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There could be up to 36 civilizations in the Milky Way

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 19 jun 2020, 7:20 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 11 sept 2020, 9:55 ]
Are we alone in the Universe? This is the question that has haunted Humanity since we discovered that Earth is just one planet among hundreds of thousands that could exist in the Cosmos, in thousands of galaxies, and each discovery of a new exoplanet opens up the possibility of finally finding other intelligent life forms that we can communicate with.
Christopher Conselice, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, who led the new study. 

According to the new study by University of Nottingham's scientists, in our Galaxy, the Milky Way, alone there could exist up to 36 communicating civilizations.
Although we have not even confirmed the existence of life outside the Earth yet, a new study published in June, 2020, estimates that there could be more than 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, the Milky Way, alone, which is a great progress compared to previous calculations. 

The study, led by the University of Nottingham and published in mid-June by The Astrophysical Journal, took a new approach to the problem. They started by assuming that intelligent life on other planets forms in a similar way to how it happened on Earth and thus obtained an estimate of the number of intelligent civilizations capable of communicating within the Milky Way. 

“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” explained Christopher Conselice, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, who led the study.

“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit,” he added. 

Best estimates 

The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations is based on subjective values regarding life, in which opinions vary quite substantially, explained Tom Westby, co-author of the investigation.

Several previous calculations were based on the famous “Drake Equation,” put forward by the American astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake in 1961.

“Drake developed an equation which in principle can be used to calculate how many Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations there may be in the Galaxy,” the authors wrote in the new study. “However, many of its terms are unknowable and other methods must be used to calculate the likely number of communicating civilizations” they added.

According to Tom Westby, the new study “simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy.” That estimate shows that in the Milky Way alone there could be around 36 active civilizations.

“I am sure that Quantum Computing will open up a whole new age of discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics, not least in terms of handling the analysis of vast data relating to potential new exoplanets, and indeed, searching through possible radio signals in active SETI” Westby also commented in response to a question sent by CEFAA. 

Difficult communication 

However, the average distance to potential civilizations would be 17,000 light years, which would make finding and communicating with any of them very difficult based on our current technology. According to the study, it is also possible that we are the only civilization within our Galaxy, unless the survival times of civilizations like ours are long.

“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” said Christopher Conselice.

“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” he added.

“By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life —even if we find nothing— we are discovering our own future and fate” said Conselice. 

Source: University of Nottingham, CNN and communication with CEFAA.