By Andrew Follett
Technologically advanced alien civilizations almost certainly exist, according to a new study by astronomers published Friday.
The study used the most recent discoveries of planets outside the solar system to estimate the likelihood that other technologically advanced civilizations exist. The study estimates that the odds of humanity being the only civilization in the universe are less than one chance in about “10 billion trillion.”
“One in 10 billion trillion is incredibly small. To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology producing species very likely have evolved before us,” Dr. Adam Frank, the study’s lead author and an astronomy professor at the University of Rochester, said in a press statement. “Think of it this way. Before our result, you’d be considered a pessimist if you imagined the probability of evolving a civilization on a habitable planet were, say, one in a trillion. But even that guess, one chance in a trillion, implies that what has happened here on Earth with humanity has in fact happened about 10 billion other times over cosmic history.”
The study used a simplified version of the famous Drake Equation, and concluded that the number of advanced alien civilizations in the universe is equal to the number of habitable planets multiplied by the likelihood of a technological species developing on one of these planets. The study estimates there have been roughly 10 billion alien civilizations in the history of the universe.
Scientists found possible evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization last October, when astronomers with Yale University and other top schools published a study that used NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope to examine the star KIC 8462852. What astronomers found astounded them: The star had light patterns that were consistent with large orbiting masses that blocked out some of the star’s light.
The dense formations near KIC 8462852 are similar to “Dyson spheres,” hypothetical, energy-harvesting megastuctures aliens could build by rearranging their solar system. Scientists have pondered the existence of Dyson Spheres since the 1960s, thinking they could be a potential solution to energy problems faced by an extremely old civilization. Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) scientists have long argued humans could detect distant alien civilizations by looking for technological artifacts orbiting other stars.
The masses near KIC 8462852 aren’t consistent with its age, leading scientists to believe they appeared around the star fairly recently. KIC 8462852 is only 1481 light years away from Earth, but is not visible to the naked eye.
It is worth noting that astronomers have believed that stellar oddities were caused by aliens before, when in reality it was simply an unknown new phenomonon.
In 1967, a graduate student in astronomy, found an usual pulsing radio signal so predictable it seemed to be a sign of intelligent life. The astronomers even nicknamed the signal LGM-1, for “little green men.” They believed they had detected a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization, but it turned out to be the first pulsar.