A massive UFO was spotted passing in front of the Sun
Image of the alleged UFO was captured by NASA’s satellite
The strange object changed directions while moving
A UFO expert claimed to have spotted a massive alien vessel flying in front of the Sun. Interestingly, the strange object changed directions as it eclipsed the massive star.
The strange sighting was made by Scott Waring of ET Data Base. According to Waring, he spotted the alleged UFO while he was browsing through the videos taken by the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a satellite launched by NASA in 1995 to study the Sun.
In the video, which was shared through NASA’s Helioviewer website, a large spherical object can be seen moving in front of the Sun. The movement and appearance of the strange object slightly resemble the motion of the Moon’s shadow as it eclipses the Sun.
However, as seen in the video, the object didn’t move in a straight line in front of the Sun. Instead, it changed its direction and started moving farther away from the massive Sun. For Waring, the sudden change in direction and the speed of the object indicate that it was not a planet or natural satellite.
“[I] found this very interesting object passing front of the Sun and then do a 180-degree reversal,” Waring wrote in a blog post. “It’s odd, I have never seen that before. The object reversed directions like it was on rails. Since it didn’t orbit the Sun we know it’s not a planet like Mercury, Venus or Earth.”
According to Waring, it’s possible that the strange object could be a UFO or alien vessel that happened to pass in front of NASA’s satellite as it was taking images of the Sun. In his previous posts, Waring discussed the possibility of a planet and moon-sized alien vessels approaching the Sun.
“There are a lot of UFOs out there, some planet size and this is crazy cool,” he stated.
Of course, there’s probably a simpler explanation regarding the appearance of the massive black object in front of the Sun. Based on its appearance, it could be a piece of equipment on the SOHO satellite that accidentally moved as it was observing the Sun.
In a wild galaxy over half a billion light-years away, astronomers have detected molecular oxygen. It’s only the third such detection ever outside the Solar System – and the first outside the Milky Way.
Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the Universe, behind hydrogen (naturally) and helium. So its chemistry and abundance in interstellar clouds are important for understanding the role of molecular gas in galaxies.
Astronomers have searched for oxygen again and again, using millimetre astronomy, which detects the radio wavelengths emitted by molecules; and spectroscopy, which analyses the spectrum to look for wavelengths absorbed or emitted by specific molecules.
But these searches have turned up a puzzling lack of oxygen molecules. Which means “a comprehensive picture of oxygen chemistry in different interstellar environments is still missing,” wrote a team of astronomers led by Junzhi Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a new paper.
One place molecular oxygen has been detected is the Orion nebula; it’s been hypothesised that out in space, oxygen is bound up with hydrogen in the form of water ice that is clinging to dust grains.
But the Orion nebula is a stellar nursery, and it’s possible that the intense radiation from very hot young stars shocks the water ice into sublimation and splits the molecules, releasing the oxygen.
Which brings us to a galaxy called Markarian 231.
Markarian 231 is special. It’s 561 million light-years away, and powered by a quasar. That’s an extremely luminous galactic nucleus with an active supermassive black hole in the centre. They’re the brightest objects in the Universe, and Markarian 231 contains the closest quasar to Earth.
In fact, astronomers think Markarian 231 might have two active supermassive black holes in its centre, whirling around each other at a furious rate.
An active galactic nucleus drives molecular outflows, producing continuous shocks of the kind that might release oxygen from water in molecular clouds. The molecular outflows in Markarian 231 are particularly high velocity, so Wang and colleagues went looking for oxygen.
Using the IRAM 30-metre radio telescope in Spain, they took observations of the galaxy for four days across a number of wavelengths. In those data, they found the spectral signature of oxygen, in line with the shock hypothesis.
“With deep observations toward Markarian 231 using the IRAM 30 meter telescope and NOEMA, we detected [molecular oxygen] emission in [an] external galaxy for the first time,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
“The detected O2 emission is located in regions about 10 kpc (32,615 light-years) away from the center of Markarian 231 and may be caused by the interaction between the active galactic nucleus-driven molecular outflow and the outer disc molecular clouds.”
The team’s measurements revealed that the abundance of oxygen compared to hydrogen was around 100 times higher than that found in the Orion nebula, so the galaxy could be undergoing a more intense version of the same molecule-splitting process.
As Markarian is a starburst galaxy, undergoing furious star formation, this could be possible. Just one region in the galaxy is forming new stars at a rate of over 100 solar masses a year. The Milky Way, by contrast, is pretty quiet, with a star formation rate of around 1 to two solar masses.
On the other hand,these findings could also mean that more observations need to be taken to confirm that the astronomers are correct in interpreting their results as oxygen.
If the results hold, the phenomenon could be used to understand more about both molecular oxygen in galaxies, and the molecular outflow from an active galactic nucleus, the researchers said.
“This first detection of extragalactic molecular oxygen provides an ideal tool to study active galactic nucleus-driven molecular outflows on dynamic timescales of tens of megayears,” they wrote.
“O2 may be a significant coolant for molecular gas in such regions affected by active galactic nucleus-driven outflows.”
Nearly two millennia before Jules Verne and H. G. Wells started writing about science fiction, Lucian of Samosata a Syrian satirist and rhetorician introduced the world to science fiction, envisioning a future where mankind would come find alien life, take place in interplanetary warfare, and come to know artificial life among other things.
A True Story
Lucian of Samosata is widely recognized as one of the earliest novelists in Western Civilization, and many scholars argue he is the father of science fiction.
Lucian, who was a Syrian writer who penned down his works in the Greek language lived from the year 125 and covered various topics such as extraterrestrials, spaceships, and robots, two millennia before the novels of Jules Verne or G.H. Wells appeared.
Lucian developed stories in the key of what today, two millennia later, we conceive as science-fiction.
Lucian narrates the adventures of Lucian and his crew, all of who were cosmonauts, flying ships, television projections, talking machines, artificial intelligence, encounters with aliens, space battles, ufos, humanoids, as well as cities erected inside a living organism.
His work, “A True Story” is a fictional narrative in which he anticipated modern science fiction themes.
The work begins with Lucian and his fellow travelers journeying out past the Pillars of Heracles, after which they are blown off course due to a powerful storm.
They end up on an island that has a river of wine, filled with fish and bears.
They don’t remain long on the island and make their way when they are captured by a whirlwind which ends up taking them on to the moon.
There, they find themselves in the middle of a war between the rulers of the moon and the rulers of the sun, who are fighting a cosmic battle over the colonization of the ‘Morning Star’.
Both armies are described as having bizarre forms of life, half mechanic, half biological.
The armies of the Sun eventually come out on top after which a peace treaty is signed. In his work, Lucian details how life on Earth is totally different from that on Earth.
Eventually, as they return to Earth, Lucian and his fellow travelers end up being swallowed by a 200-mile-long whale. Inside the creature’s belly, they find a variety of fish people inhabiting its inside.
They wage war against the mysterious creatures and eventually kill the whale after starting a bonfire in its interior.
Eventually, the manage to open the whale’s mouth and escape.
As they continue their voyage, they encounter a massive abyss in the ocean but manage to travel beside it. This leads them to discover a distant continent which they decide to explore.
The writing ends abruptly with Lucian stating that their future adventures will be described in the upcoming sequels, none of which were ever published.
The work of Lucian also describes adventures and stories of incredible shipwrecks; He wrote about ships sailing through extraordinary worlds, like an island of dreams, or fantastically wandering through forests and landscapes that are located in space.
Lucian is noted for being the first writer to separate reality from fiction, something that was not very clear at that time.
It is noteworthy to mention that Lucian’s book ‘A True Story’ is also an early expression of the idea of traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and exploring the lands that are located on the other side. This idea predates the journey of Columbus by around 1,400 years.
Fox News published a startling article Monday (Dec. 3) with the headline “NASA scientist says Earth may have been visited by aliens.” Unsurprisingly, that news rocketed around the web, with similar articles soon turning up in the New York Post, Russia Today and The Daily Wire. (Fox appears to have been the first major U.S. news source to run with the story.)
These articles are based on a document on NASA’s website by Silvano Colombano, a researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. It really does argue that scientists should at least take seriously the notion that aliens may have visited planet Earth. But Colombano told Live Science that the coverage on Fox News and elsewhere misrepresented what he was trying to say when he wrote it.
“It is not accurately represented,” he said. “My perspective was simply that reports of unidentified aerial phenomena should be the object of serious study, even if the chance of identification of some alien technology is very small.”
There’s some nuance here. Colombano really does believe, as Fox News wrote, that aliens “may” have visited planet Earth. As in, it’s theoretically possible that this has happened, not entirely impossible, and worth looking for evidence that it has. But that’s not the same as expecting to actually find any such evidence, or believing that there’s a good chance aliens are scuttling around under our noses — an impression you might get if you read Fox News’s article.
Though Colombano’s name and email address appear right on top of the document, he said Fox News did not contact him before publishing their story. (Live Science has reached out to Fox News to confirm this, but has not yet heard back.) Fox described the document as a “new research paper” — a term usually used to describe formal articles intended for publication in research journals and making conclusions based on evidence and the scientific method.
“The context was a presentation delivered last spring at a meeting of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute,” he said.
SETI is an organization devoted to the hunt for alien life, mostly by scanning radio signals from space for evidence of biological origin.
“The meeting was to get feedback from scientists as to future directions for the Institute’s research program,” Colombano said.
The document accompanied a talk he gave in which he suggested that perhaps the notion of aliens visiting Earth isn’t quite as ridiculous as most scientists believe, and that SETI might devote some resources to systematically hunting through UFO reports and other data for evidence that this has happened — to hunt for a faint, unlikely signal in a lot of messy noise.
In other words, it was a speculative piece of writing intended to persuade other scientists to spend their resources on a long-shot project — not an argument about whether or not aliens have actually visited Earth. Colombano’s position is that it’s possible, but not necessarily likely.
From a world with three suns in its sky to lots of possibly habitable real estate, the past year has seen some incredible exoplanet discoveries. Here are 10 of the most memorable.
10. Teegarden’s Star
In jan 2020, researchers reported that they had found two Earth-like exoplanets circling a red dwarf known as Teegarden’s Star, which lies only 12.5 light-years from Earth.
The newfound worlds complete one lap around their host star in just 4.9 and 11.4 Earth days, respectively. Despite these close orbits, they’re still thought to reside in the “habitable zone” — the range of distances from a star that can support the existence of liquid water on a world’s surface — because Teegarden’s star is so dim.
From the data collected so far, scientists believe there might be more exoplanets to find in this system too.
Who said space isn’t adorable? In a preprint paper published on the website arXiv in July 2019, scientists gave a fanciful name to a class of wandering exomoons. In the scenario described in the paper, these exomoons were ripped from the gravitational pull of their host planet and pulled toward their host star.
No longer just a moon, but still not quite an exoplanet, these weird exomoons needed a special name. Previous research had thrown around “moonmoon,” but the paper published in July landed on the much cuter “ploonet.”
Ploonets are purely theoretical right now, but the paper showed how their journeys (and subsequent slow deaths) around their host stars might leave recognizable light signals. The researchers think that this light signature might explain some previously unexplained astronomical observations.
8. Three suns!
Thanks to a little help from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), scientists discovered a strange new exoplanet in a three-star system with a surface temperature around 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius.) The exoplanet, called LTT 1445Ab, is 22.5 light-years from Earth and, despite having stars in triplicate, appears to make an orbit around one of them every five days. The other two red dwarfs simply loom in the exoplanet’s sky.
In addition to its novel setup, scientists say that the exoplanet would be a perfect candidate for future atmospheric exploration thanks to its positioning between the stars and Earth. Scientists believe this would make it possible for even ground-based Earth telescopes to make observations about the exoplanet.
7. Gassy preteen with two suns
In March 2019, scientists used TESS data to discover a gassy, preteen exoplanet that researchers believe to be a mere 43 million years old. The exoplanet, called DS Tuc Ab, orbits one star in a two-star system once every eight days.
And because DS Tuc Ab is still relatively young, scientists are interested in learning more about what this world’s history could tell us about the formation of planets in our own solar system. For example, DS Tuc Ab still experiences considerable losses of its atmospheric gas due to radiation from its host star. Scientists hope to extrapolate this knowledge about DS Tuc Ab to imagine what might happen to Earth and other planets closer to home if they were to lose their atmospheres.
6. GJ 357 d: A habitable world?
In July 2019, scientists used TESS data to find yet another treasure trove of possibly habitable exoplanets. The data identified three exoplanets in the dwarf star system GJ 357, which lies 31 light-years from Earth.
Two of the planets — GJ 357 c and d — can be classified as “super-Earths,” worlds slightly bigger than our own. Meanwhile, GJ 357 b is something called a hot Earth, meaning that, while its size might be Earth-like, its surface gets much hotter (about 490 degrees Fahrenheit, or 254 degrees Celsius) than that of our own planet.
GJ 357 d in particular has grabbed a lot of attention, because it may well fall into the coveted habitable zone. This planet completes one lap around the host star every 55 Earth days.
5. A snowball’s chance
Scientists have been peering into Earth’s baby book to learn a little more about a kind of exoplanet deemed a “snowball.” At certain points in their lives, snowballs can become tidally locked with their host star, always showing it the same face, and as a result develop huge, eyeball-like icy oceans on that face.
Earth itself went through its own snowball phases as a younger planet. Because of this fact, scientists have speculated that snowball exoplanets may well be capable of sustaining life — and research published in July 2019 suggests they might even be better at it than originally imagined.
The paper focused on what might be happening on the land of these snowball planets instead of just their oceans. The study found that snowball planets would likely have relatively temperate inland zones, where temperatures hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) and above — something that Earth-like life could easily handle.
4. Football-shaped world
In August 2019, scientists reported finding a strange, football-shaped exoplanet shedding its atmosphere at a rapid rate — and losing heavy metals like iron and magnesium along with it. This big, puffy exoplanet, called WASP-121b, is something called a “hot Jupiter,” and it orbits so close to its sun that its temperature is hotter than any other known planet — a whopping 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,538 Celsius) in the upper atmosphere.
The proximity to its star not only heats up the exoplanet but also causes its football-like bulge as the star’s gravity literally threatens to tear the exoplanet apart. Scientists were able to make this original observation using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope but hope to investigate the exoplanet further using the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2021.
3. Exoplanet water-vapor drama
A clash over exoplanet data ruffled a few feathers in September 2019 as scientists raced to be the first to report findings of alien-world water vapor.
The data in question was collected by a Université de Montréal-led team in 2016, 2017, and 2018 and suggested that the air of an exoplanet called K2-18 b features water vapor and clouds — a huge point of excitement for those searching for signs of alien life. But a team from University College London posted an analysis of this data around the same time the Canadian researchers did.
While such scientific scooping is not illegal — the data was open-access — some astronomers saw it as poor form. And the Canadian team leader said he wished the London team had consulted him about their plans.
The two studies interpreted the data somewhat differently, but both concluded that there is water vapor in K2-18 b’s atmosphere. And that’s a good thing, all the drama notwithstanding.
2. Starless exoplanets may orbit black holes
Using a computer model, scientists determined in October 2019 that starless, Neptune-like planets could form around and orbit supermassive black holes. Instead of calling a cozy solar system home, these exoplanets would live on the edge of, or about 10 to 30 light-years away from, a light-eating black hole and would be comprised of icy dust left in its wake. Based on their model, the scientists said that such voracious black holes could be host to tens of thousands of planets.
At least in theory, anyway; detecting such exoplanets would be extremely challenging. For example, astronomers couldn’t use the most prolific planet-detection strategy, the transit method, to find such worlds. The transit method looks for dips in light that result when an exoplanet passes in front of its host start. But, because black holes eat light instead of emitting it, this obviously wouldn’t work. So, scientists might have to rely on models and indirect methods for now.
1. Exoplanet collision?
Scientists have been observing a lot of warm dust in the star system BD +20 307, which is about 300 light-years from Earth. And they’re starting to get excited, because this dust might be evidence of a fairly recent planetary collision. The observations were first made a decade ago and then reaffirmed in April 2019.
For scientists, this exciting possibility represents an opportunity to learn more about how such impacts affect the formation and evolution of planetary systems. This hits close to home, as it’s believed that Earth’s moon formed after a giant impact.
Reasons to Believe How seriously should you take those recent reports of UFOs? Ask the Pentagon. Or read this primer for the SETI-curious.
13 reasons how aliens are exist
In the good old days, the arrival of UFOs on the front page of America’s paper of record might have seemed like a loose-thread tear right through the fabric of reality — the closest that secular, space-race America could have gotten to a Second Coming. Two decades ago, or three, or six, we would’ve also felt we knew the script in advance, thanks to the endless variations pop culture had played for us already: civilizational conflicts to mirror the real-world ones Americans had been imagining in terror since the beginning of the Cold War.
But when, in December, the New York Times published an undisputed account of what might once have sounded like crackpot conspiracy theory — that the Pentagon had spent five years investigating “unexplained aerial phenomena” — the response among the paper’s mostly liberal readers, exhausted and beaten down by “recent events,” was markedly different from the one in those movies. The news that aliens might actually be visiting us, regularly and recently, didn’t provoke terror about a coming space-opera conflict but something much more like the Evangelical dream of the Rapture the same liberals might have mocked as kooky right-wing escapism in the George W. Bush years. “The truth is out there,” former senator Harry Reid tweeted, with a link to the story. Thank God, came the response through the Twitter vent. “Could extraterrestrials help us save the Earth?” went one typical reaction.
Suddenly, aliens were an escapist fantasy — but also more credible (legitimized by the government!) than mere fantasy. That Pentagon report, which featured two gripping videos of aerial encounters, was just one beat in a recent search-for-extraterrestrial-intelligence (or SETI) drumroll: In October, an object passed through our solar system that looked an awful lot like a spaceship; astronomers spent much of 2016 arguing over whether the weird pulses of light coming from a distant star were actually evidence of an “alien megastructure.” An army of Silicon Valley billionaires are racing to make first contact, and our new superpowered telescopes are discovering more conceivably habitable planets every year.
Then, in March, a third video emerged, featuring a Navy encounter off the East Coast in 2015, with the group that released it hinting at an additional trove. “Why doesn’t the Pentagon care?” wondered a Washington Post op-ed — surely the first time the newspaper of Katharine Graham was raising a stink about aliens. The next week, President Trump seemed to announce he was creating an entirely new branch of the military: “We’ll call it the Space Force.” You could be forgiven for thinking you’d woken up in a science-fiction novel. At the very least, it is starting to seem non-crazy to believe. A recent study shows half the world already does.
Alien dreams have always been powered by the desire for human importance in a vast, forgetful cosmos: We want to be seen so we know we exist. What’s unusual about the alien fantasy is that, unlike religion, nationalism, or conspiracy theory, it doesn’t place humans at the center of a grand story. In fact, it displaces them: Humans become, briefly, major players in a drama of almost inconceivable scale, the lasting lesson of which is, unfortunately: We’re total nobodies. That’s the lesson, at least, of a visit from aliens, who got here long before we were able to get there, wherever there is; if humans are the ones making first contact, we’re the advanced ones and the aliens are probably more like productive pond scum, which may be one reason we fantasize about those kinds of encounters a lot less than visits to Earth. Of course, when the aliens are the explorers, we’re the pond scum.
But a lot of people in the modern world will take that bargain, which should probably not surprise us given how dizzying, secular, and, um, alienating that world objectively is. Most conspiracy theory is fueled by a desire to see the universe as ultimately intelligible — the bargain being that things can make sense, but only if you believe in pervasive totalitarian malice. Alien conspiracy theory keeps the malice (cover-ups at Roswell, the Men in Black). But rather than benzo comforts like order and intelligibility, it offers the psychedelic drama of total unintelligibility — awe, wonder, a knee-wobblingly deep, mystical experience of existential ignorance.
Every extraterrestrial era has its own fantasy of consequentiality. Crop circles began as a phenomenon of the English countryside, then spread to the far corners of the onetime British Empire (Australia, Canada) after World War II, when the U.K. was falling unmistakably back in the ranks of nations and when its provincial subjects would have felt some understandable desire to demonstrate that, somehow, their lives really mattered. American encounters were invariably rural as well — typically farmers and ranchers, mostly in the country’s interior and the deserts and mountains of the West, in decades the country as a whole spent rapidly urbanizing and then industrializing its farmland so systematically it looked like Monsanto was trying to exterminate the American farmer along with the cotton bollworm.
These incidents, which never occurred in cities, where other witnesses could have verified them, were often reported as horror stories even as they may have expressed secret desires. But the pop culture of the same era introduced another mode: the suburban encounter, often still private and personal but more ooey-gooey New Age than abductions and anal probes. The two major authors were Steven Spielberg, who gave us broken-family theology in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., and Carl Sagan, who gave us Cosmos and Contact, which, when it was turned into a movie, featured an eerie seascape that was basically a secular heaven, maintained by offscreen aliens explicitly playing the role of gods. Stephen Hawking, who died in March, was also a godfather of a sort, not just a physicist but a sage and guru for a generation of squishy-lefty seekers curious about life beyond Earth; among his last acts was partnering with Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire building a giant SETI laboratory at UC Berkeley. Americans used to regard the space race with not just national but something like collectivist pride — all those government engineers from the new middle class. Suddenly, it’s the rich kids with the cool toys and the keys to the rocket ship.
Which does mark a change. Beyond the mysticism, American stories of alien encounters have been (often anxious) meditations on the status of American power — meditations informed, surely, by both the memory of European settlers, for whom “first contact” was a story of triumphant genocide, and sympathy for those they trampled. Given the option, America will always prefer to play the cowboy, and through the post–Cold War 1990s, the dominant alien-encounter template was still the swaggering military strut of Independence Day. (The closest thing we got to a counterpoint was the cover-up paranoia of The X-Files, which just expressed a darker faith in the same American power.) By the time we got an alien epic for the War on Terror era, even Spielberg staged it as a story about armed conflict: The War of the Worlds. Of course, in that story, the winner was always going to be the humans — that is, the Americans. And then came the financial crisis, the recession, and Trump, and the new hope that E.T. may take pity on us.
Elsewhere in the world, where things are looking up, relatively speaking, you might expect a different perspective on aliens — and indeed, as The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen documented last fall, the Chinese have recently opened the world’s largest radar facility to listen for signs of aliens, wherever they are out there. But even our future Chinese overlords, projecting power for the first time into the ever-receding reaches of the universe, are a bit nervous about aliens; as Andersen points out, their popular science fiction bears the evidence. And why wouldn’t they be? They have their own memory of colonial contact — the Opium Wars, the end of that empire — to reckon with. And, besides, the unknown is just scary. Things have to get pretty bleak before you take a chance on the arrival of a total blank slate, just for the sake of change. —David Wallace-Wells
1. The Government Literally Just Admitted It’s Taking UFOs Seriously
And, according to researchers, it’s only pretended to end the program.
In 1952, a CIA group called the Psychological Strategy Board concluded that, when it came to UFOs, the American public was dangerously gullible and prone to “hysterical mass behavior.” The group recommended “debunking” campaigns to tamper the public’s interest in unexplained phenomena. But the government seems to have been interested, too: In December, the Pentagon confirmed the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. Created in 2007 by senators Ted Stevens (who reported being chased by a mysterious object), Daniel Inouye, and then–Majority Leader Harry Reid, and funded with $22 million of “black money” from the Department of Defense’s budget, the program investigated and evaluated reports of UFO sightings, many of which came from American service members.
So much of what the program uncovered remains classified, but what little we know is tantalizing. Based on data it collected, the program identified five observations that showed mysterious objects displaying some level of “advanced physics,” also known as “stuff humans can’t do yet”: The objects would accelerate with g-forces too strong for the human body to withstand, or reach hypersonic speed with no heat trail or sonic boom, or they seemed to resist the effects of Earth’s gravity without any aerodynamic structures to provide thrust or lift. “No one has been able to figure out what these are,” said Luis Elizondo, who ran the program until last October, in a recent interview.
Elizondo has also talked about “metamaterials” that may have been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena and stored in buildings owned by a private aerospace contractor in Las Vegas; they apparently have material compositions that aren’t found naturally on Earth and would be exceptionally expensive to replicate. According to a 2009 Pentagon briefing summarized in the New York Times, “the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered.” This was a briefing by people trying to get more funding — but still.
Some of the accounts Elizondo and his team analyzed supposedly occurred near nuclear facilities like power plants or battleships. In November 2004, the USS Princeton, a Navy cruiser escorting the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off the coast of San Diego, ordered two fighter jets to investigate mysterious aircraft the Navy had been tracking for weeks (meaning this was not just a trick of the eye or a momentary failure of perspective, the two things most often blamed for unexplained aerial phenomena). When the jets arrived at the location, one of the pilots, Commander David Fravor, saw a disturbance just below the ocean’s surface causing the water to roil around it. Then, suddenly, he saw a white, 40-foot Tic Tac–shaped craft moving like a Ping-Pong ball above the water. The vehicle began mirroring his plane’s movements, but when Fravor dove directly at the object, the Tic Tac zipped away.
The Pentagon has said funding for the program ran out in 2012 and wasn’t renewed. But Elizondo has claimed the project was alive and well when he resigned in October. —James D. Walsh
2. Harry Reid Says We’re Not Taking Them Seriously Enough
The former Senate majority leader is definitely a truther.
Eric Benson: I’m curious about just where your interest in this subject comes from.
Harry Reid: Bob Bigelow [the founder of Bigelow Aerospace and Budget Suites]. He’s a central figure in all this. When he was a young man, he heard a story from his grandparents about driving down from Mt. Charleston, near Las Vegas, where they saw a so-called flying saucer, for lack of a better description. Bob became a very wealthy man. He would pay for these conferences about UFOs, and he would bring in scientists, academics, and a few nutcases.
There were people trying to figure out what all this aerial phenomena was. Bob started sending me tons of stuff. Mainly what interested me is that so many people had seen these strange things in the air.
EB: So tell me how this program got started.
HR: I was in Washington in the Senate, and Bob called me and said, “I got the strangest letter here. Could I have a courier bring it to you?” I said sure. He didn’t want to send it to me over the lines, for obvious reasons.
The letter said, “I am a senior, longtime member of this security agency, and I have an interest in what you’ve been working on. I also want to go to your ranch in Utah.”
Bigelow had bought a great big ranch. All this crazy stuff goes on up there — you know, things in the air. Indians used to talk about it, part of their folklore.
So I called Bigelow back and said, “Hey, I’ll meet with the guy.” The program grew out of that, to study aerial phenomena.
We decided it would be [funded by] black money. I wanted to get something done. I didn’t want a debate where no one knew what the hell they were talking about on the Senate floor.
EB: I saw that you tweeted, “We don’t know the answers, but we have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions.” To you, what’s the most compelling evidence to support asking the questions?
HR: Read the reports. We have hundreds of — Eric, two, three weeks ago, maybe a month now, up in Montana, they had another strange deal at a missile base up there. It goes on all the time.
EB: Do you know things about this program that you can’t discuss publicly?
3. Scientists Are Suddenly Much More Bullish About the Possibility of Life Out There
The universe is really big, people.
Just 30 years ago, we had not discovered a single planet outside our solar system. Now we know of more than 3,000 of them, and we know nearly every star in the night sky has at least one planet in its orbit. “Even people who are not terribly interested in science know that we’ve found that planets are as common as fire hydrants — they’re everywhere,” says Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. “One in five or one in six might be a planet similar to the Earth.”
That doesn’t mean we’ll ever find an exact replica of Earth, but maybe we don’t have to. Our study of other planets and moons in the solar system shows us many worlds possess the ingredients necessary for life — an atmosphere, organic compounds, liquid water, and other necessities. (The moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, for example, feature whole subsurface oceans.)
And even though these places are extremely harsh environments, that doesn’t mean as much as we might once have thought it did; recent discoveries on Earth itself demonstrate that life is much tougher than we thought. We’ve found organisms in blisteringly hot geysers in Yellowstone National Park, in the darkest crevices under the most ungodly pressures in the deep ocean, in dry hellscapes like the Atacama Desert in Chile (an analogue for Mars). These “extremophiles” don’t need a warm and fuzzy paradise to call home — in fact, they have already evolved to live in environments as harsh as those on other planets. Some, like tardigrades, can even survive the bleak vacuum of space itself. If there’s life in most of those places, “it’s going to be pond scum,” says Shostak. “But it’s alien pond scum. It shows that biology is all over.”
And where there’s biology, there may well be intelligence, and our increasing understanding of evolution also tells us life can evolve faster than we ever anticipated. Millions of years is a long time for us, but it’s the blink of an eye on the cosmic scale. Blink too fast, and you’ll miss that pond scum turning into an intelligent civilization sending out messages every which way, looking for friends.
And we’re now at the point where we could one day find those messages and send a reply. New technology gives us a better chance to actually make contact with extraterrestrials. Our radio telescopes can scan more of the night sky for an intelligent message than ever before. Our optical telescopes and observatories can peer farther into space and look for new planets, moons, and perhaps even signs of something altogether artificial (see “Tabby’s Star”). Our ability to parse volumes of data in mere seconds means we could conceivably survey much of the galaxy in just a few decades. That’s why, in the past few years, Shostak has continually bet a cup of coffee with everyone he knows that humans will find aliens by around 2029. “We’d have to be dead above the neck if we weren’t interested in this,” says Penelope Boston, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. —Neel Patel
4. They’re Especially Bullish About These Planets
Adventures in the “Goldilocks zone.”
Scientists now think every one in five or six planets might be habitable, based on two general criteria: They’re rocky, and they reside in a region of the star’s orbit called the “Goldilocks zone,” where it’s not too cold and not too hot, but just right to allow for liquid water to form on the surface. And where there’s water, there can be life. Extraterrestrial researchers and enthusiasts are most excited about these seven:
Proxima B: The closest exoplanet ever discovered is also a potentially habitable world in its own right, if the intense stellar winds don’t make it barren. It’s not totally inconceivable we might be able to actually send a probe and study it directly this century — even travel to it ourselves one day.
TRAPPIST-1 System: The red dwarf at the center of this possesses a whopping seven planets in its orbit — three of which reside in the Goldilocks zone, but all of which seem to possess some degree of potential habitability — and they’re so close to one another that life on one planet could quickly spread to another.
LHS 1140b: This wouldn’t be a planet we could colonize. It’s almost seven times the mass of the Earth and 40 percent larger, making it a “super-Earth.” But its mass means that it would retain a thicker atmosphere capable of keeping it warmer and more comfortable for life than most other places.
Ross 128 b: One of the best chances we have so far at finding life on another planet. It orbits an inactive red-dwarf star, meaning it’s likely not being bludgeoned by solar radiation. And we’ve detected strange signals emanating from the nearby host star — signals that perhaps have intelligent origins?
Mars: Mars has water, as we’ve known since 2015. Although the planet looks like a barren wasteland these days, there’s little reason to write off any chance we might find aliens residing in some cavern or crevice.
The Ocean Worlds (Europa, Enceladus, Titan): Many of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons show signs of possessing a liquid ocean underneath the surface.
GJ 1214b: Nicknamed “waterworld” by scientists; signs of potential clouds give us some hope the planet has an atmosphere.
5. And There Is “Documentation”
In 2012, the photographer Steven Hirsch asked UFO-convention attendees who claimed to have had personal contact with extraterrestrials to draw and describe their experiences. A sampling below.
Camille: A beam of solid blue light came through her ceiling and transported her onto a table where she was surrounded by beings in white robes with high collars. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
Bruce: An alien woke him from his bed to show him the moons of Saturn. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
Lisa: A gray alien knocked at her door and handed her two babies, leaving her with a hole in her head. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
Steve: He saw a beeping, bright white light; it zapped his friend up. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
Nancy: Her body responded to the “low hum” of the UFO spacecraft, a memory she accessed in regression therapy. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
Rita: She has been visited by a golden reptilian alien throughout her life. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Hirsch
6. That “Asteroid” Looks an Awful Lot Like a Rocket Ship
For science-minded SETI freaks, the last decade has been a particularly exciting one.
We May Have Just Seen an Actual Flying Saucer
When ‘Oumuamua — the name means “first messenger” in Hawaiian — was discovered floating through the solar system in October, SETI nuts immediately started checking the boxes that suggested the rod-shaped object might be an alien spacecraft of some kind. After all, it’s the first interstellar object we’ve ever seen pass through the solar system. UFO enthusiasts point out that rods (along with flying saucers) are the two most common shapes cited by witnesses in UFO sightings, and the cigar shape would allow it to be slim enough to avoid collision with other objects as well as maximize aerodynamics for travel. Both the SETI Institute and the Breakthrough Listen initiative pointed their instruments toward the object but found no unusual signals emitting from it. Of course, maybe it’s an ancient relic from an interstellar civilization, or maybe the aliens just weren’t interested in making contact (that asteroid-ness could’ve just been camouflage). With the object on its way out of the solar system, we may never know.
And There Could Be an Alien Megastructure Much Farther Out
In the fall of 2015, Penn State astronomer Jason Wright posited that erratic shifts in brightness coming from a newly discovered star 1,280 light-years from Earth couldn’t be explained by exoplanets or other astrophysics that we understand. He theorized, instead, that the fluctuations may be the result of massive objects passing in front of the star, in a kind of orbit — a whole array of massive satellites or other kinds of structures, presumably produced by a civilization of advanced intelligence. Whoa.
Aliens Could Be Dancing to Earth Music Right Now
Last year, two planets were discovered orbiting a red dwarf 12.36 light-years from Earth. At least one of these planets is in the Goldilocks zone, so METI International decided to beam some musical signals over to the planet. With a closer proximity to Earth than most potentially habitable exoplanets, it’d be an exciting planet to start an interstellar pen-pal relationship with — assuming there’s someone around to hear our notes and listen to them as a welcoming tune instead of a battle cry.
And We’re Getting Radio Signals From … Something
Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are one of the most mysterious phenomena ever observed by scientists. Though they last only a few milliseconds, these pulses, first detected in 2007, emit more energy in that time than the sun does in 24 hours. Three more were found this month, and we’re no closer to understanding their origin — except that they’re coming from outside the Milky Way. So naturally, many experts have begun to think perhaps they’re produced by an ultra-advanced civilization from afar, trying to speak to us through signals we can barely comprehend.
7. These Masters of the Universe Are Obsessed (They Are Also All Men)
Which space-besotted billionaire will be the first to make contact?
As a child, Bigelow watched the government test atomic bombs from his bedroom window and he and his classmates could see the mushroom clouds bloom over the Mojave Desert from their school playground. To some, such memories are the stuff of dystopic Cold War hellscapes, but Bigelow remembers them as an epiphany. Even back then, Bigelow knew he wasn’t going to be a scientist (he was lousy at math), so he resolved himself to make as much money as possible in the hopes that he could one day fund his own space program. He went on to make at least $1 billion with Budget Suites of America, long-term motel rentals around the Southwest. He now runs Bigelow Aerospace, which holds contracts with NASA and was a primary contractor for the Department of Defense’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
Musk is hell-bent on using his $21 billion to colonize Mars. His company SpaceX has been trying desperately to reduce the cost of space travel in the hopes of beginning a million-person colonization of Mars. “If [we’re not in] a simulation, then maybe we’re in a lab and there’s some advanced alien civilization that’s just watching how we develop, out of curiosity, like mold in a petri dish,” says Musk.
When Congress cut off funding for NASA’s hunt for aliens in 1993, Allen gave millions to the SETI Institute; in 2009, the Allen Telescope Array started searching the cosmos. Allen has given an additional $30 million to the project, a sum that bought him a guarantee that if the array detects an extraterrestrial communiqué, Allen will be the first nonscientist to know.
Last year, Milner — named after a Russian cosmonaut — announced a plan to send spaceships to Saturn’s moon Enceladus in search of alien life. Milner is also funding Breakthrough Listen, a ten-year project to use a telescope in West Virginia to search for messages from intelligent life, and Breakthrough Starshot, in conjunction with Mark Zuckerberg and the late Stephen Hawking.
Jeff Bezos His company Blue Origin is competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch reusable rockets (and comically rich tourists) into space. While Musk played himself in a cameo in Iron Man 2, Bezos appeared as an alien Starfleet official in 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. (It was not a speaking role.)
“Why do I feel so much like Sigourney Weaver?” Bezos said last March as he piloted a giant manned robot at Amazon’s MARs conference.
Franklin Antonio Antonio cofounded Qualcomm, a mobile tech company, in the mid-’80s. He’s also the company’s chief scientist and has given millions to SETI research. Last year Antonio gave $30 million to the University of California San Diego’s school of engineering and followed that donation up with a contribution to Roy Moore’s failed senate campaign.
8. As Are Some Prominent Military and Government Folks
“Know that there are people who watch our skies to protect the sleeping masses,” Britain’s former chief UFO investigator warns in his memoir. “But also know that not all potential intruders into our airspace have two wings, a fuselage, and a tail, and not all show up on our radar.” Pope’s ominous counsel follows time he spent in the ’90s inspecting thousands of paranormal incidents from crop circles to purported bedside abductions. He took that job certain this kind of stuff “only happened to weirdos,” but unexplainable sightings soon convinced him that “there is a war going on” with aliens. Worse, the U.K. Defense Ministry cut his old UFO desk’s funding in 2009, so whatever’s out there “could attack at any time,” Pope believes. Earthlings’ diminished odds have gotten him more fatalistic lately, too: After scientists suggested ‘Oumuamua — a bizarre-shaped asteroid that’s the first interstellar object to pass through our solar system — might be an alien spaceship, he argued in December we “probably wouldn’t survive an alien invasion” anyway, because if they find us, it’s clear who has the upper hand.
Canada’s Defense minister during the Cold War, now 94, believes that at least 80 species of aliens have been visiting Earth for millennia. One group is called the Tall Whites (because they can reach basketball-goal height) or Nordic Blondes (because they look like they’re “from Denmark or somewhere”). Unfortunately, the others may include ecoterrorists: “We’re doing all sorts of things which are not what good stewards of their homes should be doing,” he told media in 2014. “They don’t like that, and they’ve made it very clear.” Hellyer adds that many technological “breakthroughs” were aped from these extraterrestrials. Microchips and fiber optics, for instance, were taken off crashed alien vehicles and reverse-engineered. The aliens have a special technology that would solve climate change as well, he claims, but the Illuminati are hiding it because it would devastate oil interests.
Corso’s military career was long and illustrious, from rebuilding Rome’s government after World War II as an Army Intelligence captain to having worked the Pentagon’s foreign-technology desk in the ’60s. He doesn’t appear to have said a word publicly about aliens until 1997, when Simon & Schuster published The Day After Roswell — with a foreword by Strom Thurmond — just 13 months before Corso died. It was his tell-all outlining a decades-long Roswell cover-up while plugging his own clandestine exploits, which he claimed involved reverse-engineering technology found on alien spacecrafts. This is how the world got lasers, particle beams, microchips, even Kevlar, Corso said. Skeptics argue that regular Earth people’s R&D behind technology like lasers is impossibly well documented.
Had he won election in 1964, one of his White House’s first acts might have been releasing top-secret UFO files. He harbored a lifelong fascination with the truth about extraterrestrial contact, much of it stemming from his desire to “find out what was in” the mysterious Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, home to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book. In the ’80s, it surfaced he’d spent decades corresponding with UFO investigators and harassing the military for access to the hangar’s so-called Blue Room, where conspiracy theorists believe alien bodies from Roswell are preserved. (“Not only can’t you get into it,” his friend General Curtis LeMay supposedly snapped in 1975, “but don’t you ever mention it to me again.” Goldwater claims he didn’t.) After retiring in 1987, the senator told Larry King the Earth is “one of several billion planets in this universe. I can’t believe that God or whoever is in charge would put thinking bodies on only one planet.”
After he’d served as the first CIA director (he’d been appointed by President Truman), Hillenkoetter retired from a distinguished Navy career in 1957 and took a gig at a brand-new private research group called the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. Its chief purpose was pressuring the government to disclose what it knew about UFOs, via investigations like Project Blue Book. Hillenkoetter went after the intelligence community, writing angry open letters that said things like: “It is time for the truth to be brought out in open congressional hearings.” When he pointed out in 1960 that the Air Force had investigated 6,312 UFO reports to date, but was seemingly trying “to hide the facts,” the military reminded Americans that “no physical evidence, not even a minute fragment of a so-called flying saucer, has ever been found.”
Of course, another theory popped up in the ’80s — that Hillenkoetter had helped run a secret committee all along of politicians, military officers, and scientists called the Majestic 12. Ufologists claimed this cabal was formed in 1947, once Truman started panicking over what to do with all the alien spacecrafts the government kept finding. The group’s existence is based on government files that allegedly materialized in 1984. The FBI denied their authenticity entirely, but they and the Majestic 12 remain popular grist for conspiracy theories, having figured in Blink-182’s song “Aliens Exist” and even one of Twin Peaks’s side plots.
Kucinich’s 2008 presidential campaign didn’t suffer from his admission, made during a live TV debate, that, back in 1982, he’d seen a UFO at friend Shirley MacLaine’s Washington State home. (He was polling around 4 percent at the time.) But the current candidate for Ohio governor got mocked plenty; one joke among Beltway insiders was he wanted the “little green vote.”
Staff were prepped to deny the encounter when reporters asked about the passage in MacLaine’s 2007 New Age self-help book, Sage-ing While Age-ing, that revealed Kucinich didn’t just see a UFO but had also felt “a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind.” The other witnesses — a Juilliard-trained trumpeter working as MacLaine’s bodyguard and his model girlfriend — also report having seen a trio of triangle-shaped aircrafts flying in tight formation. Her house was 50 miles from Mt. Rainier, a “saucer magnet” for UFO buffs because of all the nearby sightings, including America’s very first “flying saucer” in 1947. Kucinich had the community’s full support, even if he spent years playing coy.
It helped that in Congress he did things like trying to ban space-based weapons. A 2001 bill he authored himself prohibited America from using “radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies” for the purposes of “information war, mood management, or mind control of such populations.” It explicitly singled out “chemtrails,” a term for jet condensation trails when conspiracy theorists believe they’re being used for biological warfare. In 2008, however, he only confirmed he’d seen a UFO, then pointed out, accurately, to moderator Tim Russert that “more people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush’s presidency.”
When WikiLeaks published the Hillary Clinton emails, a weird number of Podesta’s mentioned aliens and involved contact with believers like Tom DeLonge and astronaut Edgar Mitchell. As Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, he was known as an X-Files fanatic who’d “call the Air Force and ask them what’s going on in Area 51.” In 2014, he spent 13 months advising President Obama — and what was his “biggest failure”? According to him, failing to get government files declassified on the 1965 Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, UFO incident.
Then during Bush’s term, he began publicly crusading for NASA to release UFO documents to journalist Leslie Kean, the person ultimately behind the Times’ Pentagon expose.
Podesta has kept his personal ET beliefs under wraps, but in Kean’s best seller UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record, he gamely wrote a foreword that argues: “It’s time to find out what the truth really is … The American people — and people around the world — want to know, and they can handle the truth.”
Pavel and Marina Popovich
This husband-wife duo was one part world-renowned cosmonaut (Pavel) and one part the Soviet Union’s most celebrated female pilot (Marina). They held among their titles that of sixth human in orbit, first Soviet female to break the sound barrier, and holder of more than 100 aviation world records. Once their illustrious flying careers ended, both became ufologists. Pavel headed up Russia’s UFO association and claimed to have seen an unidentified aircraft zip past his airplane on a trip home from Washington, D.C., with a group of scientists. People onboard said it was triangular, brightly lit, and rocketed by at 1,000 miles per hour.
Marina one-upped him, though — she claimed to have seen multiple UFOs and a “Bigfoot creature” — and after they divorced, she became the acclaimed expert, not Pavel. She began preaching a UFO glasnost of sorts under Gorbachev, claiming the Soviet government had pieces of five spaceships in its possession and reports of 14,000 UFO sightings, yet for decades researchers were “either fired or put in psychiatric hospitals.” Her eventual book, simply called UFO Glasnost, spoke candidly about how Leonardo da Vinci, Jules Verne, and Ray Bradbury were alien mediums and Gorbachev had the markings of an extraterrestrial emissary because “he’s an epoch-making phenomenon.”
9. (And This Genius Thinks He Can Talk to Them)
In January, Stephen Wolfram — a computer-scientist philosopher and the author of a “universal” programming language that informed the alien communication in the movie Arrival — wrote an exceedingly long blog post about how best to communicate with aliens.
Tim Urban: You created a language you think we might be able to use to communicate with aliens. So what exactly is it that we would want to say to the rest of the universe if we had the chance?
Stephen Wolfram: I think the main difficulty is the definitional one. You talk about alien life, you talk about intelligence; what are those things abstractly?
We know the specific example that we have historically been exposed to: life on Earth, human intelligence. The question is, when you generalize away from that, what do you get to? One of the things that I’m fond of quoting is the statement “The weather has a mind of its own.” What does this mean? What is the abstract kind of thing that’s like the mind? It’s the ability to do sophisticated computation. That’s something that exists in the weather, just as it exists in our brains, just as it exists in lots of living systems. And then, what’s different between the weather and its sort-of-mindlike thing and our human intelligence? The fundamental answer to that is our human intelligence has its particular cultural, civilizational history and the weather doesn’t.
TU: So is it that history that we’d want to communicate?
SW: Yes, I think the thing to realize is that we in our civilization have followed a particular path. There are an infinite number of possible paths that we could’ve followed. To any other intelligence, our path would be quite mysterious.
TU: Right, so we actually have unique information to communicate. You could have the most sophisticated species, and we can still tell them something they don’t know about our history.
SW: I’m particularly amused by Elon Musk’s car going into space. That is so extremely aligned with the notion of grave goods from ancient Egypt, where you’re taking things from your everyday life to be buried with you. It’s charming.
10. There Have Been Enough Well-Known Encounters to Fill Encyclopedias
Here, just a small sampling of the classics.
Barney and Betty Hill’s Abduction
The Hills (above) claimed that in 1961 a bright light swooped over their car on a New Hampshire road and that they woke up a few hours later and the car had been “magnetized.” With regressive hypnosis, both were able to recall being abducted and probed by the little gray men, which soon became the de facto alien description. (The Hills’ captors were, interestingly, very similar to Selenites — the five-foot moon inhabitants H.G. Wells invented for The First Men in the Moon.) Betty astonished authorities when she began drawing a map of the constellation the creatures claimed to be from. Initially it looked like nonsense, until a few scientists noticed its resemblance to Zeta Reticuli, a system inside the constellation Reticulum largely unknown in that year. Their case generated widespread publicity, partly because they were a mixed-race couple in the ’60s, and turned into the flagship example of a “close encounter,” though not until years after the fact (skeptics argue the delayed report is a sign it’s a hoax). The hype ultimately culminated in The UFO Incident, a 1975 made-for-TV movie starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.
Antonio Villas-Boas’s Seduction
In 1957, small aliens with huge heads allegedly came for Villas-Boas, a young Brazilian farmer. Villas-Boas was forced inside their vessel, where the creatures took blood samples from, of all places, his chin, and rubbed in some sort of gel. Soon after, a blonde female with big, almond-shaped eyes joined him. She began rubbing his body, then initiated sex. After they were done, she left quickly, which gave Villas-Boas the impression that he was being used to better the aliens’ “stock.” He didn’t react well, as he suddenly felt exploited as “a good stallion” by these foreign chin-fetishists.
Weird as it was, Boas’s encounter, with its probing and forced sex, became the archetypal alien abduction. Reportedly skittish at first, he eventually told his story to João Martins, the writer behind popular magazine O Cruzeiro’s “Flying Saucers’ Terrible Mission” series. Doctors confirmed Boas had suffered radiation poisoning, but Martins ultimately soured on Boas’s story, for one because his spaceship sketch bore remarkable similarities to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik. He turned out all right, though: He got a law degree, had four kids, and died believing his children had a half-sibling living in space.
The “Wow!” Signal
In 1977, Ohio State’s Big Ear radio telescope intercepted a 72-second burst of sound that bore signs of having come from interstellar space, which could be a sign of extraterrestrial communication. The anomaly measured 1,420 megahertz, a frequency in the “water hole,” the term for a radio-emission range thought ideal for intergalactic messages because it’s unusually quiet. Jerry Ehman, the astronomer who spotted it, was so excited that he scribbled a giant “Wow!” on his printout. Astronomy’s explanations for the bizarre phenomenon include secret spy satellites and a passing comet nobody knew about in 1977. But many admit nothing explains it adequately, and even if the signal doesn’t prove aliens exist, it’s still a “tug on the cosmic fishing line.” To date, it remains the best evidence of alien communication ever obtained.
In the middle of World War II, things took a mysterious turn for Air Force pilots flying overnight missions. They reported seeing lights chasing their aircraft. The number varied (sometimes it was one; other times ten), and so did the colors (red, orange, and green). But the unidentified objects shared in common that they moved very fast, up to 200 miles per hour, yet could dart on a dime. These pilots — among the world’s best — admitted the objects generally flew circles around them. Their lore grew among the squadrons. In 1944, a crew flying along the Rhine in Germany described seeing “eight to ten bright orange lights” whiz by “at high speed.” Neither ground control nor their own planes caught anything on radar, and when one pilot turned toward the lights, they reportedly “disappeared.”
They called their mystery air companions “foo fighters,” an inside joke based on a phrase the comic-book character Smokey Stover used to declare (“Where there’s foo, there’s fire”). The term flying saucer hadn’t caught on yet, or else it would’ve sufficed. Some witnesses assumed they were tracer fire, reflections from ice crystals, or high-tech weaponry developed by the Nazis, while the government had a boring explanation as always: They were “electrostatic (similar to St. Elmo’s fire) or electromagnetic phenomena,” though which one and wherefrom were “never defined.”
Kecksburg UFO Crash
In 1965, an intense fireball streaked over southern Canada and Detroit and dropped debris over Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Officially, it was declared a midsize meteor, but eyewitnesses in the small Pennsylvania town of Kecksburg claimed they’d found an acorn-shaped object about the size of a VW Beetle in the woods that was festooned with hieroglyphics. Newspaper reporters on the ground said the military conducted a “close inspection” of the crash site, and despite the official line being that the search yielded “absolutely nothing,” conspiracists maintain the object was packed onto an Army flatbed truck and that the whole thing was a Roswell-level cover-up. Leslie Kean’s Coalition for the Freedom of Information managed to secure some of the government’s files but reportedly not anything enlightening.
However, a second explanation surfaced in the early aughts: It was Die Glocke, purportedly a top-secret weapon Nazis developed that let them time-travel. By dumb Back to the Future–esque luck, it had come to rural Pennsylvania in the year 1965. These proponents argue Nazi SS officer Hans Kammler was navigating the device when it crash-landed in Kecksburg, allowing him to escape Allied troops in the days before VE Day and successfully integrate into postwar U.S. society.
Kenneth Arnold’s “Flying Saucer”
Kenneth Arnold, a respected pilot, claimed in 1947 he’d seen nine mostly flat objects whip past Mount Rainier at speeds he timed at 1,760 miles per hour. “They were shaped like saucers,” he reportedly explained, “and were so thin I could barely see them.” A neologism was born.
Arnold he demanded military personnel explain what the contraptions were, if they knew, since he’d dismissed any possibility of them being guided missiles or new types of jets. His best guess? “From another planet.” Dozens of others came forward with similar sightings, from as far away as Oklahoma and Arizona. But Arnold didn’t enjoy his newfound celebrity. He said people had started shrieking in cafés when they saw him and fleeing. He described the situation to reporters as “out of hand” and regretted having people “look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon, and screwball.”
On March 13, 1997, thousands of people in southern Arizona say they saw weird lights move across the night sky in a flying V. Most of their reports came in between 7 and 10:30 p.m. along a 300-mile stretch from Phoenix, through Tucson, and to the Mexico border. A majority of people spied the pattern passing overhead (it was supposedly several football fields long), but the Air Force also sent a team of A-10 Warthogs from nearby Barry Goldwater Range on a training exercise that same night, and, as luck would have it, those planes dropped some stationary flares just outside Phoenix, considerably complicating any UFO conspiracies with a second set of strange bright lights.
Witnesses claim to have watched the first set of lights — the low-altitude wedge formation — coast by with their binoculars; they say the lights were red, had a singular white one at the V’s tip, seemed engineless, and even banked southeast at one point. Actor Kurt Russell now claims he saw them while up in a private plane near the Phoenix airport, but air-traffic control told him the radar was clear. Governor Fife Symington reportedly witnessed the V-shaped as well. At the time he felt sure it wasn’t aliens, but his mind changed in 2007, after retiring from politics: He told media that as a pilot, he knows “just about every machine that flies,” and these lights definitely weren’t terrestrial.
The “Warminster Thing”
Warminster’s long, controversial association with UFOs began in the English town on Christmas Day in 1964, when a local woman heard a “crackling sound” rip over her head. Other so-called sonic attacks plagued scores of others in town around the same time. Townspeople had no clue what was behind them, so they began blaming the “Thing.” Additional reports of inexplicable lights in the sky made it clear the “Thing” might have hailed from outer space.
Travis Walton’s Abduction
In 1975, a team of loggers claimed their 22-year-old co-worker Travis Walton disappeared for five days after a glowing disc in the Arizona woods zapped him with a “bluish ray.” Intrigued, he’d reportedly wandered underneath the hovering object, and it abducted him. He claims he awoke on a table in a sterile-looking room surrounded by three “well-developed fetuses” wearing tan robes. He tried to flee, passed out, then regained consciousness only once the aliens had ditched him on the Arizona roadside.
The story received loads of publicity — authorities thought Walton had been murdered, and seven eyewitnesses corroborating a single close encounter was unheard of. The National Enquirer ultimately paid the group $5,000 for the story, after they passed polygraphs and Walton agreed to be interviewed by the tabloid’s “prestigious” hypnotist. In 1993, Paramount released Fire in the Sky, a movie it said was based on “the most famous case of UFO abduction ever recorded.” Skeptics have shot holes in what they assume was a hoax and note that James Earl Jones’s NBC movie The UFO Incident had aired two weeks before Walton’s own UFO incident. The encounter has a cult following to this day, though, enough that a first edition of Walton’s 1978 memoir The Walton Experience now fetches hundreds of dollars online.
The Battle of Los Angeles
On February 25, 1942, reports filtered in of a glowing object floating over Culver City. Air-raid sirens sounded; the Army proceeded to pepper it with 1,400 anti-aircraft shells. Eventually it disappeared from view, but not before a citywide blackout was ordered, shell fragments got lodged in surrounding buildings, and five civilians died. The Navy later explained it had been a weather balloon. But ufologists suspected an alien spacecraft, which would explain why an hour’s worth of heavy artillery had failed to eliminate a single weather balloon.
Steven Spielberg would mercilessly satirize the incident in 1941, a “comedy spectacular.” But ufologists immediately suspected an alien spacecraft, which would explain why an hours’ worth of heavy artillery had failed to eliminate a single weather balloon. Conspiracists site a famous L.A. Times photo as extra proof; it seemingly caught searchlights trained on a very un-balloon-like object getting barraged with shells. The next day’s Times ran an editorial on page A1 (“Information, Please”) demanding the Army and Navy release more info, “if only to clarify their own conflicting statements about it.”
11. And Continuing Right Up to the Present Day
New encounters happen all the time — even to famous people. When Guillermo del Toro spotted one in Guadalajara, he says, “It was so crappy. It was a flying saucer, so clichéd, with lights.” Above, a sampling from ufosightingsdaily.com over recent months.
January 18, Japan. Photo: Ufosightingsdaily
February 4, Popocatépetl, Mexico. Photo: Ufosightingsdaily
February 28, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Ufosightingsdaily
12. We Even Have Some Pretty Developed Theories About Why We Haven’t Heard From ET Yet
The Aliens Are All Dead
Let’s start with the most depressing theory: Maybe we haven’t found extraterrestrials because they’re all dead — at least now. The universe is 13.78 billion years old, and in that amount of time, there might have been plenty of civilizations that evolved and went extinct.
The Aliens Are All Sleeping
But maybe they’re not dead — just hibernating. Another theory suggests that perhaps there’s an extraterrestrial species out there that’s so advanced it cannot efficiently make use of its technology right now, because the universe’s temperature is currently too high. Good news, though: The universe’s temperature is cooling down (even as Earth’s is heating up). So aliens may have decided to take a snooze for a few trillion years while they wait for colder weather that’s more suited.
The Aliens Are Hiding
If even a genius like Stephen Hawking thought that aliens might destroy us if they ever were to find us, then maybe we should be a little afraid. Perhaps the aliens think the same thing, so they’ve gone into hiding — from us. If another civilization were technologically savvy enough and had enough resources, it could build a massive orbital structure like a Dyson sphere to keep it cloaked from detection. Or it might use high-powered lasers to provide an optical façade that keeps its planet from being detected by telescopic instruments.
The Aliens Are Still Evolving
Maybe alien life is actually everywhere — it’s just not intelligent enough to speak with us. It took about 3.5 billion years of evolution to turn single-celled microbes into humans. Maybe we just happened to evolve faster and earlier than everyone else.
Humans Haven’t Spent Enough Time Looking
Realistically speaking, we’ve only had the proper equipment to search for aliens for a little over half a century. On the scale of the cosmos, that time frame is less than a fraction of the blink of an eye. The process could take centuries or even millennia — optimistically speaking.
The Aliens Are Already Here
This is where the conspiracy theorists get to go nuts. Yes, maybe the aliens are already here and we just haven’t figured it out yet. They might be taking some time to study us before unveiling themselves, or maybe they have already let themselves be known to certain groups. The truth isn’t out there — it’s here.
13. And in the Meantime, Aliens Can Be Whatever We Want Them to Be
Joseph O. Baker is a sociologist and the co-author of the 2010 book Paranormal America.
Katie Heaney: Why, when we think of aliens, do they all look the same — three feet tall, gray or green, big black eyes?
Joseph O. Baker: It didn’t used to be that way. UFO narratives became much more popular in the 1950s and ’60s, and during that era, the descriptions of the aliens would be almost humanlike in form. If you see drawings that some of the so-called contactees made, the aliens almost look like Swedish people — very attractive blond types with shining eyes. The abductee narrative really took over pop culture in the 1970s and ’80s, and after that, there’s this homogenization of the public perception because of all the stories and TV and movies about abductions.
KH: Even those guys look pretty human — why do we have such a hard time imagining radically different forms of life?
JB: We’re the people doing the projecting here. Much the same way people do with God — really, what sense does it make for a supernatural entity to have a gender or be humanoid Anthropomorphized supernatural entities tend to be more compelling.
KH: Is there a reason why so many of the abduction stories feature “probing”?
JB: The probe part of the abduction narrative took over in some sense because it tends to be the most salacious aspect of these stories. It’s almost become shorthand for alien abduction. But the stories of abduction among believers are really diverse, and usually probing is only one small part of it. Men will report having sperm extraction, and women will report having eggs extracted. Positive encounters tend to be akin to religion in some ways, in which beings of higher enlightenment show people the errors of humanity, or help them reach a higher plane of consciousness.
KH: Who is likely to believe?
JB: Men, and people with lower levels of income, are more likely to believe. We don’t really find strong patterns by education, and if we do, there’s usually a slight positive effect. But one of the strongest predictors you can find for believers is their extreme distrust of the government. That’s part of the reason it got so big in the ’70s, when trust in institutions was low. Trump might actually increase belief in UFOs.
Another one of the strongest predictors is not participating as strongly in forms of organized religion. In some sense, there’s a bit of a clue there about what’s going on with belief — it’s providing an alternative belief system.
KH: Most alien-encounter stories give aliens one of two motives: Either they want something from us or they want to kill us. What does that say about us?
JB: It shows that we have a high level of perceived self-importance. The idea that, in this vast universe, these beings sought us out in this tiny corner of the spiral arm of the Milky Way to come learn something
from us, or eliminate us, is a bit flattering.
KH: I’ve heard that sightings are way down in the smartphone era, when people presumably don’t take a story as proof enough.
JB: Well, it’s easier to hoax things now than it used to be. I would think that with an increased availability of videos, if it was going to do anything, it might lead to more belief, but from most of what I’ve seen, it looks more like stasis. Rates of reported sightings and rate of belief have been pretty stable. The 2005 Baylor Religion Survey found that 25 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Some UFOs are probably spaceships from other worlds.”
A Brief History of ‘Alien Dreams’
1899: Nikola Tesla notices rhythmic sounds on a radio receiver and is convinced they’re communications from Martians.
1924: At the request of David Todd, former head of the astronomy department at Amherst College, the Navy agrees to limit unnecessary radio communications from its largest bases for one day so that he can listen for alien signals as Mars passes closer to Earth than it’s been in over a century.
1960: The modern search for ETs begins when Frank Drake uses an 85-foot radio telescope in the hills of West Virginia to scan stars for signs of intelligent life; he later develops an equation to estimate the number of advanced civilizations.
1969: Jimmy Carter, candidate for Georgia governor at the time, sees a strange light.
1992: NASA formally begins its own SETI program.
1993: Congress eliminates funding for NASA’s SETI program.
1999: UC Berkeley launches SETI@home, a screen saver available to the public that enables anyone’s idle computer to analyze data collected by radio telescopes.
2016: Breakthrough Listen launches; it will collect as much data in a day as past SETI projects collected in a year.
Is Time travelling Possible? — moving between different points in time — has been a popular topic for science fiction for decades. Franchises ranging from “Doctor Who” to “Star Trek” to “Back to the Future” have seen humans get in a vehicle of some sort and arrive in the past or future, ready to take on new adventures. Each come with their own time travel theories.
Is Time travelling Possible?
The reality, however, is more muddled. Not all scientists believe that time travel is possible. Some even say that an attempt would be fatal to any human who chooses to undertake it.
What is time? While most people think of time as a constant, physicist Albert Einstein showed that time is an illusion; it is relative — it can vary for different observers depending on your speed through space. To Einstein, time is the “fourth dimension.” Space is described as a three-dimensional arena, which provides a traveler with coordinates — such as length, width and height —showing location. Time provides another coordinate — direction — although conventionally, it only moves forward. (Conversely, a new theory asserts that time is “real.”)
Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you move relative to something else. Approaching the speed of light, a person inside a spaceship would age much slower than his twin at home. Also, under Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravity can bend time.
Picture a four-dimensional fabric called space-time. When anything that has mass sits on that piece of fabric, it causes a dimple or a bending of space-time. The bending of space-time causes objects to move on a curved path and that curvature of space is what we know as gravity.
Both the general and special relativity theories have been proven with GPS satellite technology that has very accurate timepieces on board. The effects of gravity, as well as the satellites’ increased speed above the Earth relative to observers on the ground, make the unadjusted clocks gain 38 microseconds a day. (Engineers make calibrations to account for the difference.)
In a sense, this effect, called time dilation, means astronauts are time travelers, as they return to Earth very, very slightly younger than their identical twins that remain on the planet.
Through the wormhole
General relativity also provides scenarios that could allow travelers to go back in time, according to NASA. The equations, however, might be difficult to physically achieve.
One possibility could be to go faster than light, which travels at 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum. Einstein’s equations, though, show that an object at the speed of light would have both infinite mass and a length of 0. This appears to be physically impossible, although some scientists have extended his equations and said it might be done.
A linked possibility, NASA stated, would be to create “wormholes” between points in space-time. While Einstein’s equations provide for them, they would collapse very quickly and would only be suitable for very small particles. Also, scientists haven’t actually observed these wormholes yet. Also, the technology needed to create a wormhole is far beyond anything we have today.
Alternate time travel theories
While Einstein’s theories appear to make time travel difficult, some groups have proposed alternate solutions to jump back and forth in time.
Astronomer Frank Tipler proposed a mechanism (sometimes known as a Tipler Cylinder) where one would take matter that is 10 times the sun’s mass, then roll it into very long but very dense cylinder.
After spinning this up a few billion revolutions per minute, a spaceship nearby — following a very precise spiral around this cylinder — could get itself on a “closed, time-like curve”, according to the Anderson Institute. There are limitations with this method, however, including the fact that the cylinder needs to be infinitely long for this to work.
Another possibility would be to move a ship rapidly around a black hole, or to artificially create that condition with a huge, rotating structure.
“Around and around they’d go, experiencing just half the time of everyone far away from the black hole. The ship and its crew would be traveling through time,” physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in the Daily Mail in 2010.
“Imagine they circled the black hole for five of their years. Ten years would pass elsewhere. When they got home, everyone on Earth would have aged five years more than they had.”
However, he added, the crew would need to travel around the speed of light for this to work. Physicist Amos Iron at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel pointed out another limitation if one used a machine: it might fall apart before being able to rotate that quickly.
Another theory for potential time travelers involves something called cosmic strings — narrow tubes of energy stretched across the entire length of the ever-expanding universe. These thin regions, left over from the early cosmos, are predicted to contain huge amounts of mass and therefore could warp the space-time around them.
Cosmic strings are either infinite or they’re in loops, with no ends, scientists say. The approach of two such strings parallel to each other would bend space-time so vigorously and in such a particular configuration that might make time travel possible, in theory.
It is generally understood that traveling forward or back in time would require a device — a time machine — to take you there. Time machine research often involves bending space-time so far that time lines turn back on themselves to form a loop, technically known as a “closed time-like curve.”
To accomplish this, time machines often are thought to need an exotic form of matter with so-called “negative energy density.” Such exotic matter has bizarre properties, including moving in the opposite direction of normal matter when pushed. Such matter could theoretically exist, but if it did, it might be present only in quantities too small for the construction of a time machine.
However, time-travel research suggests time machines are possible without exotic matter. The work begins with a doughnut-shaped hole enveloped within a sphere of normal matter. Inside this doughnut-shaped vacuum, space-time could get bent upon itself using focused gravitational fields to form a closed time-like curve. To go back in time, a traveler would race around inside the doughnut, going further back into the past with each lap. This theory has a number of obstacles, however. The gravitational fields required to make such a closed time-like curve would have to be very strong, and manipulating them would have to be very precise.
Besides the physics problems, time travel may also come with some unique situations. A classic example is the grandfather paradox, in which a time traveler goes back and kills his parents or his grandfather — the major plot line in the “Terminator” movies — or otherwise interferes in their relationship — think “Back to the Future” — so that he is never born or his life is forever altered.
If that were to happen, some physicists say, you would be not be born in one parallel universe but still born in another. Others say that the photons that make up light prefer self-consistency in timelines, which would interfere with your evil, suicidal plan.
Some scientists disagree with the options mentioned above and say time travel is impossible no matter what your method. The faster-than-light one in particular drew derision from American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist Charles Lu.
That “simply, mathematically, doesn’t work,” he said in a past interview with sister site LiveScience.
Also, humans may not be able to withstand time travel at all. Traveling nearly the speed of light would only take a centrifuge, but that would be lethal, said Jeff Tollaksen, a professor of physics at Chapman University, in 2012.
Using gravity would also be deadly. To experience time dilation, one could stand on a neutron star, but the forces a person would experience would rip you apart first.
Time travel in fiction
One-way travel to the future: The traveler leaves home, but the people he or she left behind might age or be dead by the time the traveler returns. Examples: “Interstellar” (2014), “Ikarie XB-1” (1963)
Time travel by moving through higher dimensions: In “Interstellar” (2014), there are “tesseracts” available in which astronauts can travel because the vessel represents time as a dimension of space. A similar concept is expressed in Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” (2018, based on the book series that started in 1963), where time is folded by means of a tesseract. The book, however, uses supernatural beings to make the travel possible.
Travelling the space-time vortex: The famous “Doctor Who” (1963-present) TARDIS (“Time And Relative Dimension In Space”) uses an extra-dimensional vortex to go through time, while the travelers inside feel time passing normally.
Instantaneous time jumping: Examples include “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” (2006), the DeLorean from “Back To The Future” (1985), and the Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” (1959-64).
Time travelling while standing still: Both the “Time Machine” (1895 book) and Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner from “Harry Potter” keep the traveler still while they move through time.
Slow time travel: In “Primer” (2004), a traveler stays in a box while time traveling. For each minute they want to go back in time, they need to stay in the box for a minute. If they want to go back a day in time, they have to stay there for 24 hours.
Traveling faster than light: In “Superman: The Movie” (1979), Superman flies faster than light to go back in time and rescue Lois Lane before she is killed. The concept was also used in the 1980 novel “Timescape” by Gregory Benford, in which the protagonist sends (hypothetical) faster-than-light tachyon particles back to Earth in 1962 to warn of disaster. In several “Star Trek” episodes and movies, the Enterprise travels through time by going faster than light. In the comic book and TV series “The Flash,” the super-speedster uses a cosmic treadmill to travel through time.
Difficult methods to categorize: There’s a rocket sled in “Timecop” (1994) that pops in and out of view when it’s being used, which has led to much speculation about what’s going on. There’s also the Time Displacement Equipment in “The Terminator” movie series, which shows off how to fight a war in four dimensions (including time).
So is time travel possible?
While time travel does not appear possible — at least, possible in the sense that the humans would survive it — with the physics that we use today, the field is constantly changing. Advances in quantum theories could perhaps provide some understanding of how to overcome time travel paradoxes.
One possibility, although it would not necessarily lead to time travel, is solving the mystery of how certain particles can communicate instantaneously with each other faster than the speed of light.
In the meantime, however, interested time travelers can at least experience it vicariously through movies, television and books.