The Kepler telescope is currently cataloguing planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way.
It seems extra-solar system planets are pretty common. Extrapolating from the few thousand planets that have been described to date a figure of 17 billion planets of similar size to the Earth is estimated. This is just within our own galaxy.
The chances that some of these billions have followed a similar evolutionary path to here on Earth over the past few billion years are pretty high I would have thought.
So we are not alone? Kepler or some follow-on set of instruments may be able to detect signs of civilisation on some of these planets in years to come. But unfortunately we will never be able to communicated with them in any kind of sensible timescale.
But who'd have thunk it a few years ago? Billions of other planets and it seems increasingly likely that we are not alone. Life is very likely - but life as we know it?
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