A Harvard-led team is launching a new project to search for physical evidence of aliens and their technology

Artist's impression of 'Oumuamua
An artist’s impression of interstellar object ‘Oumuamua.

When the first interstellar object ever observed, ‘Oumuamua, careened past Earth in 2017, it seemed to be accelerating. That’s not what most space rocks do – which is in part why Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb says ‘Oumuamua was an alien spaceship.

Although most researchers agree that the object was a space rock – either a comet or piece of a tiny planet – Loeb thinks there are countless other objects like ‘Oumuamua whizzing by our planet, some of which could come from aliens, too. So he launched a program to find them.

On Monday, Loeb announced an initiative called the Galileo Project – after the Italian astronomer – that will search for physical evidence of alien technologies and civilizations.

“It’s a fishing expedition, let’s just go out and catch whatever fish we find,” Loeb said in a press conference. “And that includes objects close to Earth, hovering within our atmosphere, or objects that came from outside the solar system that look weird.”

The $1.75 million project, backed by at least four philanthropists, aims to use a network of Earth-based telescopes to look for interstellar objects that could be extraterrestrial in nature. The group will also hunt for potential alien ships in Earth’s orbit, as well as unidentified flying craft in our atmosphere.

Finding interstellar objects before they pass Earth

oumuamua 1I 2017 u1 solar system trajectory illustration comet asteroid or alien spaceship nasa swri esa stsci PIA22357_fig1
An illustration of ‘Oumuamua flying through the solar system in 2017.

By the time astronomers became aware of ‘Oumuamua’s existence, it was already zipping away at 196,000 mph. Several telescopes on the ground and one in space took limited observations, but astronomers had just a few weeks to study the strange, skyscraper-sized object before it got too far away.

That left many questions about what the object was and where it came from. In a book Loeb published in January, “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” he describes ‘Oumuamua as a defunct piece of alien technology.

“The object has anomalies that merit some attention – things that do not line up in the ways we expected,” Loeb told Insider ahead of the book’s publication, adding, “when something doesn’t line up, you should say it.”

Two years after ‘Oumuamua’s discovery, astronomers spotted a second interstellar object: a comet called 2I/Borisov. With the Galileo Project, Loeb and a team of 14 other researchers hope to spot future interstellar objects early as they approach Earth. To do this, they plan to use the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii and an 8-meter-wide telescope currently under construction at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile.

Early detection could enable scientists to send probes to these objects, according to Frank Laukien, a visiting scholar at Harvard and a co-founder of the Galileo Project.

“We should, next time, have much better data much earlier, and maybe land on them or get very, very close to them,” Laukien said in the press conference.

Searching for signs of extraterrestrial technology

vera rubin telescope
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope building at Vera Rubin observatory at Cerro Pachón, Chile, in September 2019.

Loeb describes the new project as complementary to the SETI Institute, which searches for extraterrestrial life using radio telescopes. But the Galileo Project, he said, will search for physical evidence of alien civilizations, rather than radio signals. That includes potential alien satellites that could be orbiting Earth or fragments of extraterrestrial craft. (One of Loeb’s hypotheses is that ‘Oumuamua is a piece of lightsail or antenna that broke off a larger ship.)

Loeb also plans to examine unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, within Earth’s atmosphere.

Last month, US intelligence officials released a report describing 144 incidents since 2004 in which military personnel encountered UAPs. One of those incidents turned out to involve a deflating balloon, but the rest remain unexplained, the report concluded.

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A still from Navy footage of unidentified aerial phenomena.

“It’s an unusual admission by the government, saying there are objects in our sky we don’t fully understand,” Loeb said.

According to the Galileo Project’s website, these UAPs could be artifacts of an extinct alien civilizations or active extraterrestrial equipment. So the group hopes to image future UAPs in higher resolution by creating a network of 1-meter telescopes around the world.

Such telescopes, which cost about $500,000 each, can spot details just 1 millimeter in size on objects the size of a person a mile away.

“That could help us distinguish a label saying ‘thing made in country X,’ from a label saying, ‘made by exoplanet Y,'” Loeb said.

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Physicist Avi Loeb on stage in New York in 2016.

He added that the Galileo team plans to make its data public to encourage other scientists to engage in the search, too.

“Finding others on cosmic streets will help us mature – help us realize were not the sharpest cookies in the jar, and intelligent life that is way beyond us may exist out there,” Loeb said.

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An upcoming government report has found no evidence that UFOs spotted by Navy personnel are alien – but still can’t explain them

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Left to right, stills from FLIR, GIMBAL and GOFAST videos released by the Pentagon in 2020, of unidentified aerial phenomena.

  • An upcoming government report leaves many questions open about more than 120 UFO sightings, per the NYT.
  • There is no evidence the sightings are of alien origin, but it is not being ruled out, the paper reported.
  • The Pentagon has increasingly acknowledged the existence of UFOs as a real concern to the government.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A soon-to-be-released Pentagon report says there is no evidence that UFOs spotted by US Navy personnel are of alien origin – but we know so little about them that it can’t be ruled out, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the upcoming report reviews more than 120 incidents of unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) – more commonly known as UFOs – over the last 20 years.

Almost none of the encounters appear to involve technology currently held by the US, the paper said, citing the report.

Beyond that, almost no firm conclusions can be drawn, several officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times and The Washington Post.

The report will also include a classified section, which also has no further confirmation on whether the incidents represent alien technology, officials told The Times.

One possible explanation the report will put forward is that the UFOs are advanced technology from other countries, The Times reported. Whatever their origin, the ability of the observed objects to accelerate, submerge and rapidly change direction remains hard to explain, the report is purported to say.

The commissioning of the report – due to be released to Congress on June 26 – was wrapped into former President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 relief package from March last year, The Post reported.

In March, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News of the report’s creation, saying that it will describe “difficult to explain” sightings.

“When we talk about sightings, we are talking about objects that have seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain,” Ratcliffe said.

Former President Barack Obama also acknowledged on The Late Late Show with James Corden in May that the government has unexplained UFO footage.

“We don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern,” Obama said.

In recent years The Pentagon has increasingly confirmed that leaked footage, which has circulated online for years, is real. In April, it confirmed that footage of a triangular UFO shared online was real and had been taken by the US Navy. It also confirmed that the footage is being studied by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.

Other leaked US Navy footage from between 2004 and 2015, long the subject of UFO-watchers’ fascination, was officially released by the Pentagon in April last year.

In 2017, David Fravor, one of the pilots recording the footage released in April 2020, described to the New York Times how one of the UFOs he saw “accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Last month, former US Navy pilot Ryan Graves told CBS’ 60 Minutes that sightings like this were common while he was serving.

Graves told CBS he saw UFOs “every day for at least a couple years.”

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Obama jokes he was told there’s no secret government alien lab but said video of UFOs is real

Obama
Former US President Barack Obama speaks during a drive-in campaign rally for President Joe Biden at Northwestern High School on October 31, 2020 in Flint, Michigan.

  • A former Navy pilot said pilots training off the US coast saw UFOs every day.
  • The sightings are being investigated by a Department of Defense special task force.
  • Former President Barack Obama joked of his own curiosity about aliens and said sightings are real.
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Former President Barack Obama joked that he was told there was no secret lab testing alien samples when he took office in 2008 but acknowledged that footage of unidentified aircraft was real.

During an interview on“The Late Late Show with James Corden,” Obama was asked to weigh in on reports of UFOs.

“When it comes to aliens, there are some things I just can’t tell you on air,” Obama joked.

A former US Navy pilot told CBS’s 60 Minutes earlier this week that pilots training off the US coast sighted UFOs – also known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) – nearly every day.

Videos of the incidents were declassified in 2019 and the Department of Defense launched a special task force to investigate them last August. A report on the sightings is expected in June.

The former president said he asked about the topic when he became president.

“I was like alright, is there the lab somewhere where we’re keeping the alien specimens and spaceship? And you know, they did a little bit of research and the answer was no,” he joked.

Obama confirmed that there’s footage and records of unidentified objects in the skies.

“We don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is. But I have nothing to report to you today, ” Obama said.

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Sen. Marco Rubio says some of his colleagues laugh at his UFO inquiries: ‘There’s a stigma on Capitol Hill’

marco rubio ufo report
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio told “60 Minutes” that fellow lawmakers don’t always take UFOs seriously.
  • The Florida Republican is anticipating a report from the intelligence community on UFOs.
  • “Some of my colleagues are very interested … and some kind of giggle when you bring it up.”
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Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said many of his fellow lawmakers on Capitol Hill do not take the possibility of UFOs existing seriously.

Appearing in a “60 Minutes” segment on the Pentagon acknowledging that there are unidentified aircraft consistently encountered by US forces that no one can explain, Rubio shed some light on how the topic plays out in Congress.

“There’s a stigma on Capitol Hill. Some of my colleagues are very interested in this topic and some kind of giggle when you bring it up,” Rubio said.

As the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio has been pushing for a forthcoming report from the intelligence community what the government knows about UFOs.

While potential involvement of extra terrestrial life makes some of his colleagues laugh, Rubio said he finds the mysterious flying objects to be a deadly serious issue.

Read more: How Marjorie Taylor Greene became the Voldemort of Congress. Few lawmakers even want to say her name.

“Anything that enters an airspace that’s not supposed to be there is a threat,” Rubio said.

The “60 Minutes” segment included infrared radar footage from American aircraft encountering speedy and shifty objects that moved at hypersonic speeds despite having no wings or signs of exhaust from a propulsion system.

Some of the footage showed the objects rotating while traveling at high speeds.

Rubio said the goal of his committee upon reviewing the forthcoming report will be to standardize how pilots and other military personnel can log and track any encounters with UFOs.

“That there be a place where this is cataloged and constantly analyzed, until we get some answers,” Rubio said. “Maybe it has a very simple answer. Maybe it doesn’t.”

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The mysterious interstellar object ‘Oumuamua was a chunk of planet from another solar system, a new study says

Oumuamua asteroid
An artist’s impression shows interstellar object `Oumuamua as it passed through the solar system in October 2017.

The origin and identity of a massive space object that careened past Earth in 2017 have remained a mystery ever since.

The object, called ‘Oumuamua – a Hawaiian name meaning “scout” or “messenger” – traveled on a trajectory that strongly suggested it came from another star system. That made it the first interstellar object ever detected.

But what was it? A few researchers, including Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb, posited the object was an alien spacecraft. Others suggested it was an asteroid, or perhaps an interstellar comet.

Now, a pair of papers published in an American Geophysical Union journal offers another theory: that ‘Oumuamua was shrapnel from a tiny planet in a different solar system.

“We’ve probably resolved the mystery of what ‘Oumuamua is, and we can reasonably identify it as a chunk of an ‘exo-Pluto,’ a Pluto-like planet in another solar system,” Steven Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and a co-author of the new study, said in a press release.

A planetary fragment made of frozen nitrogen

Desch and his coauthors think that half a billion years ago, a space object struck ‘Oumuamua’s parent planet. That sent ‘Oumuamua careening towards our solar system.

Once it neared the sun, their thinking goes, ‘Oumuamua sped up as sunlight vaporized its icy body. Comets follow a similar movement pattern, known as the “rocket effect.”

Because ‘Oumuamua’s makeup is unknown, the researchers calculated what kinds of ice would sublimate (change from solid to gas) at a rate that could account for ‘Oumuamua’s rocket effect. They concluded that the object is likely made of nitrogen ice, like the surface of Pluto and Pluto’s moon Triton.

pluto planet
An enhanced-color view of Pluto, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

As it got approached our solar system – and therefore the sun – ‘Oumuamua started sloughing off frozen nitrogen layers. The object entered our solar system in 1995, though we didn’t realize it at the time, then subsequently lost 95% of its mass and melted away to a sliver, according to the study authors.

It’s a comet. It’s an asteroid. Nope, it’s neither.

oumuamua 1I 2017 u1 solar system trajectory illustration comet asteroid or alien spaceship nasa swri esa stsci PIA22357_fig1
An illustration of the space object ‘Oumuamua flying through the solar system in late 2017.

By the time astronomers became aware of ‘Oumuamua’s existence in 2017, it was already zipping away from Earth at 196,000 mph. So they had only a few weeks to study the strange, skyscraper-sized object. Several telescopes on the ground and one in space took limited observations as the object flew away, but astronomers were unable to examine it in full. ‘Oumuamua is now too far away and too dim to observe further with existing technologies.

The limited nature of the information gathered left room for scientists to offer guesses about what the object might be and where it came from. ‘Oumuamua was initially classified as a comet, but it didn’t appear to be made of ice, and it didn’t emit gases as a comet would.

‘Oumuamua’s spin, speed, and trajectory couldn’t be explained by gravity alone, which suggested it was not an asteroid either. And the object’s shape and profile – it’s about one-quarter of a mile long but only 114 feet wide – doesn’t match that of any comet or asteroid observed before.

According to the authors of the new study, however, ‘Oumuamua’s frozen-nitrogen composition could explain that shape.

“As the outer layers of nitrogen ice evaporated, the shape of the body would have become progressively more flattened, just like a bar of soap does as the outer layers get rubbed off through use,” Alan Jackson, another study co-author, said in the release.

Some astronomers still think it was an alien ship

Unlike most space rocks, ‘Oumuamua seemed to be accelerating, rather than slowing down, in telescope observations.

That is in part why Loeb thinks ‘Oumuamua was an alien spacecraft. In a book he published in January, titled “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” Loeb describes ‘Oumuamua as a defunct piece of alien technology.

“The object has anomalies that merit some attention – things that do not line up in the ways we expected,” he told Insider in December. “Other people say, ‘Lets shove those anomalies under the rug of conservatism.’ I have a problem with that because when something doesn’t line up, you should say it.”

oumuamua interstellar comet asteroid object esa hubble nasa eso m kornmesser
An artist’s depiction of ‘Oumuamua.

Still, a 2019 study from an international group of astronomers analyzed all the ‘Oumuamua data available and concluded that Loeb’s theory was unlikely.

“We find no compelling evidence to favor an alien explanation for ‘Oumuamua,” the astronomers wrote.

Matthew Knight, a University of Maryland astronomer who co-wrote the study, put it this way: “This thing is weird and admittedly hard to explain, but that doesn’t exclude other natural phenomena that could explain it.”

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China’s new Mars probe took its first photo of the red planet as the mission prepares to make history

china mars tianwen-1 mission photo arrival orbit
A black-and-white image of Mars taken by China’s Tianwen-1 probe, released by China on February 5, 2021.

China’s first interplanetary probe is now so close to Mars that its camera can make out craters across the red planet’s surface.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft, a suite of robots launched by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) in July, has spent the last six months speeding through space. At just 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from its destination, the probe beamed back its very first photo: a black-and-white snapshot of Mars.

The CNSA released the picture on Friday. In a press release, the agency said that the probe had fired an engine as part of its fourth “orbital correction,” or adjustment of its path through space. Now Martian gravity should pull the mission into just the right orbit around the planet.

The five-ton probe is set to carry out a braking operation to slow its high-speed spaceflight and slip into orbit around Mars on February 10. Following that, the spacecraft will spend a couple months surveying a landing site at Utopia Planitia, a vast field of ancient volcanic rock.

The orbiter is supposed to drop a lander-rover combo to the planet’s surface in May, the CNSA said. If the rocket-powered descent goes smoothly, the lander will deploy a two-track ramp  for the rover to roll onto Martian soil. The rover’s radar system will help Chinese researchers seek out underground pockets of liquid water. (The orbiter, meanwhile, will continue circling the red planet and relaying data to Earth.)

Such ancient water reservoirs could be remnants of a time billions of years ago when Mars flowed with rivers, courtesy of a much thicker and protective atmosphere than exists today. During this era, Mars somewhat resembled Earth, and scientists think it may have hosted alien microbial life. Any underground pockets of water, shielded from the sun’s unfiltered radiation and the vacuum of space, might still harbor such species, if they exist.

If successful, Tianwen-1 will be the first Mars mission to send a spacecraft into orbit, drop a landing platform, and deploy a rover all in one expedition. It will also mark China’s first landing on another planet and help the nation prepare a future mission that might return a Martian rock or dirt sample to Earth in the late 2020s.

china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission illustration rendering cas xinhua
An illustration of China’s planned Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover mission, or HX-1. Here a rover is shown leaving a lander to explore the Martian surface.

As of Friday, the CNSA said Tianwen-1 is just about 1.1 million kilometers (680,000 miles) from its destination.

Two other missions which launched around the same time as Tianwen-1 – NASA’s Perseverance rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe – are also arriving at Mars in the next two weeks. All three missions are taking advantage of a window when Mars passes close to Earth, decreasing travel time and cost.

China attempted to send an orbiter to Mars in 2011, but the Russian spacecraft that was meant to carry it there stalled in Earth’s orbit and never left.

Tianwen-1 is the closest China has ever gotten to another planet. With luck – and the right engineering to weather a harrowing “seven minutes of terror” as it plunges toward Mars – it will reach the surface.

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A Harvard professor has claimed in his new book that alien debris passed near Earth in 2017. It has attracted both skepticism and intrigue.

The OUMUAMUA object rendering Hawaii observatory aliens.JPG
This artist’s impression shows the first-known interstellar object to visit the solar system, “Oumuamua,” which was discovered on October 19, 2017, by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in Hawaii.

  • Scientists in 2017 detected the first sign of intelligent life outside Earth, according to a new book by Avi Loeb, a Harvard University professor. 
  • The “rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue,” was called “1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua” by NASA.
  • “There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization,” according to publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An extraterrestrial object skimmed through space close to Earth in 2017, wrote a Harvard University astronomer, Avi Loeb, in a book to be published this month. 

It was the first sign of intelligent life outside Earth, according to Loeb. 

Scientists at a Hawaiian observatory saw “an object soaring through our inner solar system, moving so quickly that it could only have been from another star,” according to the marketing summary for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt book, “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.”

The object wasn’t a natural occurrence, but a bit of space junk ejected by another galaxy, according to Loeb, a professor of science with a doctorate in physics. 

“There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization,” according to HMH. 

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Physicist Avi Loeb, right, on stage with physicist Stephen Hawking and others.

In a review, Publishers Weekly called the book a “contentious manifesto.” 

But Loeb wasn’t alone in his excitement about the object, which was called “1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua” by Nasa.

“The first confirmed object from another star to visit our solar system, this interstellar interloper appears to be a rocky, cigar-shaped object with a somewhat reddish hue,” NASA said in its description of the object. 

“For decades we’ve theorized that such interstellar objects are out there, and now – for the first time – we have direct evidence they exist,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, when it was originally discovered. 

He added: “This history-making discovery is opening a new window to study formation of solar systems beyond our own.” 

In the book-jacket blurb, Anne Wojcicki, CEO and cofounder of 23andMe, wrote that Loeb’s new book “convinces you that scientific curiosity is key to our future success.”

“An exciting and eloquent case that we might have seen a sign of intelligent life near Earth – and that we should search further,” she wrote. 

Fellow Harvard professor Eric Maskin, a Nobel laureate in Economics, added: “Is the hypothesis right? Who knows. But let’s try to find out!”

 

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