A Look At The Pioneering Alien Researcher’s Legacy, The Drake Equation

Using the Drake Equation, scientists can calculate the probability of discovering intelligent life in the Milky Way or the number of civilizations capable of interstellar communication. The most important questions of science are attempting to resolve the presence of life beyond Earth. Many astronomers are reluctant to doubt that extraterrestrial life exists. There are billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars. Therefore, there must be other Earth-like planets and sun-like stars capable of supporting life among them.


The Drake Equation was proposed by the radio astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake in early 1961. Unfortunately, he passed away on Sept. 2, 2022, at 92. However, his contributions and efforts in the search for intelligent life are extensive. Drake came up with this equation at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, where he was in charge of the first official search for radio signals from extraterrestrial sources.

This simple formula is the “second most famous equation in science (after E= mc2).” Space enthusiasts can find it in virtually every astronomy textbook. As an astrophysicist at the University of Michigan, Kaitlin Rasmussen stated, “The Drake Equation progresses from simple to complex.” Some factors are easily quantifiable, such as the number of stars in the galaxy. In contrast, others are purely philosophical, such as the amount of time a civilization with the capacity to communicate has until it self-destructs or is wiped out by some other catastrophe. Variable ‘L’ in the equation remains purely hypothetical. However, scientists can now make reasonable predictions regarding questions such as the number of stars forming in the Milky Way and the proportion of stars that have planets around them.

What Is The Drake Equation?

The equation is:

N = (R*) × (fp) × (ne) × (fl) × (fi) × (fc) × (L)

Following is a definition of each term:

  • N= The number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy that can transfer signals to Earth can be picked up here.
  • R* = The number of sun-like stars that form every year in our galaxy.
  • fp = Stars that have a planet or planets orbiting around.
  • ne = Number of planets per planetary system that have life supportive environment.
  • fl = The planets which have the condition to support life.
  • fi = Planets with intelligent life.
  • fc = The civilizations that developed technology for communication.
  • L = The lifetime of those communicative civilizations.

In the end, the outcomes of the equation might vary significantly based on the assumptions made when computing a result. Thus people can just as easily forecast fewer than a dozen intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky-way galaxy consisting of approximately 400 billion stars. The Drake Equation was never intended to be a formal mathematical equation such as those found in mathematics or trigonometry, nor was it intended to be a probabilistic equation. While some scientists have attempted statistical estimates of habitable planets, Rasmussen is hopeful regarding the new future generations of telescopes that will allow scientists to peer into the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets, leading to more precise estimates of the number of planets per solar system that support life.

Source: The Drake Equation

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