A New Plan to Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts at Earth and Across the Solar System

On October 19th, 2017, astronomers made the first-ever detection of an interstellar object (ISO) in our Solar System. This body, called 1I/2017 U1 ( Oumuamua), was spotted shortly after it zipped Earth on its way to the external Solar System. Years later, astronomers are still hypothesizing what this item could have been (an interstellar “dust bunny,” hydrogen iceberg, nitrogen icebergs), with Harvard Prof. Abraham Loeb going as far as to suggest that it may have been an extraterrestrial solar sail.

On Monday, July 26th, the Project was officially revealed by means of a live stream presentation that kicked off at 12:00 PM EST (09:00 AM PST). The occasion was hosted by Michael Wall, a senior author at Space.com and the author of “Out There” (2018 ), which handles humanitys ongoing search for alien life. Co-hosting the event and leading its Q&A session was Faye Flam, a journalist and science writer with Science Magazine.

Approximately three years later on, interest in extraterrestrial visitors has not gone away, in part due to the fact that of the release of the Pentagon report on the existence of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” This prompted Loeb and numerous of his fellow scientists to form the Galileo Project, a multi-national, multi-institutional research team committed to bringing the look for Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETC) into the mainstream.

Throughout the conference, Loeb and Project co-founder Dr. Frank Laukien described the function and inspiration behind this brand-new job. Constant with the method of Galileo Galilee, Loeb and Laukien state that their Project will conduct a scientific and “agnostic” search for signs of ETCs by (as they explain it) “Daring to Look Through New Telescopes” (more on that below).

A Brave Theory

In addition to being the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, Loeb is likewise the Director of Harvards Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC), the Founding Director of the Black Hole Initiative (BHI), and the Chair of the Breakthrough Starshot Advisory Committee. In 2018, he and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Shmuel Bialy launched a research study titled “Could Solar Radiation Pressure Explain Oumuamuas Peculiar Acceleration?” which comprehensive their controversial theory.

In it, Bialy and Loeb argued that Oumuamuas profile, orbital behavior, and unexpected velocity far from our Sun was not constant with any recognized natural item. Instead, they showed that all of these parameters could be described if Oumuamua was in fact a lightsail, a spacecraft that depends on a highly reflective surface and radiation pressure for propulsion (comparable in principle to a solar sail).

This was followed by many papers that even more revealed and examined the possibility that Oumuamuas habits was consistent with that of a lightsail. In his 2020 book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Loeb further detailed the research he and his colleagues carried out that led them to this theory and his continuous efforts to get the clinical community to take this possibility seriously.

As Loeb summed up in a press statement released concurrently with the conference:

Throughout everything, one possibility that Loeb kept coming back to was the potential to send out objectives to obstruct such items in the future. The simple reality that Oumuamua was identified revealed substantial pledge, despite the fact that it was found on its way out of the Solar System. The observation of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov about a year later further strengthened the case for an obstruct mission.

If there is even a remote possibility that a tiny fraction of these things are Oumuamua-like in nature (that is to state, perhaps synthetic), then studying these things would be a remarkable boon for mankind. With relative ease and little expenditure, we would lastly have evidence that intelligent civilizations with innovative technology (and likely precede our existence by eons or more) exist in our galaxy.

Loeb likewise strongly highlighted how their efforts were spurred on by the recent release of the “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). This report details the many UAP sitings that have taken place in the United States and the many government-led examinations that have actually been conducted into this phenomenon.

Loeb likewise emphasized how the detection of Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov validated theories about how typical ISOs are. Research conducted by multiple astrophysicists indicated that (on average) 7 ISOs pass through our Solar System every year, and hundreds of them could still be here. According to one research study, it is even possible that there is a whole orbit in the outer Solar System occupied by nothing however ISOs.

” In 2017, the world for the very first time observed an interstellar things, called Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our planetary system. Based on astronomical observations, Oumuamua ended up to have extremely anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural descriptions.
” We can just speculate whether Oumuamua might be discussed by never ever seen before natural explanations, or by extending our creativity to Oumuamua maybe being an extraterrestrial technological things, similar to a really thin light-sail or communications meal, which would fit the astronomical data rather well.”

Cockpit video revealing an anomalous aerial encounter in 2015. Credit: United States Navy

As Loeb himself has actually suggested in a series of research studies, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (VRO) and similar survey telescopes will have the ability to do that very thing when they end up being operational. In specific, it is anticipated that when the VRO begins its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), it will be able to detect ISOs entering our Solar System at a rate of a couple of monthly.

Im not Saying it was Aliens …

While news of the reports release certainly activated a terrific offer of excitement and speculation from the public, the report is really clear that there was “broad irregularity in the reports” and that the datasets were too bad to support conclusions or “permit comprehensive pattern or pattern analysis.” In reaction, Loeb described how this stresses the need for examinations that are led by the clinical community:

The release of this report has also activated additional interest in UAPs and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In truth, Loeb noted that because the existence of the Galileo Project first ended up being known, Harvard University has received $1.75 million in donations that they have been able to put towards their research study goals. Eventually, the Project will cover years and require a great offer more financing, however $1.75 million is not a bad start!

” After the recent release of the ODNI report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community needs the determination to methodically, scientifically and transparently try to find prospective evidence of extraterrestrial technological devices. The effect of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science, our technology, and on our entire world view, would be enormous.”

Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition. Credit: De Agostini Picture Library/U. Marzani/Bridgeman Images

Galileo and Fermi

During the conference, Loeb welcomed his friend and Project co-founder Frank Laukien. Dr. Laukien is the CEO of Bruker Corporation, a producer of clinical instruments for molecular and materials research and industrial applications. He is likewise a Visiting Scholar with Harvards Department of Chemistry & & Chemical Biology and (like Loeb) a member of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative (HOLI).

Laukien likewise showed that beyond his proficiency in the fields of biochemistry and astrobiology, his function on the Project is to be the “resident doubter.” To illustrate, utilizing points typically raised in the context of the Fermi Paradox, Laukien described why discovering ETCs might be even more hard than pictured:

” Just think about, you may believe that in our Solar System, on Earth, there is one intelligent types and civilization– so thats one for one– so that seemed like its pretty likely. However, in the world, in the four billion years of life, there have actually been (or are today) about 100 million types and only one out of [ those] has constructed a civilization. If you think of time, astronomically, life on Earth is almost 4 billion years old, but our types is just 200,000 years old.
” And only for 10,000 years, because the last Ice Age, have we had something like a civilization. And lastly, only in the last hundred years or so, have we been able to send radar signals. That, if some other civilization has a SETI program, their search for extraterrestrial intelligence, only in the last hundred years have we sent out signals.”

In brief, Faulkiens position is that while life might be common in our galaxy, intelligent life may not. And even if there are numerous civilizations out there that we could communicate with today, there are many astrophysical barriers and problems of timing that obstruct. This represents the counterpoint to Loebs own arguments about the probability of intelligence preceding our own.

In true Fermi Paradox fashion, Loeb argued a mix of analytical probabilities and the Copernican Principle:

As he discussed, they chose to name the Project after well known Renaissance astronomer Galileo Galilee since of the symmetry in between his extensive screening of the heliocentric design and the look for ETCs. This is a theme that Loeb mentioned several times in his book, claiming that the resistance he has actually experienced from the general public and the scientific neighborhood bears a similarity to the resistance Galileo dealt with in his time.

” We now know from the Kepler satellite data that about half (plus or minus a quarter) of Sun-like stars have an Earth-like planet. Indicating an Earth-sized world, approximately the exact same separation from the host star. So out of modesty, we must presume that under similar scenarios, we might get similar results.
” In tens of billions of other systems within the Milky Way Galaxy, we can no longer ignore the possibility that technological civilizations preceded us, and that we are not the most intelligent kid on our cosmic block. A lot of stars formed billions of years prior to the Sun. We understand that by observing star formation in deep space.
” Therefore, there sufficed time for another technological civilization– simply one– that is more innovative than ours to fill the Milky Way Galaxy with probes. With things, since a billion years suffices time to take a trip across the Milky Way and essentially populate it with expert system systems that maybe, combined with 3D printers, can reproduce themselves.”

According to the popular legend, after Galileo was required to publicly recanted his views and state that the Earth did stagnate around the Sun, Galileo apparently whispered the rebellious expression, “And yet it moves” (Latin: “Eppur si muove”). According to Laukien, the very same fundamental defiance to standard thinking is at the heart of their Project:

Laukien went on to describe how another popular legend involving Galileo motivated their Project. In the course of promoting the Copernican model of deep space (aka. heliocentrism), Galileo experienced resistance from spiritual authorities and scientists alike who preferred the Ptolemaic (geocentric) model. They declined when he used to reveal them the observational evidence and even offered them the chance to see for themselves.

Artists impression of the interstellar item, Oumuamua, experiencing outgassing as it leaves our Solar System. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser

And Avi, in his terrific book, Extraterrestrial, a few times has actually made the rebellious expression, “And yet it accelerated.”
” That was, of course, describing Oumuamua, the interstellar unknown things for which we do not understand if it has natural or extraterrestrial descriptions. But in some ways, the extraterrestrial explanations, which are just possible, not approved, are the least unacceptable.”

” There were philosophers and apparently possibly even the Pope himself at the time who refused to look through new and enhanced Galileos telescope,” he stated. We desire to take an agnostic scientific look through the telescope.”

Goals and Instruments

As Loeb described in the course of the conference, the Galileo Project will have 3 major opportunities of research. They consist of:

Look For Potential ETC Satellites: The Project will utilize the exact same sophisticated algorithms and AI/DL things recognition and quick filtering methods to look for prospective extraterrestrial satellites in orbit of Earth. This will initially be done utilizing ground-based observatories however will ultimately depend on orbital telescopes too.

Search for and In-Depth Research on Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects: The research study group will also use existing and future huge studies, such as the abovementioned Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (VRO), to find and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors. In addition, they will conceptualize and develop (possibly in partnership with area agencies or area endeavors) a launch-ready space objective to obstruct ISOs as they approach the Sun.

Loeb and his associates also plan to create a network of smaller telescopes geared up with high-contrast imaging electronic cameras. Each will become part of a detector range that will count on traditional radar, Doppler radar, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar, or high-resolution visible and infrared band detection. These selections will be complementary and orthogonal in nature, observing various parts of the spectrum to make sure major coverage.

Acquire High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: For this aspect of their research study, Loeb and his coworkers will use innovative algorithmic techniques that take advantage of Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) to differentiate climatic phenomena (i.e., birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones) from prospective technological objects that could be extraterrestrial in origin. The devices utilized will likewise attempt to catch megapixel-quality images that could recognize millimeter-scale functions.

Artists impression of Breakthrough Starshot. Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives

Amir Siraj, a previous college student who studied under Loeb, is the Director of Interstellar Object Studies for the Galileo Project– as well as the youngest laureate in the classification of science for the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Siraj shared some details of what this network will look like with Universe Today via e-mail:

” We have an interest in developing a network of fast-slewing sub-meter telescopes connected to wide-field video cameras. Real-time signal processing, powered by synthetic intelligence, will provide slewing commands to the telescope, based upon the look of objects of interest captured by the wide-field video camera.
” If we reach a considerably greater level of funding, we will be interested in constructing an interstellar item intercept mission. One form this might take is a compact solar sail, parked at a Lagrange point and capable of unfurling and chasing down an interstellar item if an ideal target is recognized.”

The Time Has Come

Artists impression of how an Earth-like exoplanet may look. Credit: ESO.

In summary, Loeb indicated that the Project likewise owes its beginning to the thousands of extrasolar planets that have been found in recent years. To date, 4,438 exoplanets have been verified in 3,290 star systems, with another 7,605 prospects still waiting for confirmation. Nevertheless, it is the terrestrial exoplanets (aka. “Earth-like”) ones that orbit within their moms and dad stars circumsolar Habitable Zone (HZ) that are of specific interest.

While just 165 terrestrial worlds have actually been found that are similar in size to Earth, next-generation observatories like the James Webb and Nancy Grace Roman area telescopes are expected to discover a lot more. These discoveries suggest that life as we understand it could be ubiquitous in the cosmos. For all of these factors, states Loeb, the Galileo Project is an idea whose time has come:

Since he first proposed it, Prof. Loebs description for Oumuamua has garnered a terrific deal of controversy, support, and even ridicule from the scientific community. Time and again, Loeb reacted by revealing that his hypothesis fits the realities and worried how the presence of ETCs– and that they could be buzzing our Solar System from time to time– is a possibility that needs to be taken seriously.

In this respect, the Galileo Project is not unlike Breakthrough Listen and numerous other efforts that have taken advantage of a combination of public support, premier centers, and the finest scientific minds in business. And much like how the growth of the industrial area industry (aka. NewSpace) has actually stimulated space exploration, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is likewise benefiting from resident science, public engagement, and public-private partnerships.

” Given the just recently found abundance of habitable-zone exoplanets, with potential for extraterrestrial life, the Galileo Project is devoted to the proposition that human beings can no longer ignore the possible existence of ETCs. Science needs to not reject possible extraterrestrial descriptions because of social preconception or cultural choices that are not favorable to the scientific technique of impartial, empirical query. We now need to attempt to check out new telescopes, both actually and figuratively.”

If absolutely nothing else, the Galileo Project represents an identified effort to transfer the study of UAPs from government and military entities to the clinical community. Rather than being treated as a matter of national security (which is to state, clandestine and secretive in nature), the research into these phenomena needs to be carried out with a dedication to openness and transparency.

For more details on the Galileo Project or to be apprised of updates, have a look at their home page at Harvard University. In the meantime, you can view the full public announcement here:

Additional Reading: The Galileo Project, Harvard Projects

Years later, astronomers are still hypothesizing what this item could have been (an interstellar “dust bunny,” hydrogen iceberg, nitrogen icebergs), with Harvard Prof. Abraham Loeb going as far as to recommend that it might have been an extraterrestrial solar sail.

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Loeb noted that since the existence of the Galileo Project first ended up being known, Harvard University has actually received $1.75 million in donations that they have actually been able to put towards their research goals. Throughout the conference, Loeb invited his pal and Project co-founder Frank Laukien. In summary, Loeb suggested that the Project likewise owes its beginning to the thousands of extrasolar worlds that have actually been discovered in recent years. For all of these reasons, states Loeb, the Galileo Project is a concept whose time has actually come: