There could be more than 30 alien civilizations in the Milky Way

| June 16, 2020

By: Bill Watterson

By Chris Ciaccia

If extraterrestrial civilizations exist, we may not have to go too far to find them.

A new study from researchers at the U.K.’s University of Nottingham suggests there are 36 planets in the Milky Way galaxy, a calculation the experts have dubbed “the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, whereby opinions about such matters vary quite substantially,” the study’s lead author, Tom Westby, said in a statement. “Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy.”

“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,” University of Nottingham professor Christopher Conselice added.

The researchers found that there were limits for finding intelligent life, including the average lifespan of a civilization, which can be less than 1,000 years, as well as the age of the planet and what the host star is comprised of.

“Furthermore, the likelihood that the host stars for this life are solar-type stars is extremely small and most would have to be M dwarfs, which may not be stable enough to host life over long timescales,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract.

The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

If such a civilization were to exist, the closest one would be 17,000 light-years away, which the researchers noted would make the ability to find and communicate with them “very difficult,” given the state of our technology.

Marvin the Martian unavailable for comment. Read the entire article here: Fox News

Category: It's science!, Science and Technology, Who knows

Comments (30)

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  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    Hell we got Alien Civilizations here on Earth. They’re just not very civilized. You can find them in any major metro area. Their headquarters and Mother Ship is in Seattle right now.

    What we do have is a dearth of intelligent life here. ET does drop by on occasion, just to check on things. Usually when they ride by the doors to the spaceship are locked and they keep their eyes straight ahead. It’s obvious that they have been here before, there is too much evidence hither and yon. Maybe they’re waiting for the herd to get bigger and fatter before they come back to start harvesting the crop.

    There has yet to be an alien invasion that was good for the inhabitants of Earth.

    • George V says:

      5th/77th, maybe when those aliens cruise by they open the hatches and drop off their criminals. Could our good old Earth be their penal colony? That would account for much that we see.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Could very well be George V. Could also be their insane asylum. Or the place where they test their new weapons.

    • Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

      Alien civilizations…….not very civilozed, but VERY alien.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      I think that places like Seattle and San Foo-foo are chock full of people abducted and anal probed to the point of brain damage!

  2. George V says:

    I think the number of alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy has a relationship to the number of angels that dance on the head of a pin. Maybe in a ratio normalized by the use of Finagle’s constant.

  3. Ret_25X says:

    “given the state of our technology”…no…

    the correct answer is “given the limits of the speed of light”. A system 17000 light years away with advanced tech appearing at any point inside the last 17K would be undetectable until light and radio wave (travelling at C) could even be received here.

    A distinction the authors of the actual study made.

    “the nearest CETI is at most ${17,000}_{-10,000}^{+33,600}$ lt-yr away and most likely hosted by a low-mass M-dwarf star, likely far surpassing our ability to detect it for the foreseeable future, and making interstellar communication impossible.”

  4. Thunderstixx says:

    There are competing theories on life in the Universe as we know it.
    Some are filled with the optimism or fearfulness of literally thousands of intelligent civilizations.
    Others come down in the other side, that life coming into being and evolving to an intelligent, sentient level are very rare and that the chances of us being alone in this huge place that we know very little about are quite high.
    I’m with the life is rare and that so few other lifeforms are out there is simply proof that God gave us this Universe to ourselves and we are supposed to be the same wayfarer’s that lived centuries ago and explore and colonize the Solar System and eventually the rest of the Universe.
    Exploration is in our genes, we cannot hide from it or turn to gaze inward to our navel as is the wont of every stinking liberal on Earth.
    People like Elon Musk will be the drivers of our civilization, like it or not, we are going to the stars.
    And Elon Musk gives me hope for the future of mankind.
    The other morons, not so much…..
    It’s a big wide wonderful world we live in. It was meant to be enjoyed, get off the computer, get in your car, which really does represents the actual freedom of mankind and go see something you’ve never seen before.
    You will not be disappointed…
    Oh, BTW, send pics to us !!!!!

    • Ret_25X says:

      an idea that is gaining traction among the astronomy community is that we may be “first” or the “the forerunners” of our galaxy. Of course, in this sense that only means first to space, not first to exist…

      There are many reasons that might keep intelligent life planet bound, or indeed, pre-tech.

      A presentation of the Fermi Paradox in context and its various interpretations and potential solutions can be found on Isaac Arthur’s channel here (note: there are 30 videos in this series);

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Life isn’t rare, Stixx. The geological and paleontological records show that. I have two fossils from the Carboniferous epoch, a shrimp embedded in an iron ore concrection and a plant (Alethopteris) from the same time period, 300 million years ago.

      Life repeatedly arises, falls back and is replaced by Other Life.

      There are now six SETI signals under observation, including the source of the original SETI “wow” signal. It’s just a matter of time until we run into other lifeforms that may or may not be intelligent** on other planets.

      **Considering what has happened over the last couple of weeks, I’m more and more convinced that the real troublemakers are space aliens, living amongst us.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Life and “intelligent” life are two different things. I believe it was Frank Herbert who told an interviewer that in his books “There’s lots of life around the galaxy, but none of it talks back.”

      As for me, I’m open to the possibility of extraterrestrial/extrasolar life existing. The big question is whether any of it (if there is any) could be sapient/sentient. Then there’s the question of what form it could possibly take. I’ve seen some fairly convincing arguments suggesting that a form at least familiar to us, i.e. bipedal, symmetrical, verbal communication, etc., would likely be a common thing. I’ve seen some others that convincingly argue otherwise, that any intelligent aliens would probably be *alien* in every imaginable way, to the point that mutual comprehension would be difficult if not impossible. Then there’s other biological questions, like whether life could form on a world inhospitable to humans.

      Just about any scifi will play fast & loose with some kind of science for sake of storytelling, since it’s dealing with stuff beyond what is currently known and/or possible. However, I kinda like the “Mass Effect” series’s take on it (minus the part where brainwashing alien robot zombies exterminate everything every 50,000 years, of course). In the “Mass Effect” games, life-bearing worlds are rare, and relatively few of them rendered anything sentient, but given the vastness of the galaxy, that still leaves plenty of opportunities for life. There’s at most a few dozen intelligent races. Most of them look at least vaguely like us (though not all of them are mammals), breathe a similar atmosphere, and are capable of speaking English, but there’s some outliers too. One race is from a Venus-like “pressure cooker” planet, breathes ammonia, and has to wear a pressurized spacesuit to survive in an environment suitable for humans (though they’re still bipedal with two arms). Another race are essentially amphibious jellyfish who *can* live outside of water (though they don’t like to) and have to wear a speech synthesizer to talk to any other race due to their natural communication being done via complex bioluminescence.

      My point in all of this is that the possibilities out there are endless. We may or may not be alone in the cosmos, and even if we’re not, we may well be the only ones able to make fire or the wheel. It’s also possible that we’re way behind our cosmic neighbors in technology, or that we’re more or less at parity, or anything in between. I doubt we’ll find any answers in my lifetime.

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Earth has some quirks.

      Our core is unusually large, highly metallic, and mostly still molten, resulting in an extra-strength magnetic field, protecting us from radiation.

      Earth is much denser than other rocky planets, yielding higher gravity for size. Thus our atmosphere is extra-dense, more shielding from UV and other radiation.

      Large proportion of water.

      Enough long-life fissionable radioactives to keep the core hot.

      A very large moon, stabilizing our axial tilt, moderating seasons and keeping changes gradual.

      G0 type “yellow dwarf” star of minimal variability and moderate output.

      Relatively few large stellar neighbors, thus minimal supernovae and other world-sterilizing events in the neighborhood.

  5. OWB says:


    We’re DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED. Or something.

    (Maybe they can bring us some ‘rona vaccine.)

    • Thunderstixx says:

      No, you’re right we are so DOOOOMMMMEEEDDDD !!!!!
      Doomed I say !!!!

      • OWB says:

        For those new to the family, Thunderstixx originated that but has not copyrighted it yet so occasionally someone else will attempt to replicate the phrase. So far, we have all failed to accomplish a true representation of the original.

        /OT moment

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      You’re gonna get ‘ol Major Moonbat started again like he’s going with the corona crap and he was about the zika virus!

  6. Thunderstixx says:

    Anything written by Victor Davis Hanson is well worth a read.
    No doubt about it, he’s one of the most intelligent men alive today……
    Even if you disagree with his premise, you cannot dispute the conclusions he forms with the information presented….
    Chew on that larsy-boi !!!!
    You are nowhere near as intelligent as Mr Hanson is…..

    • Thunderstixx says:

      You simply cannot portray the truth any better than Mr Hanson does with this clip from the article !!!!
      “Progressive, affluent whites run most of the blue states that oversee the big blue cities who hire the liberal police chiefs and their unionized officers. So how strange it is for liberal elite white people to damn supposed white privilege for the logical sins of their own ideology and governance.”

    • rgr769 says:

      The man is a genius, and he is an expert on classical civilizations, so has a long view perspective on the human race.

  7. David says:

    All estimates of alien life are generally very egotistical… we seem to think any alien life form will be carbon based, similar to us, evolved like us at a similar pace, and are at similar levels of technological sophistication. That is why we have CETI, looking for alien radio signals.

    I would suggest that life has probably already occurred and evolved many thousands of times in our galaxy alone, that there are probably comparable life forms albeit possibly thousands of light years away (which at our level of technology makes them too remote to know.) Or they may have started, evolved, progressed to a high level, and died out – if that took a million years that is an eye-blink in a universe about 13,800,000,000 years old! If such a life form exists now and is sufficiently advanced as to have interstellar travel, the odds are overwhelming that whatever they use to communicate may not even be in the electromagnetic spectrum and is probably as undetectable by us as multichannel radio transmissions were to the CroMagnons.

    Me, I am certain intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. On Earth, not so much.

  8. Ex-PH2 says:

    I knew they were all space aliens. This just confirms it.

  9. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    The idea that our existence is nothing more than a cosmic accident of chemistry has never been very comforting for humanity.

    The subsequent search for meaning, for others, for gods, or something to explain our purpose has also been an ongoing theme for humanity.

    The idea that there is no meaning or purpose to our existence other than to produce the next generation is a frightening one for a great many people. Thus they find Zeus, or Lord Vishnu, or Jesus, or the Thetan concept…

    There “could be” a lot of things in the universe, and quite possibly could not be…

    When we die we’ll find out for certain, or not…

  10. 26Limabeans says:

    I am deeply offended by the anti logging cartoon used to
    promote this otherwise Asimovish thread.
    If you don’t like logging try wiping your ass with plastic.

    Oh…wait…people have been doing that since March.

  11. Slow Joe says:

    The calculations in that article are all based on Drake’s equation, which itself is a bunch of unknowns.

    Even worst, it completely overlooks time as one of the variables. An alien civilization could have evolved and disappeared, either by technological “transhumanism” or by destroying themselves, a million years ago.

    So, looking for aliens is a fool’s errand. We are not going to find any, because they either became extinct or “ascended” into software, making them undetectable to us even if they had subatomic drones in front of our noses recording our lives.

    My point is not that my wild speculation is right, but that there are so many possibilities, many of which we cannot even imagine, that is pointless to estimate the number of aliens civilizations or to try to find them.

    We need more data.

    • Ret_25X says:

      Time and distance…the vast distances and age of the universe tend to make all conjecture little better than day dreaming, but some of the guesses are educated.

      For example, we might expect that at some point along the timeline a civilization might have advanced to Kardashev 2 level. That would be detectable with current tech given that the time has passed to allow the EM Radiation from that local star to reach our location.

      A system 17k LY distant could have achieved K2 level 15k years ago and we would not know that yet.

      From a practical perspective, a civilization on a planet 17K LY from earth could be 15K years ahead of us tech wise and have launched a probe to our vicinity 15K years ago and it would likely not arrive here for another several thousand years–assuming that they can accelerate a system to 30-40% of light speed.

      Even at 50% of light speed, the probe would require 30K years to reach us…likely resulting in contact between two cultures far advanced from the point of sending the probe.

      Both finding ET life and first contact with said life are both almost in the “luck” category of probability at this point….assuming we are not in a simulation or cosmic zoo…

      • 26Limabeans says:

        I can’t wait until the universe is done expanding
        and collapses on itself to a singularity again.
        All the space travelers and advanced life forms
        would come together eventually. Everything would
        speed up in real time. Be hell of a ride.
        Global warming would be real.

      • Slow Joe says:

        Very good points.

        However, I am not convinced the Kardashev model is accurate. It is built on the assumption a technological civilization would continue grow continuously exponentially increasing their energy requirements.

        I don’t think that’s accurate at all. Humankind will probably stabilize at about 10 Billion people, then start to decrease, even with the introduction of technologies like radical life-extension.

        You can look at the reduction in population growth in Bangladesh, of all places, in the last decade. Africa is slowing down. As absolute poverty is reduced around our planet, access to education improves, I expect the rate of reduction in population growth to increase.

        So a population stabilized at 10 Billions by mid-century, while the efficiency of our economy and all consumer products continue to increase, leading to a flattening of the increase in energy production and consumption that we are seeing right now.

        Therefore, I don’t think we will ever need to reach a Kardashev level 2, using all the energy available in a star system, which makes me doubt an alien civilization would need to reach that level as well.

        Also, I extremely doubt alien civilization will engage in building mega-construction projects that can be detected by us from here. That seems to be another big assumption in the scientific community. Mega-construction happened very early in our civilizational development when our ancestors were building Stonehenge, the Pyramids, or the Temple of Baalbek. I doubt very much advance civilizations have the need for mega projects, because the tendency is for increased miniaturization and digitalization, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced energy requirements.

        Just my crazy thoughts.

      • Slow Joe says:


        About the simulation and the cosmic zoo hypothesis, I don’t think they are very likely because of the ethical argument.

        I suspect an advanced civilization would see as unethical to have simulated intelligent beings being born and living in suffering in a simulation full of all the strife real life drops on us throughout our lives.

        The same for the cosmic zoo. I think it would be unethical for aliens to not intervene in some of our crisis. Or at least help.

        I don’t see a society advancing to high levels of technological development without freedom and liberty. I suspect Natural selection will select the most effective/efficient economic system to dominate in any environment, including alien planets. That eventually leads to all the other freedoms, which in turn leads to ethical behavior.

  12. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    There is an interesting sci-fi book “the Listeners”

    Earth receives a message from space: bits of 1930s commercial radio.

    Our own radio, sent back. Unmistakably a signal.

    In the seeming random “noise” mixed in the earthstuff was a pattern. In two dimensions, a picture. Unmistakably an intelligent sender.

    Should we respond? What message? If we do, what comes back?

    And each way takes decades, so the story covers a long time.