Frank Drake, creator of the Equation, in 1961 at the NRAO Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia. Image credit: SETI

Frank Drake, creator of the Equation, in 1961 at the NRAO Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia. Image credit: SETI

Good morning, Earthlings!

The Drake Equation through the years has been labeled a probability means of discovering life outside of the Earth. However, it's much more complicated than that. What it really means is how Earth, with limited technology, would be able to detect or find intelligent life elsewhere AND would they be able to receive it? 

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Let's look at a run down of the Drake Equation:

N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions (radio all the way to gamma ray waves) are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

SETI describes using the Drake Equation: "Within the limits of our existing technology, any practical search for distant intelligent life must necessarily be a search for some manifestation of a distant technology. In each of its last four decadal reviews, the National Research Council has emphasized the relevance and importance of searching for evidence of the electromagnetic signature of distant civilizations."

Debates are still on-going as to the definitions of "intelligent life" and what is "life"? Not to sound philosophical, of course. Rather, what if our limited technology can not currently receive any incoming calls? Where would we fit on this scale of the Drake Equation?

We'll keep searching...

Thank you for reading, and next week we'll take a look at a really weird moon!