SETI & Technosignatures

The Fermi Paradox Revisited: Technosignatures And The Contact Era

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 1, 2022
Filed under , ,
The Fermi Paradox Revisited: Technosignatures And The Contact Era
The Contact timescale defining the epoch in the life of a civilization when receiving probes or directed transmissions becomes more probable, as a function of the number of civilizations in the Galaxy. The three curves refer to different probe velocities: v=c (the lower curve; this curve also applies to radio transmissions), v=0.1c (middle) and v=0.01c (upper). — astro-ph.EP

A new solution to the Fermi Paradox is presented: probes or visits from putative alien civilizations have a very low probability until a civilization reaches a certain age (called the Contact Era) after the onset of radio communications.

If biotic planets are common, putative advanced civilizations may preferentially send probes to planets with technosignatures, such as radio broadcastings. The contact probability is defined as the chance to find a nearby civilization located close enough so that it could have detected the earliest radio emissions (the radiosphere) and sent a probe that would reach the Solar System at present.

It is found that the current contact probability for Earth is very low unless civilizations are extremely abundant. Since the radiosphere expands with time, so does the contact probability.

The Contact Era is defined as the time (since the onset of radio transmissions) at which the contact probability becomes of order unity. At that time alien probes (or messages) become more likely. Unless civilizations are highly abundant, the Contact Era is shown to be of the order of a few hundred to a few thousand years and may be applied not only to physical probes but also to transmissions (i.e. SETI).

Consequently, it is shown that civilizations are unlikely to be able to inter-communicate unless their communicative lifetime is at least a few thousand years.

Amri Wandel

Comments: 12 pages, 5 figures, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal
Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2211.16505 [physics.pop-ph] (or arXiv:2211.16505v1 [physics.pop-ph] for this version)
Submission history
From: Amri Wandel
[v1] Thu, 27 Oct 2022 20:43:37 UTC (1,463 KB)
Astrobiology, SETI

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻