Image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Empty skies? Ten thousand galaxies of billions of stars yet no sign of intelligence (Image credit: NASA/ESA)


Fifty years of SETI with radio telescopes has so far proved negative. We have found no messages of peace and goodwill, no galactic internet, no extraterrestrial propaganda or advertising. No starships full of aliens have arrived on Earth to befriend us or to eat us, while our galaxy seems free of Dyson Spheres or similar astro-engineering. The silence is deafening and perhaps a little worrying.

Enrico Fermi was of course first to point this out. Life ought to be common in so vast a Universe, and civilisations of intelligent beings should have arisen hundred of times at least in the Milky Way with its 400 billion stars. Some of those civilisations ought to have passed by our Solar System or broadcast a message to us. That we see nothing shows that something is badly wrong with our assumptions. Perhaps our Earth is special in a way we have yet to recognise and life in the Universe is far rarer than we think. Perhaps the idea of exploring the Galaxy is a silly, immature idea and all the grown-ups are staying at home, contemplating their navels or having fun in their holodecks. Maybe berserkers or some Lovecraftian horror that we are mercifully ignorant of squelches any intelligent life before it gets anywhere. Maybe we are like ants in a city park, completely oblivious to the technological civilisation all around us.

Whatever the answer, I believe the Universe is stranger than we think (and possibly in a way we may not find pleasing).


I AM ALIEN · July 12, 2016 at 16:52

dudes i believe in the theory of creation and evolution cuaz god created the supernova created earth created monkeys and monkeys evolved into less dummer monkeys and thats why you are hear able to read all this valuable information from someone you should admire very much……… \(0_0)/

Mya Burnie · May 18, 2015 at 20:49

This article gives me a fright if you was to think of 6 and over year olds i dont think this article is for kids . The only thing i would say is keep on going with the articles.

Oh hello im my daughter mom this article scared the life out of her . This web is the best space web ive ever been on .

andrew · October 21, 2014 at 01:38

Firstly, I just wanted to say that I have just stumbled across the Armargh Planetarium website, redirected from somewhere else. I’ve had a good read through a number of the Astronotes articles and I think they’re great – keep up the good work Colin, Martina and co. While I am a fan of science fiction as a genre for books, films, etc. I am also a fan of science and particularly enjoy your efforts in this blog to distinguish between the two.

Regarding the question “where are the aliens”, my personal belief is that with all of the planets orbiting all of the stars in the universe, there must be a reasonable mathematical chance that we are not alone. Of course, alien life may be little more than pond scum. It could be more highly developed but I personally don’t believe there is any evidence that it possesses technology advanced enough for interstellar travel or, if it did, that it even knows that we’re here and, if it does, that has bothered to visit us. But from Erich von Däniken to Giorgio Tsoukalos, sometimes lack of evidence is all the evidence you need. Because if we don’t know our ancestors achieved something… aliens!

Unfortunately, this is why I don’t think you will change the minds of many UFOlogists. Remember Fox Mulder’s I WANT TO BELIEVE poster on the X-Files? Like the arguments between creationists and evolutionists, it’s a matter of faith, and they accept the signs that fit their beliefs while rejecting (or twisting) those that don’t. But keep fighting the good fight – THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.

Darren Sickboy · January 9, 2012 at 11:50

I firmly believe we are not alone and I also think we’ve been visited before (see below) But why I continue with SETi is because I think we’re still in the early stages, certainly within the scope of time and space, of a ‘discovery’ that might wow us all. I believe people will look back at the early pioneers of the SETi project and give thanks that they stuck with it, that they dared to give time and faith to something so unknown in their time.

Anyway… We (few of us from SpaceNi.Com) had an international debate a while ago; we connected via the internet (audio and video) with an Astronomy club in the United States. I opened with the following statement as to stimulate the group and get peoples thoughts and views on the subject. (I took it a little bit off the conventional celestial track)

‘History’s signs and symbols, human behaviour as evidence of extraterrestrial life forms’

Throughout mans time on Earth we have been presented with lots of clues as to where we come from or who has visited us down the centuries. We can look at cave drawings and old paintings that depict flying machines and even astronauts long before it was possible for man to fly or for humans to know what a spaceman might look like. I have myself wondered about the phenomenon of UFO’s and came up with a theory when I was a teenager that they could be instances of time travel, some futuristic military project or indeed maybe some tourist time travel company, making historic events a reality for future travellers.

I started then looking at the sings and symbols around our planet, because we as humans have always left clues and signs as to what we were about, how we lived our lives and when we lived our lives. If you take a look at some of the many signs that can only made clear by elevation, then what you discover is that humans in the past have created symbols on the ground that were intended to be seen by the ‘gods’ or other life forms in flying machines. I then started to study the “Cargo Cults” and specifically the Islanders of the Pacific during World War II.

Many of these islands and their inhabitants had never before seen modern men, they had never observed an airplane or knew of the advances of flight and other technology. But these islands were used by the military in World War II as landing, refuelling and resupply bases. A benefit of having the military stationed on an island was the new foods that were tasted and the new technology observed. These islanders that had never before seen such sights were being introduced to a totally new way of life, smack bang into the modern world. They ate new foods and tasted sweets for the first time, they heard radio and music and most of them really enjoyed the new lifestyle and ‘perks’ that these ‘Gods’ brought them. And that is the key to this right there, one word, Gods, for they treated the soldiers like gods, gods that came from the skies and brought them all these new delights.

When world war two ended and the last military left the islands something strange started to happen. As the years went by and modern man went back to visit the islands and observe the islanders what they seen was new religions had been started around the visit by modern man. The islanders in hope that the gods would one day return, built giant airplanes from straw and bamboo that sat on runways. They lit fires and were seen standing on the improvised runways waving their hands and lit torches as to mimic the flight controllers that had come when the war was raging. Some other leaders within the Islanders community, knowing full well that the military men would never return, setup fake cults in the hope to brainwash followers and become even more prominent within their selected groups. Over 50 years on and some of these islands are still worshiping the ‘Gods’ of world war II and the people they selected as leaders because of things they brought and the stories passed down by their visit.

When humans are introduced to something new, just like the modern trends we see today, we want to copy or rebuild. Something that makes us enjoy or a little happier about who and what we are, or something or someone that brings us new things or even new hope, we idolise and worship. And we have been doing this for 1000’s of years. Take then if you will a look back at ancient art and what we have documented in the past, we have as I have said above, art constructed from the land that can only be seen in its entirety from the skies, we also have ancient artwork, paintings and hieroglyphics that depict space men in very aerodynamic shaped crafts, helicopter type machines and men dressed in modern looking spacesuits.

Did these men of old get visits from the skies, is this why they chose to paint and therefore document? I can see why some ancient civilisations might wish to worship the skies and stars, as passing comets and even falling asteroids would have been a misunderstood, yet dramatically amazing event to them, but this still does not explain the many more sophisticated art of men with helmets presented inside flying craft and the need to document from below with a clear thought on someone or something looking from above.

So why were these things documented and can we take the cargo cults as examples of understanding the behaviour of why ancient humans would worship and feel the need to draw flying machines.


jamieisfunny · June 29, 2011 at 10:47

I have read through most of you articles and would like to say well done keep it up as they are very interesting!

Have you never thought about maybe science and religion can be mixed i know its a long shot and noone will ever agree, im not Religous minded neither science minded, but what if the Big Bang did infact create god? the most explosive power ever known to anything! could have possibly created the most powerfull enterty ever known to anything? just a thought

Cathy Starling · September 30, 2010 at 10:38

Ah, but perhaps we are the first civilisation to be this advanced!

    admin · October 1, 2010 at 08:22

    That’s a good point. It implies that if it takes the whole lifetime of the Milky Way to create one civilisation, intelligent life must be very rare in the Universe.

    TheUnspoken · February 19, 2019 at 04:12

    Likely impossible, we are the 13th colony of mankind.. meaning we have started over 13 times… perhaps if we have not started over so many times we would be one of the most advanced civilizations in the universe.

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