Extraterrestrial life is hypothetical life that may occur outside Earth and which did not originate on Earth. Such life might range from simple prokaryotes (or comparable life forms) to intelligent beings and even sapient beings, possibly bringing forth civilizations that might be far more advanced than humanity. The Drake equation speculates about the existence of sapient life elsewhere in the universe. The science of extraterrestrial life in all its forms is known as astrobiology.
Since the mid-20th century, active ongoing research has taken place to look for signs of extraterrestrial life. This encompasses a search for current and historic extraterrestrial life, and a narrower search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. Depending on the category of search, methods range from the analysis of telescope and specimen data to radios used to detect and send communication signals.
The concept of extraterrestrial life, and particularly extraterrestrial intelligence, has had a major cultural impact, chiefly in works of science fiction. Over the years, science fiction communicated scientific ideas, imagined a wide range of possibilities, and influenced public interest in and perspectives of extraterrestrial life. One shared space is the debate over the wisdom of attempting communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. Some encourage aggressive methods to try for contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life. Others—citing the tendency of technologically advanced human societies to enslave or wipe out less advanced societies—argue that it may be dangerous to actively call attention to Earth.
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