It is a timeless story seen in many science-fiction movies where aliens come to Earth in one of two forms; benevolent and helpful, or malevolent and destructive. The idea that the human race will meet our galactic neighbors soon is ingrained into the entertainment industry, but researchers say it may take a little longer than previously expected.
In a new paper and upcoming presentation at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting Thursday June 16th, Cornell University researchers have paired the Fermi Paradox and Mediocrity Principle into a new equation describing how hearing from aliens may not be possible for another 1500 years.
“We haven’t heard from aliens yet, as space is a big place — but that doesn’t mean no one is out there,” said Cornell student at Cornell University Evan Solomonides ‘19 in a press release.
The Fermi Paradox states that in the Milky Way galaxy there exist billions of stars that have the probability of having Earth-like planets, but still no aliens have visited, let alone contacted us. The Mediocrity Principle states that as life exists on Earth, we are not unique and there must be life on other Earth-like planets.
For the past 80 years, Earth has been sending out radio signals into space traveling at the speed of light. This means that every star within an 80 light-year bubble around Earth has received a radio transmission from the human race; this is about 8,531 stars and 3,555 Earth-like planets while the Milky Way has a total of about 200 billion stars.
“Even our mundane, typical spiral galaxy — not exceptionally large compared to other galaxies — is vast beyond imagination,” said Solomonides in the press release.
Combining these two equations into one conclude that the human race will not meet any galactic neighbors for at least another 1500 years. This is the date when our radio transmissions have reached about half of the stars in the Milky Way.
“This is not to say that we must be reached by then or else we are, in fact, alone. We simply claim that it is somewhat unlikely that we will not hear anything before that time,” Solomonides said in the press release.
As unlikely as it may be, as the first evidence for chiral molecules, an essential building block of life, have been found in interstellar clouds, the idea of interacting with alien life could be edging closer with every new discovery.