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It might be a while before ET calls

Press AssociationPress Association 15/06/2016

It might take another 1500 years before extraterrestrial aliens make contact with the human race, a team of astronomers has predicted.

The scientists performed a calculation based on the likelihood of technological civilisations arising among the stars, and the probable length of time they had been transmitting signals across space.

They concluded there was no reason to think we are alone in the universe. We just need to exercise a little patience.

US researcher Evan Solomonides, a PhD student from Cornell University, said: "We haven't heard from aliens yet, as space is a big place - but that doesn't mean no one is out there.

"It's possible to hear any time at all, but it becomes likely we will have heard around 1500 years from now."

Astronomers have long pondered why, given the number of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, there has been such a deafening silence from the cosmos, despite attempts by Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) scientists to eavesdrop on alien signals.

There are more than 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, almost half of which may host Earth-like planets, according to one estimate.

If life is not unique to the Earth and has evolved in a similar way elsewhere, the galaxy should be teeming with civilisations. Yet not one confirmed alien signal has ever been detected.

The scientists' starting point is the fact that humans have only been broadcasting TV and radio signals into space for around 80 years. By now these signals should have reached more than 8500 stars within 80 light years of the sun.

Although this seems a large figure, it is tiny compared with the number of stars in the Milky Way.

Adopting the so-called "Mediocrity Principle" that says there is nothing at all special about the Earth or its occupants, the team ruled out the likelihood of humans being among the first or last civilisations to develop radio technology.

As a result, the average length of broadcasting history in the galaxy was found to be the same as ours, roughly 80 years.

This figure was included in an equation that also measured the frequency of life arising on extrasolar planets.

The conclusion was that we could expect to start hearing from alien civilisations once their signals had spread across half the Milky Way, or about 1500 years from now.

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