Jan 07, 2023 I Brent Swancer

Alien Spacecraft in the Solar System, Extraterrestrial Artifacts on Earth, and an Astrophysicist

There has always been a certain pecking order of credibility whenever it comes to talking about anything to do with UFOs and aliens. Some nobody out in the middle of the woods might get short shrift. A pilot or military personnel might get some notice due to their perceived reliability as observers. Yet perhaps the most prized of these are scientists and those with deep roots in the way our world is supposed to work and who are keenly aware when something odd is afoot. Respected scientists are seen as the end all be all with regards to the UFO phenomenon, and when one embraces the idea that aliens are visiting our world people sit up and take notice. One of these is an astrophysicist who has made headlines with his ideas that not only are there possibly alien craft in our solar system right now, but that there could even be extraterrestrial artifacts and technology here on Earth. 

Before even beginning to delve into these theories of aliens and alien artifacts on our planet, it is important to know that the Israel-born astrophysicist Avi Loeb is absolutely no hack. The Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University was once the longest serving chair of Harvard's Department of Astronomy, and is the founding director of Harvard's prestigious Black Hole Initiative, which is the world’s first interdisciplinary program to focus on black holes, the director of the Institute for Theory and Computation within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Academy of Astronautics. He is an esteemed member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at the White House, the science theory director for the Breakthrough Initiatives of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, and in 2012 Time magazine named Loeb as one of the 25 most influential people in space. He has written numerous books and articles on a broad range of research areas in astrophysics and cosmology, won all manner of awards and accolades, come up with theories that have been groundbreaking and instrumental within his field, and is considered to be one of the top, most respected astrophysicists there is. His scientific pedigree is undoubted, so it is seen by some to be rather odd that he has some rather unconventional and far-out ideas on UFOs and aliens.

Avi Loeb

Perhaps the most well-known of Loeb’s forays into the world of extraterrestrials and alien spacecraft began in 2017, when a football-field-sized, cigar-shaped object was detected whizzing through the solar system by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS1 telescope. It was a major discovery in its own right because it was the first-ever glimpse of an object from outside our own solar system, but it was also unique in other ways as well, and soon other telescopes were homing in on it. The object was named ‘Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “messenger sent from the distant past,” and it quickly puzzled scientists with its rather erratic behavior and unusual properties. The mysterious object had an unusual trajectory, had no trail of evaporated gas that one would expect to see with a comet, seemed to change speeds and demonstrate non-gravitational acceleration, and had an unusually elongated shape that reflected light in a way that suggested that it was flat like a pancake. At the time it completely baffled scientists, and when it finally disappeared from view after several weeks of observation no one knew quite what to make of it. Darryl Seligman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago has said of the object and its weird properties:

Talk to anybody who worked on it. It was the most exciting discovery of the last 20 years. Just detecting an interstellar comet would’ve been a huge deal, but the fact that it was a complete mystery in every single way made it way more exciting. It’s almost never the case that you discover the first of something and then, in every way that you would expect it to behave, it acts the exact opposite.

Theories ran amok, including that it was a low density dust cloud held together by mysterious forces not yet understood, a piece of a Pluto-like planet that had been ejected from the Perseus arm of the Milky Way galaxy to come hurtling at us, a hydrogen iceberg, and various other conventional explanations, but Loeb caught everyone’s attention when he suggested that it might just be aliens. Loeb looked at the odd data on ‘Oumuamua and was intrigued by how little it behaved like any other known comet or asteroid, coming to the conclusion that perhaps it was not a naturally occurring astronomical phenomenon at all, but rather an alien spacecraft of some kind, perhaps a probe powered by a kind of solar sail. He was so serious about all of this that he suggested that observatories listen for radio emissions from it, and along with his postdoctoral student Shmuel Bialy published a paper exploring the possibility of the interstellar object being an alien craft, as well as an article listing all of the anomalies that did not fit in with a traditional meteor, comet or asteroid, or indeed anything else witnessed before. He would go on to write a whole book on it called Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, as well as a follow up book about extraterrestrials titled Life in the Cosmos: From Biosignatures to Technosignatures. These ideas were controversial to say the least, especially considering what a respected scientist Loeb is and his stature within the field, and they were soon making headlines across the world even as skeptics tried their best to downplay and debunk them. One scientist that doesn’t quite agree with Loeb on ‘Oumuamua is Karen Meech, the interim director for astrobiology and solar system bodies at the University of Hawaii, who has said:

When we first discovered ‘Oumuamua, of course we joked, ‘Could it be alien technology?’ We laughingly called it Rama for a while. It was a hard experiment, because the object was moving rapidly away from us. But still, we know there are comets and asteroids that share some characteristics with ‘Oumuamua. So why would you go to the most extreme explanation and assume it’s aliens? You still need to follow the scientific process, and I wish Avi had done more of that.

Another critic has been Seth Shostak, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute, who has clashed with Loeb over his unorthodox ideas on the object, but who nevertheless concedes that Loeb is a respected scientist who should not be written off entirely. He has said:

I don’t think Avi is right about ‘Oumuamua. We’ve got people here who study asteroids and they say there’s nothing to suggest it wasn’t a naturally occurring object. If some guy from Bismarck, North Dakota, whom no one had ever heard of, was saying what Avi is saying, people would respond, ‘Come on, it’s just an asteroid.’ But this is a Harvard astronomer who was the chair of the department, clearly a very bright guy. So you sort of have to take him seriously.

In the meantime, Loeb not only stuck by his unconventional, outside-of-the-box theory, but also suggested several other interstellar objects within the solar system that might also be candidates for being alien probes, even actively promoting a dedicated mission to go investigate them more closely. He would also go on to suggest that there were potentially many more of these objects in the solar system that had gone undetected. It also inspired him to start The Galileo Project for the Systematic Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Technological Artifacts in July of 2021 with the aim of searching for physical objects associated with extraterrestrial technological equipment while “using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.” He also made it clear that the project would be dedicated to making all its findings continuously and freely available to the public, and the Galileo Project has continued to chug along as well as stir up controversy among those who see it as a sort of woo woo pseudo-science project more fitting for a UFO nut than a respected Harvard astrophysicist.  

None of this has fazed Loeb, who continues to challenge the status quo, and besides possible alien artifacts in our solar system, he has even suggested that there are pieces of alien technology that have made it to Earth. In 2014, an object streaked through the Earth’s atmosphere to crash into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. A US Space Command report would find that the object was definately interstellar, making it certainly unique, but concluded that it was simply a meteor, yet Loeb was not so sure. Using his own data on the path, speed, and behavior of the object, as well as the light curve of the explosion of this object, Loeb concluded that it exhibited unique properties that made it inconsistent with a traditional meteorite and composed of material far tougher than any other known space rock, meaning it could be something completely new or even alien technology. In order to get his hands on it and study it, in 2022 Loeb went about putting together an expedition to go find it, raising money from private donors in order to scour the ocean floor looking for the mysterious object or fragments of it. He has said of it:

We found that actually four years before ‘Oumuamua there was a meteor that was discovered by the US government, which moved really fast at 28 miles per second, disintegrated in the lower atmosphere of the Earth about 100 miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea, and it came from outside the solar system. The fundamental question is whether it was an unusual rock from another star, or was it a spacecraft? We’re planning an expedition to Papua New Guinea and scoop the ocean floor and figure out the composition of this object. It's a fishing expedition, literally speaking. And what we can do is basically take the trajectory of this meteor and extrapolate it all the way to the ocean's surface. We’re planning to board the ship and build a sled and a magnet attached to it that will scoop the ocean floor. And we will go back and forth, like mowing the lawns across the region, 10 kilometers in size and collect with the magnets, all the fragments that are attracted to it, and then brush them off and study their composition in the laboratory.

There is the possibility that it will be made of some alloy that nature doesn't put together, and that would imply the object is technological. If you ask what my wish is, if it's indeed of artificial origin, and there was some component of the object that survived, and if it has any buttons on it, I would love to press them. This would be the most important scientific discovery that humanity ever made. Because if you think about it, it will change our perspective about our place in the universe. It's not a philosophical question whether we live in an environment where objects are flawed. Around that are representing extraterrestrial technologies. We just need to use our telescopes and find out. In fact, we are not even the first to say that. Galileo Galilei said that four centuries ago and he was put on house arrest. Today he would have been canceled on social media. Once I realized that we found an object from a technological origin that was produced elsewhere. I would not seek approval from anyone else. I don't need likes on Twitter. I just want to know what it is.

Of course there have been plenty of skeptics, who think that Loeb is wasting money and tarnishing his reputation with all of this talk of an alien artifact on the bottom of the ocean, but he has stuck by it all, and hopes to get the answers no one else even seems to be willing to look for. He also continues to scour the solar system for possible alien spacecraft and probes, and hopes that the new Vera C. Rubin Observatory that’s under construction in Chile and set to open in 2023 will shed light on these mysteries with its 3.2-billion-pixel camera that should be able to survey the entire southern sky every four days, and of which he says, "A high-resolution image could reveal bolts and screws on the surface of an artificial object and distinguish it from a nitrogen iceberg, a hydrogen iceberg or a dust bunny." Is there anything to any of these wild theories and pursuits, or is Loeb just chasing ghosts? Is he completely off-base, or is he maybe right? It remains unknown, but one thing no one can really doubt is that he is certainly no crackpot, and perhaps with such expertise it might be wise to at least listen to what he has to say. Whatever one may think about Avi Loeb, he has certainly cemented himself as one of the more colorful and credible scientists to dip their foot into the field of UFOs and aliens, and whether he is right or wrong, it has definately stirred debate and gotten people thinking about the possibilities of what might lie beyond our copnventional understanding of the universe and our place within it. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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