Earlier this month I wrote about the best place to find alien civilizations, and how we might be able to hide from them. Well, according to EarthSky News, there is a potential candidate for a possible alien civilization.
It seems the star KIC 8462852 has been exhibiting some strange behavior. Its brightness has been varying, and the possible explanations, such as comets, don’t seem to fit the data. Could this be a sign of an advanced civilization? Unfortunately (or probably fortunately), while many astronomers admit that’s possible, they don’t think aliens are the likely cause. Mysterious behavior is just not enough evidence. And of course not everyone is convinced any alien civilizations actually exist.
The odds of an alien civilization coexisting with us can be calculated by the so-called Drake equation, which was first proposed by Frank Drake in 1961. Take the rate stars form in the Milky Way, multiply it by the fraction of stars with planets, the average number of planets per star that could support life, the fraction of those that actually develop life, the fraction of life-bearing planets that develop civilizations, the fraction of civilizations that have detectable signals, and finally the length of time a civilization might last. The result gives the number of civilizations capable of communicating with us.
When Drake first proposed the equation, all these variables were mostly unknown, but we now can make some good estimates. For example, most stars have planets, and the odds of a potentially habitable planet is quite high, maybe as high as 100 billion in our galaxy alone. Unfortunately the really important factors are still unknown, especially the part about how long a typical civilization would last. Depending on the estimates, the number of civilizations in our galaxy could range from hundreds of thousands to only one.
The only conclusion we can draw now is the star KIC 8462852 continues to show strange behavior, causing speculation about advanced aliens. However, just as when Frank Drake formulated his famous equation – there are still many unknowns, and we don’t know if our galaxy has numerous advanced civilizations … or one.