Recently, The Register reported the discovery of an Earth sized planet revolving around Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth after our Sun. (“Hot location: Earth-sized planet near our solar system”, 10/18/2012) The Register correctly reported that it is about 4.3 light years away, or about 25.4 trillion miles. To get a feel for how close this “nearest neighbor” is to Earth, consider this: Today, our fastest rocket can travel about 36,000 miles per hour. If we could travel 1 million miles per hour, (27 times faster than today), it would still take about 2,900 years to reach our closest star. It is an amazing human feat that we can possibly detect a planet going around a star that is so far away.
There are approximately 300 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, and more than 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe. So, it would seem, that there is a likely chance that there is intelligent life out there, but, unless we (or they) discover a way to travel close to or faster than light speed, it is extremely unlikely that we will ever encounter an extraterrestrial being.