excerpt from “And the Skies Came Crashing Down” documentary:

Are we alone? [Pause] Are we alone? Are we alone in this incomprehensibly expansive universe?

This question had plagued countless laymen and scholars alike since the discovery of the first planet, Mercury, in 1781. At the time, humans wondered whether Earth had found a long lost sibling. Did other men walk on that distant, foreign surface?

Fast forward a few hundred years into the future, and by 2009 scientists had pinned down a dozen new planets that might be suitable to carry the kind of life we’re familiar with, based on their chemical compositions and the presence of water. Improved methodologies in spectrometry helped astrobiologists find several hundred more life-friendly planets by 2018. In 2020, the United Nations made an unexpectedly bold move and radioed welcome messages to several tens of thousands of these newly identified worlds.

But Earth was contacted well before any of the greetings reached their intended targets. In 2036, an extraterrestrial civilization sent us an encoded encyclopedia of information and addresses of well over 300,000 intelligent species in the Milky Way. Some entities even shared custody of overlapping territories several thousand light-years across.

[cut to still of NY Times front page October 14, 2036]:

“Plenty of Aliens Up There, Humans Still Alone.”