The Drake Equation and The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

    In 1961, astronomer and astrophysicist Frank Drake developed a mathematical equation to calculate the approximate number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. The Drake Equation, shown below, takes into account:

  1. the average rate of star formation (R*)
  2. the fraction of those stars that have planets (fp)
  3.  the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets (ne)
  4. the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point (fl)
  5. the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life (fi)
  6.  the fraction of civilizations that develop technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space (fc)
  7. the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space (L)

    The Drake equation is used by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligiance (SETI) institute, whose research focuses on trying to detect radio wave signals released by other intelligent civilizations into space.