Some of you might remember the oddly shaped object that came whizzing past the Sun and Earth in 2017 on a trajectory from outside our Solar System. Most scientists thought the cigar-shaped visitor named ‘Oumuamua, Hawaiian for ‘scout’, was a comet or asteroid from a nearby star or some other cosmic debris. But theoretical astrophysicist Avi Loeb of Harvard University argued that ‘Oumuamua was an alien creation—a light sail, antenna, or even a spaceship. On Tuesday 26 July 2021, he announced a plan to look for more such objects: a philanthropy-backed effort called The Galileo Project.
With the help of existing and new telescopes, the project will systematically look for mysterious artefacts that could be satellites hiding in Earth orbit, interstellar objects—whether natural or manufactured—and even unexplained craft in Earth’s atmosphere. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s a natural artifact or a relic. If we look, we will find something new,” Loeb said.
Artifacts that have potentially been left behind by Extraterrestrial Technological Civilisations (ETCs) could help provide clues about advanced civilisations based on the technology that they have developed, otherwise known as technosignatures. “The goal of The Galileo Project is to bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends to the mainstream of transparent, validated, and systematic scientific research,” explained the researchers in a previous statement published 26 July.
But how did The Galileo Project come about, you ask? After Loeb published a book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, which made the case that ‘Oumuamua was some sort of alien technology, he told Science Magazine that several wealthy individuals got in touch—unsolicited—to offer funding for such research.
Four of them ended up donating $1.75 million, enough for the theoretical astrophysicist to move forward with his plans. He assembled a research team involving several well-known astronomers and researchers from other fields, although he also admitted that not everyone he approached was receptive. “The science community should be open minded. That’s how we make progress,” Loeb said.
Unlike what happened when ‘Oumuamua first showed its head, giving researchers only two months before it passed out of range of telescopes, detecting incoming objects early will give them more time to study them. Loeb also hopes to design—in collaboration with space agencies or companies—a launch-ready space mission to study an incomer at close quarters.
Some researchers involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) welcome such studies. “Everyone would be thrilled to get a close-up look” at something like ‘Oumuamua, said astronomer Jason Wright, director of the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center.
Others wonder what The Galileo Project will add to ongoing searches for interstellar objects. Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University Belfast, co-leader of the ‘Oumuamua investigation team organised by the International Space Science Institute, noted that existing alert networks already scour telescope data on an hourly basis in search of incoming interstellar objects. He added that the European Space Agency (ESA) is working on a Comet Interceptor mission to launch in 2028 that will sit in orbit waiting for a suitable target, be it a comet or an interstellar object, before rushing out to meet it. “The community can’t wait for the discoveries of the Vera Rubin Observatory,” he says.
Following the recent release of reports on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)—including the declassified Pentagon report on UFO sightings published in June this year—the scientific community needs “the determination to systematically, scientifically and transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment,” Loeb added.
The Galileo Project will not speculate on previous UAP, alleged sightings, or informal reports, however. Instead, it will analyse data gathered as part of the venture, based on an existing understanding of physics. The international team working on the project includes the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Frank Laukien, CEO of the scientific equipment manufacturer Bruker Corporation.
As reported in Dazed, summing up the importance of The Galileo Project, Loeb said: “The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science, our technology, and on our entire world view, would be enormous.”
At the beginning of May 2021, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General announced the launch of a formal evaluation into the Pentagon’s actions regarding ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ (UAP). To put it more simply, the Pentagon’s Inspector General is currently investigating the ongoing Navy-led investigation into UFOs. Why? In order to ensure that all that can be done to gather more information is actually being done.
And if you think this news is just another conspiracy theorist’s wet dream and nothing more, why don’t you wait until this year’s summer, when the US intelligence community will deliver a public assessment report on UFOs following an explicit request from the Senate Intelligence Committee. So, what do we know so far?
For years, the US government largely ignored reports of mysterious flying objects seen moving through restricted military airspace—and for good reasons most of the time. From misidentified weather phenomena to aircraft and balloons, many of the UFOs that were spotted were in fact very much part of our world. However, the US government is now slowly beginning to acknowledge that some of the footage of UFOs previously made public—though only a handful of them—is real.
As The Independent mentioned when reporting on the news, a lot has changed since US Air Force general Major General John Samford addressed the issue of UFOs following a sighting back in 1952 in Washington, DC. 69 years later, we now have highly reliable data and witness recordings of the escalated frequency of UFO sightings in proximity to sensitive US military sites, or nuclear facilities in general. Why military sites, and what do we mean by ‘highly reliable data’?
Let me answer the second part of this question before I take you down the rabbit hole of why little green men keep on appearing near Area 51. When the world—mostly the US—started worrying about UFO sightings and alien abductions, unfortunately, it was hard for anyone to look into what they truly were when the technologies needed to do so didn’t exist or simply weren’t developed enough yet. “Modern military radar, satellite, sonar, video, and other sensor capabilities mean that this is no longer a problem,” explains The Independent.
But now that we’ve finally got the right tools to confirm that some UFOs are truly unlike any aircraft used by the US or any foreign country, there’s another element in UFO sighting patterns that just feel too Hollywood-esque for me: why do they tend to happen near US military sites? Well, first of all, most of the high tech equipment I’ve just listed above is used by those same military sites.
Secondly, in June 2019, a team of high-ranking former US defence and intelligence officials, aerospace-industry veterans, academics and others associated with To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science revealed they had been investigating a wide range of these sightings—and advocating more serious government attention.
“All of the nuclear facilities—Los Alamos, Livermore, Sandia, Savannah River—all had dramatic incidents where these unknown craft appeared over the facilities and nobody knew where they were from or what they were doing there,” said investigative journalist George Knapp, who has studied the UAP-nuclear connection for more than 30 years, in an interview with History.
In fact, nuclear-adjacent sightings go back decades, explained Robert Hastings, a UFO researcher and author of the book UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites. Hastings said he’s interviewed more than 160 veterans who have witnessed strange things in the skies around nuclear sites.
Classified Navy assessments suggest that one of the reasons why its aircraft carriers and submarines (nuclear-powered and in some cases, nuclear-armed) keep coming across UFOs is an “established synergy.” In other words, UFOs might be seen hanging about those facilities more often than anywhere else for the simple reason that they may show an interest in them in the first place. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years they’ll turn to renewable energy facilities?
Last year, The Debrief confirmed that Navy aviators flying an F-18 fighter jet photographed a triangle-shaped UFO rising out of the ocean and accelerating at high speed to altitude. No nation is known to have aerial platforms anything similar to these as of yet.
As The Independent nicely put it, either “countries or individuals who live on our planet have achieved technological feats that we previously couldn’t have even imagined” or it’s time for us to accept the fact that those phenomena may be coming from elsewhere. So, are you freaked out now? Because I am.