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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

More than 30 intelligent alien civilizations could exist in the Milky Way, according to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal.

The big picture: Scientists have long tried to estimate how many alien civilizations like our own could be out in the universe.

  • The Drake Equation is most famous, but the new study uses a simple way to estimate exactly how many intelligent civilizations could be lurking in our galaxy.

What they did: The new study uses Earth as a model for how life may form in other parts of the Milky Way.

  • "There should be at least a few dozen active civilizations in our galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth," Christopher Conselice, co-author of the study, said in a statement. "The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale."
  • The new estimate factors in the likelihood that stars host Earth-like planets in their habitable zones and the history of star formation throughout the galaxy.
  • Under the study's strictest set of assumptions — which includes that stars that could host planets with intelligent life be similar in metal content to our Sun — the authors expect there should be 36 alien civilizations in the galaxy.

But, but, but: Even if there were three dozen intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, there's no guarantee that we'll ever interact with any of them.

  • According to the study, on average, these civilization are likely about 17,000 light-years away.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 15, 2020 - Science

What it would mean to find life on Venus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Scientists think they may have found an indicator of life in Venus’ clouds — a discovery that, if confirmed, will cause them to re-examine everything they thought they knew about how life evolves.

The big picture: If life does exist within a small niche of habitability in Venus' temperate layer of clouds, it might mean that life could be even more ubiquitous in the universe than previously expected. The discovery is already fueling calls from scientists who want a mission sent to the nearby world.

Anti-abortion activists' Supreme Court dreams are coming true

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela. Photos: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

This is the moment the conservative legal movement has been building toward for decades: The solidly conservative Supreme Court is about to hear two major abortion cases within a month of each other.

Why it matters: All of this is likely to end with significant new restrictions on abortion and a clear path for Republican-led states to win the next big abortion cases, too — the culmination of a long and bitter fight for control of the judiciary.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Trump's volatile return to the stock market

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Donald Trump this week became both a meme stock and a social-media entrepreneur at the same time, by announcing that a new company called Trump Media & Technology Group was going to merge with an existing company listed on the stock market.

Why it matters: The medium-term promise of Trump's media company is that it will replace Twitter for anybody wanting to keep track of Trump's messages. The short-term promise is that it can be a hot new speculative vehicle for people wanting to get rich quick in the stock market.