We are seriously going on a hunt for aliens in the solar system

We are seriously going on a hunt for aliens in the solar system

For Avi Loeb, a Harvard astrophysicist, the asteroid 'Oumuamua is an alien artifact. And he found funding to launch the Galileo Project, to scour space using data from large radio telescopes

(Image: ESO / M. Kornmesser) In 2017, for the first time in the history of astronomy, a interstellar asteroid, i.e. not belonging to the solar system. It was called 'Oumuamua, which in Hawaiian (to find out were the Pannstars1 telescopes of the University of Hawaii) means explorer. On Wired we talked about the debate on its nature. The most accredited hypothesis, supported by several studies, including a work published in Nature Astronomy in 2019, is that it is an object of natural origin, probably a fragment of rock ejected by a gas giant orbiting a star.

But there are also those who think differently, and they are not really a nobody: it is Avi Loeb, scientist at the head of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University. In fact, Loeb has been supporting for years the hypothesis according to which 'Oumuamua could be what remains of a still unknown alien technology is not to be discarded. In addition to having written a book on the issue (Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth), now, unpaid, he has managed to raise the funds for a great scientific mission, the Galileo Project, with the aim of clarifying once by all the origin of 'Oumuamua and to look for other possible signs of extraterrestrial life within the solar system.

Rock or cell phone?

Before talking about the project, let's briefly review the story. Loeb is convinced that 'Oumuamua has too many "inexplicable quirks" that do not allow us to say with certainty that its origin is natural. Its cigar shape, for example, which remains unique at the moment. But also its surface, which reflects light much more than the other asteroids and comets of our knowledge, so much so as to suggest that - Loeb always says - it could even be covered with metal.

And again: the anomalies of trajectory and a small (but significant) acceleration recorded as the object moved away from the Sun. According to Loeb's calculations, in fact, it is not possible that the small thrust observed was due to the phenomenon of degassing with expulsion of hydrogen, while instead it is compatible with that obtained with a solar sail similar to those used to push our probes into space. "What would happen if a caveman saw a cell phone?" , the scientist asked provocatively: "Probably, having seen only rocks all his life, he would think that it is only a shining rock".

The Galileo Project

The intentions of Loeb, the Galileo Project, financed almost exclusively with private funds, should help us understand if we can discover and identify alien technology. The project will use data from existing radio telescopes and new instruments to systematically search for new artifacts that could be satellites "hidden" in the Earth's orbit, interstellar objects (both natural and artificial) and "unexplained vehicles" in the Earth's atmosphere. . “It is not important whether it is a natural object or not - said the scientist -. If we search, we will surely find something. ”

After the publication of the book, several philanthropists contacted Loeb, proposing - without his explicit request - to finance specific research on the subject. Four of them, reports ScienceMag, have donated a total of nearly two million dollars, enough to start the project. Loeb has thus put together a team of researchers, including several eminent astronomers and also experts from other fields, to move on to the operational phase. Loeb's hope is that it will be possible to detect incoming objects as early as possible, which should give him and his team an appropriate window of time to analyze them. Possibly longer than the two months that the scientific community had to study 'Oumuamua before it disappeared forever from the field of view of telescopes.

Three good reasons to believe it

According to a' analysis by Ray Norris, an expert at Western Sydney University, published in The Conversation, there are three reasons that suggest that Loeb and colleagues could succeed in such an ambitious undertaking, that others have already failed. “First of all - he says -, we are now sure, after years of scrupulous observations that many stars host Earth-like planets. There is a real possibility that these exoplanets could host alien civilizations ".

The second reason goes back to the one we started from, namely 'Oumuamua. And he explains: "Five years ago we came across this interstellar visitor, an object about 400 meters long that came from outside the solar system. Unfortunately, it took us by surprise and we didn't notice until it was almost out of our field of vision. Today, the question of its nature is still open. We cannot say for certain whether it was a spaceship or simply an inert piece of rock ".

The third reason comes from US intelligence, which a little over a month ago admitted that some military reports on UFOs (or rather, on UAPs, that is Unidentified aerial phenomena, unidentified aerial phenomena) "probably refer to physical objects, since they have been recorded by several sensors". Not therefore meteorological phenomena, nor balloons, nor clandestine military experiments. Which does not automatically make them alien objects, but it certainly encourages further research to clarify their origin.

And that is precisely what Loeb wants to discover: rather than asking whether 'Oumuamua or the UAPs could represent evidence of a existence, scientists should focus on what they do best, which is to obtain reliable data. The Galileo Project will try to observe UAPs with as much detail as possible. “A telescope with a diameter of one meter, equipped with a modern sensor, can see details of one millimeter on an object one kilometer away - explains Loeb -. If we have enough funds available, we will position dozens of these telescopes in strategic points of the globe to scour the sky in search of new UAPs, perhaps with the help of radar and infrared sensors ".

What they think the others

The reactions of colleagues were divided between skepticism and enthusiasm. Researchers from Seti (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) threw the hats into the air. "Anyone would be thrilled to be able to take a closer look at an object like 'Oumuamua," said Jason Wright, director of the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center, for example. "We absolutely have to be ready for the new 'Oumuamua," added Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester: "We would learn a lot of new things, whatever these objects are."

Others wonder if that of Loeb is "real science" and what are the real chances of discovering something new. "The hopes are actually low," admits Loeb himself, who speaks of the mission as a "fishing expedition" in the dark. We'll see.

Business - 1 minute ago

Musk's real goals, Branson and Bezos behind the new space race

Why billionaires' space race is raising more criticism than compliment

Can light come from "behind" a black hole?


Aliens Asteroids Space events Space globalData.fldTopic = "Aliens, Asteroids, Space events, Space"

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Powered by Blogger.