January 11, 2012
Most Of Milky Way Stars Have Planets

Why haven't the space aliens shown themselves to us? Gone extinct? Or headed our way in massive invasion armadas as soon as they detected our electromagnetic signals? Over a hundred billion planets in our galaxy waiting to be visited.

Six years of observations of millions of stars now show how common it is for stars to have planets in orbits around them. Using a method that is highly sensitive to planets that lie in a habitable zone around the host stars, astronomers, including members from the Niels Bohr Institute, have discovered that most of the Milky Way's 100 billion stars have planets that are very similar to the Earth-like planets in our own solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, while planets like Jupiter and Saturn are more rare. The results are published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

"Our results show that planets orbiting around stars are more the rule than the exception. In a typical solar system approximately four planets have their orbits in the terrestrial zone, which is the distance from the star where you can find solid planets. On average, there are 1.6 planets in the area around the stars that corresponds to the area between Venus and Saturn" explains astronomer Uffe Gråe Jørgensen, head of the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

If aliens are out there and warp drives are possible I would expect they would be here already - or their robotic explorer ships would be. Have all the surviving intelligent life forms survived by hiding? Are intelligent species so dangerous to each other that most of them learn to hide?

If biological species eventually get wiped out by artificially intelligent machines then I'd expect the robots to build up massive machine civilizations and perhaps go around snuffing out biological species. So where are the android invaders?

Even more fun: millions of planets in the Milky Way orbit two suns.

Astronomers using NASA's Kepler mission have discovered two new circumbinary planet systems – planets that orbit two stars, like Tatooine in the movie Star Wars. Their find, which brings the number of known circumbinary planets to three, shows that planets with two suns must be common, with many millions existing in our Galaxy.

"Once again, we're seeing science fact catching up with science fiction," said co-author Josh Carter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Is that cool or what?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 January 11 09:17 PM  Space Alien Intelligence

Engineer Dad said at January 11, 2012 10:00 PM:

So where are the android invaders?

They obviously have something better to do with their time\space that we cannot imagine.

Fat Man said at January 11, 2012 10:22 PM:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Food said at January 12, 2012 12:08 AM:

The energy budget required for baseline sustainable intrastellar colonization divided by the problems of collective action means it is impossible to survive inevitable single-planet cataclysm, so interstellar efforts are orders of magnitude less likely than optimists would like to think.

It would not surprise me in the least if life is common, but economics means that everyone dies on the home planet, over and over.

Lono said at January 12, 2012 8:17 AM:

Since we do not presently see evidence for massively destructive A.I. civilizations - my guess is that the battle between biological and A.I. life has already played out in our galaxy.

Since there are American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts who have claimed, and still claim, we have encountered intelligently controlled craft on - and around - our planet - I would further go out on a limb and say that we are probably being actively observed so that we do not do anything that could endanger the present balance of power in our galaxy.

(this does not necessarily indicate whether biological or artificial life eventually became preeminent - but imho it is most likely that biological entities took/maintained control by eventually merging with artificial life)

Randall Parker said at January 12, 2012 8:20 PM:


But some civilizations maybe hive minds capable of massive coordinated efforts.


Maybe the observers intend to destroy us eventually. But as long as we aren't advanced enough to make our destruction difficult they are letting us live as a science experiment.

Lono said at January 13, 2012 8:44 AM:

I don't see any reason they would feel the need to destroy us in any way. Their technologically superior society would simply subsume ours shortly after intentional, public, meaningful, first contact was made.

They may however be concerned about the intentional or unintentional release of mindless molecular replicators - or even stranglets - which could be somewhat logistically difficult to clean up despite their considerable scientific sophistication.

(and I assume there may be other runaway scientific dangers we have not even yet contemplated)

I think someone should put all of these whistleblowers under a series of rigorous multi-faceted lie detecion sessions - if they retain credibility then further non-partisan civilian investigations should follow.

The stakes are quite high - imagine the life extention technologies we might acquire from such benevolent extra-terrestrial observers that could be utilized within our existing lifetime. For that reason alone imho discussion of UFO's should not be so irrationally dismissed by serious scientific circles.

anonyq said at January 13, 2012 2:28 PM:

Extra terrestrials have likely a very different biology so i doubt that they would be of much use with respect to life extension technologies

Bertie Wooster said at January 13, 2012 7:32 PM:

Over 99.8% of the mass of our solar system is inside the sun, yet that still leaves enough leftover matter to form 8 planets including Jupiter (which has twice the mass of all the other planets combined), an asteroid belt (containing the dwarf planet Ceres), at least 4 other dwarf planets (including Pluto), and the Kuyper belt. In addition, most of those planets and dwarf planets have moons of their own, with Jupiter and Saturn each having over 60. Some of those moons are quite small, but a few are large enough to have thin atmospheres. That's what you have left when you have a sun that sweeps up "only" 99.8% of it's system's mass. It was always probable, then, that most stars would be found to have planets in their orbit.

Charles said at January 17, 2012 2:57 PM:

I don't think we could have a civilization without agriculture. We could have tribes but not a civilization. In order to have agriculture, we needed to have an area of the planet that would support the agriculture and allow the agriculture tribes to expand. This is Jared Diamond's theory in "Guns, Germs and Steel". In order for the Eurasia land mass to have a stable weather pattern (which is necessary to learn how to grow crops without dying out), the earth can not wobble on its axis. This would cause the area of the earth that one year was fertile for crops to suddenly be very cold or very hot and no longer useful. I have heard theories that the moon's size and distance from the earth keep it from wobbling. Based on this line of thinking we can thank the moon for our ability to reason and to have a intelligent civilization.

The larger planets greatly reduced the amount of debris that has rained down on the inner planets during the last couple of billion of years. If this is true, we have had less major extinction events due to the gas giants. This may have allowed whole groups of animals and plants to develop beyond where they would be able to develop with more mass extinctions on planets in solar systems without gas giants that suck up debris. This greater plant and animal development between mass extinctions may be a factor that leads to intelligent life.

If you couple the need for a large moon that keeps the planet from wobbling and at least one gas giant - along with the other factors necessary (distance from the star, presence of water, etc.) - it may well turn out that we are very far from another intelligent civilization.

Alvin said at January 20, 2012 10:15 AM:

It is unlikely that we have/will encounter an alien entity. The existence of humans is a mere fraction in the cosmic-time continuum. When we look at planets that are millions of light years away, we are observing events that happen millions of years ago..ie, the distant past. Where will we be in two million years? Therefore it is remote for two evolved beings to exist and be in the same time-frame; with five thousand years. Even if they come, they will merely observe us because they would not benefit from interacting from us. They can just take what they want without us knowing; Just like we observe remote tribes in Brazil.

Bill said at January 23, 2012 8:03 AM:

While I feel it is likely that many advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy, the only way we will become aware of them is through the use of advanced space based telescopes that can detect artificial components of exo-atmospheres. It is very likely that there may be a vast communication network out there relying on FTL radio but we cant know about it until we develop our own transmitter/receiver. The likelihood of physical contact seems remote. That's not to say that we aren't visited by manifestations of alien intelligence existing of energy not matter. This method may be the safest and most logical way of contact. It ensures no biological contamination and allows the observer to manipulate an avatar of sorts in order to interact with the local population.

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