With so many undiscovered planets in the galaxy, it surely seems there are other planets like Earth that harbour life.

Dr Michael Albow has recieved funding to study the light emmitted from stars to find these planets, and while he has located quite a few, he has not yet laid eyes on them.

"What we're really trying to do is establish how many planets there are in the galaxy," he said.

"Are solar systems like ours common, or are they unusual? All the indications we have so far, it seems that small planets like the Earth are actually probably rather common, they're just extremely diffucult to detect."


He said the planets he had detected were up to 20,000 light years away.

And while there certainly could be planets with sustainable life on them, Dr Albow said most of these would be too far away for todays telescopes to reach.

"Astronomers so far have found several thousand planets around other stars, but most of them are not like the type of planets we find in our solar system.

"They tend to be found much closer to their parent star, so they're much, much hotter. They're not really the kind of planets that we could expect life to be present on."

Having access to telescope images in South Africa, Chile and Australia meant that Dr Albow could have his eyes on the sky 24/7, no matter the time zone.