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Planets common in the Milky Way

Most of the extrasolar planets known so far were discovered using methods biased towards planets that are relatively close to their parent stars, and in this population about 17–30% of solar-like stars host a planet. A rather different picture emerges from an analysis of gravitational microlensing data collected between 2002 and 2007. This method probes planets that are farther away from their stars. The data reveal that it is the rule, rather than the exception, for stars in our Galaxy to host one planet or more. ‘Super-Earths’ are the most abundant type, being associated with around 62% of stars; 52% host cool Neptune-like planets; and 17% host ‘Jupiters’.

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