Drake equation (F. Drake; 1961): The method of estimating the number of intelligent, scientific species (that is, able to communicate with other species) in subsistence in our space.
N = R f_{p} n_{e} f_{l} f_{i} f_{t} L.
Here,
N is the number of species explained above at any specified moment in our Galaxy. The parameters it is evaluated from are as follows:
R = the rate of star formation in our solar system (in stars per year);
f_{p }= the fraction of stars that contain planets;
n_{e} = the total number of habitable planets per system with planets;
f_{l} = the fraction of habitable planets on which the life arises;
f_{i} = the fraction of such planets on which the life develops intelligence;
f_{t} = the fraction of such planets where the intelligence grows into a technological civilization which is capable of communication; and
L = the mean life-time of such a scientific civilization.
Out of these quantities, only the first -- R -- is recognized with anything like any reliability; this is on the order of 10 stars per year. The others, most particularly the fractions, are approximately totally pure speculation at this point. Computations made by respectable astronomers vary by something like ten orders of magnitude in the last estimation of the number of species out there.