At a time when our solar system was the only one known to have a planet with intelligent life, it was plausible to believe that we may well be the only one that did. Now however, more than 300 exoplanets (planets beyond our own solar system) have been discovered and more are being discovered all the time. Life may be more common than we previously thought.
So how do these discoveries affect the statistics and what does it matter? The answer is difficult to quantify as the boffins are discovering. A report in the International Journal of Astrobiology suggests that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000. Quite a range.
Duncan Forgan of the University of Edinburgh has been doing some research, various simulations were carried out with various scenarios, the first of the simulations gave a result of 361 intelligent civilisations in the galaxy, other simulations gave much higher results, one being as many as 37,964. The simulations carried out by Mr Forgan use data that 'assumes Earth is an average case.' But of course there are many variables and Earth may well be a very non-average planet.
So does it reall matter to us here on Earth if there is life out there? If there is could we contact them and possibly more important, could they contact us or even reach us, if they are not already? Could extra terrestrial life be a threat to us? Mr Forgan tells us 'Even if alien life forms do exist, we may not necessarily be able to make contact with them, and we have no idea what form they would take. '
Keep an eye on the sky. You never know.
[Source: BBC News]