A statistical analysis based on a survey of millions of stars suggests that there's at least one planet for every star in the sky, and probably more. That would add up to 160 billion planets or so in the Milky Way. "We conclude that stars are orbited by planets as a rule, rather than the exception," an international research team reports today in the journal Nature. The estimate may sound amazing: Just a year ago, the world was wowed by the claim that at least half of the 100 billion or more stars in the Milky Way possessed planets, yielding a figure of 50 billion planets. The latest survey now suggests that there's an average of 1.6 planets per star system, which would work out to 160 billion. But perhaps the most amazing thing about the findings is ... astronomers don't find them amazing at all. "I am not surprised by the numbers," Didier Queloz, a planet-hunter at the Geneva Observatory who was not involved in the survey, told me in an email. Back in 2008, Queloz was part of a different research team that concluded one-third of the stars like our sun harbored super-Earth-size planets — the kinds of planets that could support life. Over the past couple of years, findings from a variety of planet-hunting missions — including NASA's Kepler space telescope, the European Space Agency's COROT telescope and ground-based telescope surveys — have reinforced the view that planets are plentiful. "Results from the three main techniques of planet detection are rapidly converging to a common result: Not only are planets common in the galaxy, but there are more small planets than large ones," Caltech astronomer Stephen Kane, a member of the team behind the findings reported in Nature, said in a news release from the Space Telescope Science Institute. "This is encouraging news for investigations into habitable planets." Full article here.