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THE amount of cosmic real estate just skyrocketed, with the discovery of 50 planets beyond our solar system bolstering the quest to find alien life.
The discovery of the planets was announced yesterday by astronomers with the European Southern Observatory. They comprise the largest group simultaneously revealed and bring the tally of so-called extra-solar planets to nearly 600.
"This is good news for those hoping to find some company in the galaxy," said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in San Francisco, California.
As Dr Shostak told The Australian, the inventory will grow next year when NASA's Kepler telescope determines what fraction of stars have planets that can support life. "The answer is likely to be somewhere between 1 and 10 per cent," he said.