Our galaxy may have more than 30 intelligent alien civilizations

James Marshall
June 17, 2020

We are not alone - with 36 intelligent alien races living in our galaxy, according to a new study.

Drake's seven key variables, which range from how many habitable planets exoplanets there are in the galaxy to the amount of time over which intelligent life takes shape, are nearly impossible to pin down.

The average distance to an alien civilization is calculated to be around 17,000 light-years.

Conselice's team thinks that aliens may just be too far away to hear us. That might not mean much, however, because we don't possess the technology to observe the surface of planets outside of our own solar system, and we have only managed to even detect a tiny fraction of the worlds in our home galaxy, much less the rest of the universe.

The new study relates to Fermi's paradox, a longstanding conundrum of astronomy that asks how there can be a lack of evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations when the probability of other life is so high in the universe. Estimates like Conselice's come from rough calculations based on how long it took for life on Earth to emerge, how many Earth-like planets orbit sun-like stars, and how long life on Earth has been intelligent enough to send signals through space.

This is the lower limit, scientists said, meaning that if it is likely that our technological civilisation lasts far longer than 100 years, there are likely to be many alien communities out in space.

The University of Nottingham team said that obtaining good estimates of the number of possible extraterrestrial civilisations has previously been "very challenging".

"Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy".

The researchers assumed that it would take about 5 billion years for intelligent, communicating life to form on other planets, just as it did on Earth.

In the strong criteria, whereby a metal content equal to that of the Sun is needed, the authors calculate that there should be around 36 active CETI civilizations in the Milky Way. This is an enormous advance over previous estimates which spanned from zero to billions.

With that in mind, 36 seems like a perfectly reasonable number. Other worlds are likely so far away - the Nottingham team estimates the average distance to these radio-active civilizations would be 17,000 light-years away - that detection and communication would be extremely hard and unlikely, given our current technology.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students - Nottingham was named both Sports and International University of the Year in the 2019 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017 and features in the top 20 of all three major United Kingdom rankings. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

"By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life - even if we find nothing - we are discovering our own future and fate", said Conselice.

"Searches for extra-terrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life itself forms but also gives us clues about how long our civilization will last", said Christopher Conselice, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, who led the research.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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