'The Guessing Game.''
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While the search for life continues in our own solar system astronomers
are also looking for life beyond our own galaxy.
There are billions of stars similar to our own sun in the milkyway.
Might they have planetary systems like ours on which life could begin?
Astronomers now know that planets are a bi-product of starbirth, and
have detected the presence of 'extra solar' planets.
Based on our current understanding of our own planetary system
astronomers can begin to predict how common life is likely to be in the universe.
Unless a method for faster than light travel or communication is
devised It is likely that if we are going to have any communication with another
civilisation it will be limited to our own galaxy, the Milkyway. Other galaxy's are so far
away that it would take millions of years for a signal to reach us!
The Milkyway is huge!
It is so wide that it would take 100,000 years for a radiowave
travelling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second (300,000 km per second)) to get
from one side to the other.
The Milkyway contains over 200 billion stars. It is also estimated that
there are 50 million stars within 1000 light years of our own sun.
As suns go; our sun is a very ordinary, middle aged, middle class star
which is situated about 2/3rds out from the galactic center. There are millions of similar
suns spread throughout our galaxy alone.
The drake equation.
Frank drake American astronomer and founder of S.E.T.I devised an
equation to estimate the number of civilisations capable of communicating in our own
galaxy (the Milkyway).
The equation looks like this.
N=R* X Fp x Ne x F1 x Fi x Fc x L
Breaking down the equation
Number of civilisations capable of communicating in our own galaxy (the
Rate of starbirth - how many stars are born. Astronomers generally
agree that this is around 10 per year in our galaxy.
The percentage of new stars that form planets.
The percentage of those planets that are capable of supporting life due
to being the right distance and size from their star.
The percentage of those planets that have life.
The percentage of planets that have ''intelligent'' life-forms.
The percentage of ''intelligent'' life-forms that have developed the
capability to communicate with other civilisations.
The percentage of civilisations able to exist long enough to be able to
potentially send and receive signals.
The SETI Simulation.
In this simulation which is based on Frank Drakes equation you estimate
how many alien civilisations in the Milkyway are trying to send or receive messages across
the void of space.
Starting with question 1 work your way through to question 6. When you
have answered all the questions you can see how many communicating civilisations there
might in are in our galaxy.
The figures available for calculation in questions 1- 5 of this
simulation are limited to 0.1%, 1%, 10% and 100% depending on the question type. For
example question one asks 'What is the chance of a newly born star having planets'.
Because scientists are uncertain of the facts the choices given here are 10% or a 100%.
10% means that one in ten of all newly formed stars have planets; 100% means that all
newly formed stars have planets.
Its up to you to choose which figure you think is closest to the truth.
Once you have decided, click on your choice to move on to the next question.
If you were working on paper then you could supplement the percentages
shown in the simulation for an exact figure.
For example if you think that the proportion of habitable planets
formed around a star is 10% you would write Ne=0.10 into the equation.
OPTIMIST Vs PESSIMIST
When answering the questions try to take an informed approach to your
decision. Being strictly optimistic or pessimistic will invariably give the same answers
One Galaxy one planet.
If you take a pessimistic approach your answers will steer you to the
left hand side of the simulation resulting in a final answer of 0.01 meaning that there is
only one communicating civilisation in 100 galaxies. This would mean that we are the only
communicating civilisation in the Milkyway; and we would need to look outside our own
galaxy for other civilisations.
Closer than you think!
Talking an optimistic view will steer you to the right of the
simulation resulting in millions of communicating civilisations in the Milkyway. For
example if your choices indicate that there are 10 million civilisations spread evenly
throughout our galaxy, they would lie approximately 100 light years apart. This would mean
that there is a possibility of first contact within 100 years.
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