating there is about one habitable planet around every sun-like star in the galaxy, of which there are about 10 billion, and multiplying that by the number of galaxies in the universe (about 100 billion).
This result is inexact of course, so give or take a power of ten or so, Boss said, which is standard for these types of estimates in astronomy.
"Based on what we already know, the universe is going to turn out to be chock full of habitable planets (i.e. Earth-like worlds), and therefore life is likely to be widespread," said Boss, who discussed these estimates with a group of reporters last weekend in Chicago at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.