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New observations of the best candidate galaxies now suggests that very advanced civilizations are very rare or don’t exist in the local universe.
They looked at several hundred nearby galaxies that emitted a high amount of mid-infrared radiation, which could possibly be produced as the waste heat from civilizations using energy on galactic scales.
Professor Michael Garrett (ASTRON & University of Leiden) has used radio measurements of the very best candidate galaxies and discovered that the vast majority of these systems present emission that is best explained by natural astrophysical processes. In particular, the galaxies as a sample, follow a well-known global relation that holds for almost all galaxies – the so-called “Mid-Infrared Radio correlation”. The presence of radio emission at the levels expected from the correlation, suggests that the mid-IR emission is not heat from alien factories but more likely emission from dust – for example, dust generated and heated by regions of massive star formation.
As Professor Garrett explains: “the original research at Penn State has already told us that such systems are very rare but the new analysis suggests that this is probably an understatement, and that advanced Kardashev Type III civilisations basically don’t exist in the local Universe. In my view, it means we can all sleep safely in our beds tonight – an alien invasion doesn’t seem at all likely!”.
Joking aside, Professor Garrett is still looking at a few candidate galaxies that lie off of the astrophysical correlation: “Some of these systems definitely demand further investigation but those already studied in detail turn out to have a natural astrophysical explanation too. It’s very likely that the remaining systems also fall into this category but of course it’s worth checking just in case!”
Obviously, the uncertainty of these results is quite high. Nonetheless, the results indicate that either humanity really is the only intelligent species in this part of the universe, or advanced civilizations are far more efficient in their use of energy than is reasonable to assume.