Extra-terrestrial life could exist on 36 planets, says study by University of Nottingham

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Updated: June 15, 2020

ET is alive and well and ready to phone home! Extra-terrestrial life could exist on more than 30 planets within the Milky Way, according to a new study.

Researchers say that if life develops on other planets in a similar way to how it did on Earth, then humankind may be sharing our home galaxy with around 36 on-going civilisations.

Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, Christopher Conselice, who led the research, said: “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.”

The research shows that the number of civilisations depends on how long they exist, whilst actively sending out signals of their existence into space, such as radio transmissions from satellites, and television. If other civilisations last as long as ours, the study suggests there will be about 36 communicating civilisations throughout our Galaxy.

Light years

However, the average distance to these civilisations would be 17,000 light-years away, making detection and communication very difficult. It is also possible that we are the only civilisation within our Galaxy unless the survival times of civilisations like our own are long.

Professor Conselice continues: “Our new research suggests that searches for extra-terrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last.

“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 sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extra-terrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.”

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