Bad news, sky watchers: It's going to take another 1,500 years for humanity to encounter aliens

 
Emma Haslett
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If you're worried about an alien invasion, you can calm down: a new study by astronomers at Cornell University has suggested humans won't make contact with extraterrestrials for another 1,500 years.

Even Solomonides and Yervant Terzian combined the Fermi Paradox, which says billions of Earth-like planets exist in our galaxy, with Copernicus' mediocrity principle, which postulates that the Earth's physical attributes aren't unique.

Solomonides and Terzian merged the two theories, then looked at how far radio and broadcast signals from the Earth had reached. According to their calculations, so far signals have probably reached every star within 80 light years of our sun - that's 8,531 stars and 3,555 Earthlike planets.

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Fortunately, the scientists said we only need to make contact with half the stars in our galaxy to have our own close encounters of the third kind (although we may already have got lucky).

Unfortunately, there are about 200bn stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Hence the suggestion it may take another millennium and a half to hear anything back from our extraterrestrial cousins.

“Even our mundane, typical spiral galaxy – not exceptionally large compared to other galaxies – is vast beyond imagination,” said Solomonides.

“Those numbers are what make the Fermi Paradox so counterintuitive. We have reached so many stars and planets, surely we should have reached somebody by now, and in turn been reached … this demonstrates why we appear to be alone.”

But that's not to say we should stop looking, he added.

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"If we stop listening or looking, we may miss the signals," he said.

“We are on the third planet around a tediously boring star surrounded by other completely normal stars about two-thirds of the way along one of several arms of a remarkably average spiral galaxy. The mediocrity principle is the idea that because we are not in any special location in the universe, we should not be anything special in the universe.”

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it....

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