Drake equation

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The Drake equation (sometimes called the Green Bank equation or the Green Bank Formula) is an equation used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It is used in the fields of exobiology and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The equation was devised by Frank Drake, Emeritus Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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History

In 1960, Frank Drake conducted the first search for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. Soon thereafter, the National Academy of Sciences asked Drake to convene a meeting on detecting extraterrestrial intelligence. The meeting was held at the Green Bank facility in 1961. The equation that bears Drake's name arose out of his preparations for the meeting:

As I planned the meeting, I realized a few day[s] ahead of time we needed an agenda. And so I wrote down all the things you needed to know to predict how hard it's going to be to detect extraterrestrial life. And looking at them it became pretty evident that if you multiplied all these together, you got a number, N, which is the number of detectable civilizations in our galaxy. This, of course, was aimed at the radio search, and not to search for primordial or primitive life forms.

Frank Drake[1]

This meeting established SETI as a scientific discipline. The meeting's dozen participants — astronomers, physicists, biologists, social scientists, and industry leaders — became known as the "Order of the Dolphin". The Green Bank meeting has been commemorated by a plaque at the site.

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