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UFOs: Would Extraterrestrials Even Find Earth Interesting Enough to Visit?

In advance of a highly anticipated U.S. government report on UAP soon to be released, everyone is either talking about UFOs or being asked about them.

One of the many who has been approached for an opinion on the subject in recent days had been Texas A&M University astronomer Nick Suntzeff, who was asked about the possibility as to whether UFOs might represent visitors from other planets that have been monitoring the Earth for decades, or perhaps even centuries.

Suntzeff, an astronomer whose previous work in Chile has contributed to our understanding of other cosmic mysteries the likes of dark matter, said that he “can’t rule out we have visitors from other planets,” although he adds that we would require more evidence before such conclusions may be drawn.


Texas A&M University Professor Nick Suntzeff (Wikimedia Commons CC 3.0).

“We need a clear photo,” he says, adding that even with what may be deemed “good” sighting reports, observers often aren’t aware of the distance the object was at the time of the sighting, along with any kinds of nearby objects that can help one gauge the size of the UFO in question.

“I have seen lots of weird things in the sky,” Suntzeff says. “Very weird things — but I can always explain them.”

Citing the work of physicist Enrico Fermi and his famous paradox, Suntzeff asked, “if there is intelligent life, why don’t we see it with our telescopes, or see evidence here on Earth of visitations? Astronomers are always looking for life elsewhere in the universe.”

As Suntzeff correctly points out, astronomers are always looking for life in the universe, and if UFOs do eventually end up being proven to be a visitation to Earth by extraterrestrials, the question will nonetheless remain as to why we would find evidence of them right here at home, under our proverbial noses, and yet we have such a hard time finding evidence alien life further out in the cosmos at their presumed point of origin.

Fermi recognized, as his famous paradox illustrates, that there appears to be a statistical likelihood that alien life exists. Our Milky Way alone is home to billions of stars very much like our Sun, many of which would very likely have planets like Earth in orbit around them. Many would have to be older than our Sun, too, which might leave open the possibility that any aliens residing on planets orbiting those stars could be older than us, and thereby more advanced. Fermi also recognized that with our interest in space travel, these other civilizations would probably have similar interests if they are anything like us. Therefore, if they possess such similar drives to explore the cosmos, and are more technologically advanced than we are, perhaps they have already developed the technology they would need to travel to places like Earth.

Enrico Fermi

Physicist Enrico Fermi (Public Domain).

In Fermi’s mind, even at the current slow pace of space travel that humans possess, the entire universe could be traversed in a few millions of years. This brings us to the notion that aliens from single points of origins very well could have populated other parts of the universe, even if doing so required several successive generations of space travelers who would establish outposts along the way, gradually expanding beyond their own planetary system, and traveling further and further from home in search of other habitable planets and, eventually, maybe even intelligent life like themselves.

Thus, Fermi concluded, based on such likelihoods, Earth should have been visited by extraterrestrials themselves, or humans should have at least found evidence of their probes. Hence, the great paradox: where are all the aliens?

Considering this paradox, it is interesting how seldom it is that astronomers and other scientists are willing to entertain the possibility that some UFO observations might represent such possible visitations, or at least the kinds of probes Fermi envisioned that might have been sent by extraterrestrials. Yet the general attitude expressed by scientists today when it comes to UFOs—even when the data on such purported incidents is being supplied by our government—amounts to a resounding “meh.”

One of the primary arguments that scientists have raised in recent days against the possibility of UFOs having an extraterrestrial origin has to do with a simple question: why would they even be interested in us in the first place?

“If the UFOs are interested in our military, that’s actually an argument against them being visitors from another star system,” argues astronomer Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute. “Instead, it suggests Russian aircraft, Chinese drones, or something else terrestrial — hardware we could understand.” Notably, a recent New York Times article which presented reporting based on information from government officials who had been briefed on the findings of the forthcoming UAP Task Force’s report said that technologies from China or Russia have not been ruled out, but that in truth, neither has the potential of some UFOs having a more exotic source. While each of these possibilities remains, the forthcoming report’s findings appear to convey that there is no evidence that conclusively supports either source of origin at the current time.


“Difficulties of interstellar travel aside, it seems to me to be inconceivable that an advanced species would find us interesting enough to visit, but not interesting enough to contact,” says Don Lincoln, a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “And, if they wanted to avoid contact, they’re not being very stealthy about it.”

Both Lincoln and Shostak’s remarks are interesting, especially because they present so many presumptions about how extraterrestrial life might behave. Obviously, neither of them has had direct interactions with any extraterrestrials themselves; how could they know, therefore, what aliens might be like, or what their focus or objectives would be when visiting Earth? Yet each of them appears to fundamentally rely on the presumption that extraterrestrials simply wouldn’t find Earth very interesting, and hence would have no reason for visiting. Shostak doesn’t think that our military’s operations would be anything that would concern extraterrestrials; Lincoln more explicitly states that if they don’t intend to make contact, then he thinks aliens wouldn’t likely have other reasons to find us interesting enough to visit.

To Lincoln’s point about UFOs doing such a poor job “being very stealthy about it,” it seems that if they exist, they’ve done a good enough job that many (if not most) scientists still refuse to acknowledge them.

We simply don’t know what kinds of ideas or philosophies might guide the actions of any presumed extraterrestrial intelligence. Although scientists frequently assert reasons why UFOs are unlikely to represent such extraterrestrial visits, these arguments can often be very easily falsified, and shown to be based on expectations they have formed that draw from the only experiences they have had with any kind of intelligent life: humans. Even when scientists attempt to point out our human tendency to anthropomorphize our ideas about aliens, they are seldom able to resist the lure of doing so themselves, whether they even realize it or not.

In truth, maybe UFOs–whatever their origins might ultimately prove to be–are doing a better job keeping a low cover than scientists even realize. That would especially seem to be the case when it comes to those in the scientific community who continue to argue against their existence.


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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