A University of Victoria astronomer says he has found evidence of planets orbiting nine distant stars, a discovery that intensifies speculation about the existence of life beyond the Earth.
Bruce Campbell, chief of a Canadian team of astronomers, suggests that as many as half of the stars in the Milky Way may have "planetary companions."
He says his findings "could be interpreted as a sign that there are also Earth-like planets suitable for life, but we have no evidence of that at all."
Cambell presented his evidence Wednesday in Baltimore at the International Astronomical Union assembly, where an American team also reported discovering a planet.
Astronomers from the Simthsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., said they have found "what might be a very large planet" orbiting a star 90 light years away.
Sensitive Technique Used
"It makes it easier to speculate than it was a few years ago when there were zero planetary candiadates," said Daivd Latham, leader of the Simthsonian team. "We can start to speculate now about how often life evolved."
Campbell said he and his Canadian group used a technique more sensitive than the instruments used by Latham and were able to find nine planetary objects after studying just 18 stars.
The clearest data, he said, shows that a large planet orbits a star called Tau Ceti.
"We see in the star the effects of a companion sized on the order of Jupiter," said Campbell.
Eight other planet-like objects were found about other stars, he said, but the team was unable to make a precise measure of their size.
"We can only infer masses on the order of one to 10 times that of Jupiter," said Campbell.
Both teams of astronomers made the discoveries by analysing the color shift of light collected from stars. Light from a distant source changes color slightly if the light source is moving. It shifts toward red if it is moving away, and toward blue if moving toward the observer.
By carefully measuring this shift, the astronomers are able to detect wobble, or movement of the stars. This movement can be caused only by
the gravitational effect of a nearby body, and the velocity of the movement allows the scientist to calculate the size of the object.
All of the stars stuidied by the Canadian team are similar in size to the sun, and all are within 100 light years of Earth.
Ronald Reagan is convinced he saw a UFO, it was revealed last night.
He was so amazed, he ordered the pilot of the plane he was in to follow the mystery object as it zig-zagged across the night sky.
The President said later: "When I got off the plane, I told Nancy all about it and we read up on the long history of UFOs. "You know, even the Egyptians referre to UFOs in their hieroglyphics."
Veteran pilot Bill Paynter, 72, who was at the controls, said: "President Reagan and the others called my attention to a big light flying a bit behind my plane. It appeared to be several hundred yards away. It was a fairly steady light until it began to accelerate, then it appeared to elongate.
The close encounter, revealed in a new book, backed up Reagan's theory about aliens in space-- apparently he once said he believed in flying saucers.
Reports of UFO sightings in Cambridge during the early hours of this morning have been made to the Greenwich Obervatory in London.
Anxious residents woken by a loud pulsing noise claimed to have seen a bright orange ball just after 2 am, according to Cambridge police.
But an astronomer at the obseratory said it is unlikely to have been extra-terrestrial.
Dr. Rosaly Lopes said: "We had a number of telephone calls. One lady said there were vibrations on the top of her house and other people had seen starnge objects in the sky.
"I won't say I don't believe in UFOs but most can be explained. It is not that the people are in any way mad, it's just that they see things they can't understand."
Dr. Lopes believes the bright ball could have been Mars which is quite high in the sky at the moment and has an orange tinge.
And she said the noise could have been caused by an aeroplane, weather balloon, or even a meteor entering the Earth's atmosphere.
Another possible explanation is a Russiabn satellite expected to fall to earth soon.
But Miss Maureen Plantagenet, 40, of Eden Street, Cambridge, refused to accept the explanations.
She said she was woken abruptly just after 2 am by a loud noise: "It was quite the most incredible noise I have heard in my life. First of all I thought it was an aeroplane crash then I realized it was a loud energetic. pulsing."
The noise moved down towards Parkside School, she said. But it was gone by the time she got to her window.
Her neighbor, Mrs Pamela Lee, was also woken.
"I have heard some powerful engines with my father in the RAF, but this was quite extraordinary."