There may be 100 billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, or one for every sun-type star in the galaxy, said Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution and author of the new book “The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets.”

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland constructed a computer model to create a synthetic galaxy with billions of stars and planets. They then studied how life evolved under various conditions in this virtual world, using a supercomputer to crunch the results.

In a paper published recently in the International Journal of Astrobiology, the researchers concluded that based on what they saw, at least 361 intelligent civilizations have emerged in the Milky Way since its creation, and as many as 38,000 may have formed.

NASA is hoping to find much more habitable worlds with the help of the upcoming Kepler mission. The spacecraft, set to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida next week, will search for Earth-size planets in our part of the galaxy.

Boss, who serves on the Kepler Science Council, said scientists should know by 2013 — the end of Kepler’s mission — whether life in the universe could be widespread.

“Where is everybody?”
Physicist Enrico Fermi (1950)

“Civilizations come and go,” Boss said. “Chances are, if you do happen to find a planet which is going to have intelligent life, it’s not going to be in [the same] phase of us. It may have formed a billion years ago, or maybe it’s not going to form for another billion years.”

Even if intelligent civilizations did exist at the same time, they probably would be be separated by tens of thousands of light years, Forgan said. If aliens have just switched on their transmitter to communicate, it could take us hundreds of centuries to receive their message, he added.

“So when you think about that, maybe we shouldn’t be worried about having interstellar air raids any time soon,” Boss said.

Source: CNN

Drake Equation

This equation was devised by Dr. Frank Drake (now Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz) in 1960, in an attempt to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy with which we might come in contact. The main purpose of the equation is to allow scientists to quantify the uncertainty of the factors which determine the number of such extraterrestrial civilizations.

Current Estimate: N = 7 × 0.5 × 2 × 0.33 × 0.01 × 0.01 × 10000 = 2.31

Further Reading: Drake Equation

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12 thoughts on “We are [Not] Alone?

  1. Going by the Drake Equation is fine and all, but the problem is we still only see life as it developed here, and life may have developed on completely different situations elsewhere and be a completely different kind of lifeform that we are unable to relate with.

    Besides it is all a probability, we came out of random chances in evolution. Until there is consistent proof or visual evidence (like little green men popping up at our doorstep) I can only believe that life has yet to meet us. Either way, as some people say, it is a mighty sobering thought, whether or not we are alone.

    1. Indeed, the lifeforms can be quite diverse. We don’t have to go far – just look at the life deep in our oceans. It is quite different from what we see above, especially those beasties living in high temperature environments.

      Yes, all those are just estimates that may or may not be true.

      Will we see some aliens in our lifetime? It is possible, but unlikely.

      1. but we may have seen one already but we just didn’t know? (^_^)

        @topic, yes, the power of evolution is indeed remarkable since it allowed many species to survive and continue adapting to the environment up until now but we aren’t really sure what the other side of the coin looks like so I see the derivation of formula meaningless unless a solid proof(what Panther said) is obtained.

        1. haha Yes, we might have seen one 😛

          Often, all we can do is try to build a model. We don’t know the truth, but, by slow gradual progress. we are getting closer to it.

      1. Hey, thanks for the link. I find the discussions very interesting and insightful. At least there’s a general consensus that the ISS shouldn’t just die and go to waste. I don’t find it ludicrous to convert it into a space ship. Someone has to start off somewhere. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of space junk orbiting earth that might actually be useful materials to be recycle and reused in space for future missions to where ever in space.

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