Did you have an alien invasion on your 2020 bingo card? One new study published Monday suggests there could be upwards of 36 intelligent civilizations residing in the Milky Way galaxy. That's right – upwards of three dozen beings that reside in the very galaxy we call home. Don't panic. It should be noted that no, no proof of the existence of said alien races have been found and the study published in The Astrophysical Journal is based on a mathematical equation.
"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," study lead Christopher Conselice says. Conselice, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, led the research team in this particular study. "The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit," he adds.
Though 36 civilizations – ones the study calls technologically advanced – could be spread throughout the galaxy, they'd be on-average 17,000 light-years away from Earth. Using the technology we have currently available on Earth, it'd take approximately 18,500 years to travel one light-year, meaning it'd take roughly 313.63 million years to reach any of these other civilizations. On tha front, it's practically guaranteed we won't make contact in our lifetime – or the lifetimes of the several next generations; you know, unless this year really gets bonkers.
"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," Conselice adds. "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."
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