HOSTILE alien civilisations hell-bent on wiping out humanity may well be closer to home than we think.
According to one researcher, as many as four of them exist in the Milky Way that would attack our planet if they could.
Alberto Caballero, a PhD student at the University of Vigo in Spain, estimated the prevalence of "malicious" extraterrestrial civilisations.
He posted his findings earlier this month to the preprint database arXiv, Live Science reports.
The paper has not been peer-reviewed by other astronomers and is more thought experiment than concrete discovery.
For his research, Caballero analysed human invasions of other countries over the past 50 years.
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He applied that data to the estimated number of inhabited "exoplanets" – those outside the Solar System – in our galaxy.
According to a 2012 paper, as many as 15,785 alien civilisations exist across the millions of exoplanets in the Milky Way.
By combining the frequency of human conflict with the potential number of alien civilisations, Caballero predicted how many hostile planets are out there.
He landed on four, although he admits his back-of-an-envelope calculation has a few major flaws.
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"I did the paper based only on life as we know it," Caballero told Vice News.
"We don’t know the mind of extraterrestrials. An extraterrestrial civilisation may have a brain with a different chemical composition and they might not have our empathy or they might have more psychopathological behaviours.
"I found this way to do [the study], which has limitations, because we don’t know the mind of what aliens would be like."
Scientists have never found conclusive proof of aliens, but many experts believe that life exists somewhere beyond the Solar System.
That most likely takes the form of extraterrestrial microbes that resemble the first life to emerge on Earth billions of years ago.
A number of missions are underway to scan the Milky Way's millions of exoplanets for signs of microscopic life.
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The newly launched James Webb Space Telescope, for example, possesses infrared technology that enables it to distinguish between different molecules in the atmospheres of faraway worlds.
Over the next decade, Nasa is sending spacecraft to Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's moon Titan to hunt for signs of life.
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