Everything to know about the search for extraterrestrial life at a glance

A new infographic from Space.com details some of the highlights in our quest to know whether we're alone in the universe.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

Even though we've been listening for a while, we're still not sure if anyone is home out there. Click on the image to see the full infographic.


While there might be hope that Jupiter's moon Europa or a few other bodies in our solar system contain some form of life, chances are good that it won't be intelligent life -- you know, the kind that can watch Netflix at night while texting their besties.

But that doesn't mean there isn't intelligent life somewhere in our galaxy or beyond, and for over 100 years, we've been listening for radio signals that might indicate that we're not alone through activities that are collectively known as SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial life.

A new infographic released by Karl Tate on Space.com details our search for alien life starting with astronomer Frank Drake's Project Ozma in 1960, which sought to scan our skies for incoming radio signals from other planets.

Along the way, the infographic details Drake's equation for predicting how many civilizations might be in the galaxy (between 2 and 280 million); discusses an anomalous radio signal that was picked up in 1977 called the "Wow! signal;" and talks about whether our attempts to contact aliens through METI -- messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence -- is a good idea. After all, who knows who might answer our intergalactic telephone call?

The graphic also has a few great sci-fi images including star-wrapping Dyson spheres from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the habitable ring from writer Larry Niven's 1970 novel "Ringworld." These are presented to illustrate that radio waves might not be the only way to identify life outside our solar system; spotting structures would also indicate intelligent beings.

The Space.com trip through SETI also lays out the Kardashev scale, a hypothetical means of ranking just how advanced ETs might be on a scale from those who can send radio waves to those who can take advantage of the entire universe's resources.

Finally, the infographic lays out the question that's on every SETI-lover's mind: Where is everybody? And for the answer to that, you'll just have to check out the graphic on the Space.com website, or click the image above. And feel free to let us know if there are any SETI landmarks you feel should have been included. I'm actually surprised the graphic didn't include the establishment of the SETI Institute in 1984. That, or any reference to the X-Files.

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