What is the Drake Equation?

The Drake Equation is a simple equation to get at a crude estimate at the number of communicating civilisations that exist in the Milky Way galaxy and was first devised at the NRAO in 1961 during the first SETI Conference but Astronomer Frank Drake and his fellow cohorts.

What do the terms mean?

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible

R* The average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy. The Value of R* is an average which can be obtained by dividing the number of stars in the Milky Way and divide it by the age. The uncertainties of the term are inherent in these to amount. The lower limit of the age can be achieved by using a technique are acertaining the ages of globular clusters (the oldest objects of the Milky Way) which is set at about 12 billions years. The number stars is more speculative and is commonly agreed to be between 200 billion and 400 billion. Using the Lower age limit and the lower star count we get an average of 33 stars per year. But not all stars are viable places to have civilisations. Assuming it took life a couple of billions of years to get going and big hot stars life for only millions of years you are going to limit your search for the smaller cooler classes of star. The classifications of stars that are commonly looked at are F G and K main sequence stars. These types are stars constitute about 10% of the Milky Way so 10% of 33 leave approximately 3-4 suitable stars formed per year on average

fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets. fp is less certain, but is still much firmer than the values following.

ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets. The value of ne is based on our own solar system, and assumes that two planets had the possibility of having life.

fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point

fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life

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

L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

The Fermi Paradox and other complications

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