Human Interest Scientists Say There Could Be 36 Intelligent Alien Civilizations in Our Galaxy While University of Nottingham researchers believe there may be other life in the galaxy, they say it's still possible we are all alone By Jason Hahn Jason Hahn Jason Hahn is a former Human Interest and Sports Reporter for PEOPLE. He started at PEOPLE's Los Angeles Bureau as a writer and reporter in 2017 and interviewed the likes of Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Brady. He has a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University. He previously worked for Complex Magazine in New York City. People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 18, 2020 04:19 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images Have Earthlings been getting on your nerves lately? Well, you may be in luck. According to researchers at the University of Nottingham, the Milky Way may have at least 36 active intelligent alien civilizations within the galaxy's limits. But, it may also have hundreds more than that, the researchers said in a paper published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal. Nottingham astrophysics professor Christopher Conselice and the study's other authors based their numbers on the assumption that intelligent life would form on other planets similar to how it developed on Earth. "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," Conselice said in a press release. "The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit." The researchers also took into consideration the number of Earth-like planets in the galaxy that orbit stars similar to our own. “The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, whereby opinions about such matters vary quite substantially. Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy," co-author Tom Westby said in the statement. Former British Astronaut Says 'Aliens Exist' and Could Already Be Living on Earth QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty "The two Astrobiological Copernican limits are that intelligent life forms in less than 5 billion years, or after about 5 billion years – similar to on Earth," Westby continued, adding that intelligent life on our planet formed after 4.5 billion years. After researchers looked at stars with similar metal content to the sun (the Sun is relatively speaking quite metal-rich, Westby said), they concluded there theoretically should be around 36 active civilizations in the galaxy. Bill Nye Believes in Aliens, Declares They 'Gotta Be Out There' at Men in Black Premiere Even if there is intelligent life out there, we likely won't be knocking on their door anytime soon. The researchers estimated the average distance to these intelligent civilizations is about 17,000 light-years away. If intelligent life forms on distant planets scare people, the researchers have an equally terrifying alternative — there is still a chance we are alone in the galaxy. RELATED VIDEO: From Crop Circles to the Pyramids: Which Alien Theories Are Completely Fiction? "If we find that intelligent life is common, then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years," Conselice said. "Alternatively, if we find that there are no active civilizations in our galaxy, it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence," he continued. "By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate."