Humans have always wondered whether life exists elsewhere. Now, new research suggests there may be over 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

One of the biggest questions in our history is whether there are other intelligent life forms out there. Now researchers may have shed some light on that question.

However, if life exists somewhere in our galaxy it’s probably not little green beings.

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The new study is led by the University of Nottingham and published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The researchers estimate there may be over 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. That is assuming that intelligent life forms on other planets in a similar way as it does on Earth.

“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 astrophysicist Christopher Conselice, who co-authored the research, said in a statement.

Five billion years for intelligent life divided by the number of planets in the galaxy potentially hospitable to life equals 36.

The calculation is called the Astrobiological Copernican Limit. It’s based on the idea that on Earth, a civilization able to communicate formed after 4.5 billion years.

“If intelligent life forms in a scientific way, not just a random way or just a very unique way, then you would expect at least this many civilizations within our galaxy,” Conselice said.

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The research shows that the number of civilizations depends strongly on how long they are actively sending out signals of their existence into space, such as radio transmissions from satellites, televisions, etc. If other technological civilizations last as long as ours which is currently 100 years old, then there will be about 36 ongoing intelligent technical civilizations throughout our Galaxy.

The team estimates that the closest civilization would be about 17,000 light-years away from us. This makes detection and communication very difficult with our present technology.

“They would be quite far away … 17,000 light-years is our calculation for the closest one,” said Conselice.

“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.”

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