By Shawn Thomas

TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Tampa) — The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission could potentially find up to 70,000 new exoplanets in the Milky Way, reports.

The mission’s purpose is to help researchers better understand the characteristics of about 21,000 alien planets over its five-year mission and possibly 70,000 distant worlds over 10 years within our galaxy.

The history of this mission started with the first alien planet to be found in 1995 near a sun-like star.

Since then, another 2,000 of these exoplanets have been discovered, and apparently there a plenty more out there.

Astronomers believe that every star in the Milky Way has at least one planet orbiting it; meaning there could be around 200 billion other alien worlds.

“It’s not just about the numbers. Each of these planets will be conveying some very specific details, and many will be highly interesting in their own way,” lead author Michael Perryman of Princeton University said in a statement. “If you look at the planets that have been discovered until now, they occupy very specific regions of discovery space. Gaia will not only discover a whole list of planets, but in an area that has not been thoroughly explored so far.”

The $1 billion Gaia mission will also help researchers map the galaxy, providing a means of understanding and structuring a 3-D model of the Milky Way.
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