Cartoons, sci-fi novels, and Hollywood movies have long theorized on the existence of alien life within our vast universe. While our imaginations have always stuck to fiction, a new study suggests that all this could be true after all, and they're closer than we thought.
Published in The Astrophysical Journal last June 15, scientists from the University of Nottingham have conducted research that now proposes that there could be over 30 intelligent civilizations currently existing in the Milky Way. Their study assumes that other alien life across space have come to form much like our civilization on earth has.
“There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth,” University of Nottingham professor and lead researcher Christopher Conselice says in a statement. Subsequently, their findings also operate under the premise that technologically advanced Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations will most likely have been around for 100 years.
“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, whereby opinions about such matters vary quite substantially. Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy,” first author Tom Westby further explains.
The calculation used by the team at Nottingham to come to their conclusion has been dubbed the “Astrobiological Copernican Limit.” As broken down by Forbes, it takes into account “star formation histories, how common metal-rich stars are (like the Sun), and the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones.”
That said, researchers clarify that if their findings were to be true, the closest intelligent civilization to earth would then have to be 17,000 light-years away. Meaning it would be “very difficult” to communicate with them considering the technology available to us now. FYI one light-year is equal to an estimated 6 trillion miles or 9 trillion kilometers.
"If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence," Christopher supposes. "By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life, even if we find nothing, we are discovering our own future and fate."