Research says alien life could exist but chances of contact are slim

It's incredibly likely that we aren't alone in the universe, but the chances of us making contact with extra-terrestrials aren't nearly as high. Astrobiologist Amri Wandel seeks to expand on the Drake equation (a formula used to encapsulate the variables scientists looking for E.T.s should consider) by factoring in some of the recent Kepler data. According to Wandel's research (PDF), there are possibly billions of life-sustaining planets in the galaxy, but planets where organisms could exist and planets where life does exist are two different things. These findings come from an advance-release of the International Journal of Astrobiology that should see publication next year.

Using high and low estimates for the aforementioned billion, Wandel figures there might be life on a planet 10 to 100 light-years away. If you factor in advanced life capable of broadcasting its existence out into space, then Wandel optimistically estimates the nearest civilization could be thousands of light-years away. As Motherboard notes, however, the research assumes that aliens would have similar physical requirements to humans in terms of what's needed for survival. If life isn't limited to existing within the habitable zone -- i.e., ideal conditions and neither too close nor too far from the star a planet orbits -- that'd push the amount of life-sustaining planets up by quite a bit, however. The paper is a bit dense, to be sure, but if Interstellar left you wanting something a bit more high-level, it could be what you're after.

[Image credit: Shutterstock / Ilya Genkin]