Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the universe, and nearly every one of these stars may have a planet located in its habitable zone where life has the best chance of existing, a new study concludes.
This discovery may increase the chances that alien life could exist elsewhere in the cosmos, researchers say. They detailed their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
Red dwarfs, also known as M dwarf stars, are up to 50 times dimmer than the Sun and are just 10 to 20 percent as massive. They make up to 70 percent of the stars in the universe.
The fact that red dwarfs are so common has made scientists wonder if they might be the best places to discover alien life. Astronomers are discovering more and more planets around red dwarfs, and recent findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory reveal that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are one-half to four times the mass of Earth. All in all, planets about the size of Earth seem plentiful in the universe, as do other worlds that are smaller than most gas giants, on the order of Neptune (which is 17 times the mass of Earth). Why such worlds are abundant is a mystery.