Is there anybody out there? Actually, there are 36 places we’ll ...

World

Is there anybody out there? Actually, there are 36 places we’ll find aliens

There should be at least a few dozen active civilisations just like on Earth in our galaxy, say scientists

Helena Horton

It is a question that has confounded humans since we first looked up at the night sky. Are we alone? Now, research may have finally shone a light on the issue, with scientists claiming there are at least 36 intelligent alien civilisations similar to that on Earth.

Researchers from Nottingham University said the average distance to these civilisations would be 17,000 light years which, with our technology, would make the chances of encountering such life very slim. They worked out that humanity would probably have to survive another 6,120 years for two-way communication.

The new paper, published in the Astrophysics Journal (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/ab8225), is based on the assumption that intelligent life would evolve on other planets in the same way that it has done on Earth. They used a theory called the Astrobiological Copernican Limit, which is when scientists apply evolution on a cosmic scale. Their calculation is a refinement of one first thought up in 1961 by Francis Drake, who set seven criteria for alien life, ranging from the number of stars in the galaxy to the presence of detectable electronic signals. However, estimates using this equation are far-ranging, from zero to many billions...

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.