Humans have long fantasized about other intelligent beings that may live in our vast universe, ones who may live on habitable planets similar to Earth. With hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way and an estimated several billion potentially habitable exoplanets, it is hard to guess how many intelligent alien civilizations may be near us. As it turns out, the number may be very small, at least according to a new study.
A number of studies over the years have attempted to estimate how many intelligent alien civilizations may exist in the Milky Way, something that hasn’t proven very useful — estimates have ranged all the way from none to billions, which isn’t exactly narrowing things down. The new study, which comes from the University of Nottingham, provides a much more precise number.
Of course, it is impossible to say at this time how many other human-like civilizations may join Earth in the Milky Way, but researchers have suggested the number may be around 36 — a minuscule percentage of the number of potentially habitable exoplanets in the galaxy.
This number refers specifically to technical intelligent civilizations, meaning ones that have, like Earth, reached a point in their development where they’re able to send signals into space using things like satellites. Despite this level of advancement, it may be very hard or impossible for humans and these aliens to detect each other due to the vast distances between each planet.
Professor Christopher Conselice explained:
Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial 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 bad sign for our own long-term existence. By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.