A Harvard-led team is launching a new project to search for physical evidence of aliens and their technology

Artist's impression of the interstellar object 'Oumuamua. ESO / M. Grain knife
A new project will search for extraterrestrial civilizations and technologies using earth-based telescopes.
Researchers plan to look for unidentified aerial phenomena in the atmosphere that could be extraterrestrial.
Harvard physicist Avi Loeb is leading the project. He thinks the interstellar object 'Oumuamua was an alien ship.
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When the first interstellar object ever observed, 'Oumuamua, sped past Earth in 2017, it appeared to be accelerating. That's not what most space rocks do - which is partly why Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb says, “Oumuamua was an alien spaceship.
Although most researchers agree that the object was a space rock - either a comet or a piece of a tiny planet - Loeb believes that myriad other objects like 'Oumuamua whizzed past our planet, some of which could also have come from extraterrestrials. So he started a program to find her.
On Monday, Loeb announced an initiative called the Galileo Project - after the Italian astronomer - to look for physical evidence of extraterrestrial technologies and civilizations.
"It's a fishing expedition, let's just go out and catch every fish we find," Loeb said at a press conference. "And that includes near-Earth objects that float in our atmosphere, or objects that came from outside the solar system and look strange."
The $ 1.75 million project, supported by at least four philanthropists, aims to use a network of earth-based telescopes to search for interstellar objects that could be extraterrestrial in nature. The group will also search for potential alien ships in orbit as well as unidentified aircraft in our atmosphere.
Find interstellar objects before they pass Earth
An illustration from “Oumuamua Flying Through the Solar System in 2017. NASA / ESA / STScI
By the time astronomers became aware of the existence of 'Oumuamua, it was already racing away at 196,000 miles per hour. Multiple telescopes on the ground and one in space allowed limited observations, but astronomers only had a few weeks to examine the strange, skyscraper-sized object before it was too far away.
That left a lot of questions about what the object was and where it came from. In a book "Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth," published in January, Loeb describes Oumuamua as a non-existent piece of extraterrestrial technology.
“The object has anomalies that deserve some attention - things that are not aligned as we expected,” Loeb told Insider before the book was published, adding, “If something doesn't fit, say it. "
Two years after the discovery of 'Oumuamua, astronomers discovered a second interstellar object: a comet called 2I / Borisov. With the Galileo project, Loeb and a team of 14 other researchers hope to detect future interstellar objects at an early stage when they approach Earth. To do this, they want to use the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii and an 8-meter telescope currently under construction at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile.
Early detection could allow scientists to send probes to these objects, said Frank Laukien, visiting scholar at Harvard and co-founder of the Galileo project.
"Next time we should have much better data much earlier and maybe land on them or come very, very close to them," Laukien said at the press conference.
Looking for signs of extraterrestrial technology
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope building at the Vera Rubin Observatory on Cerro Pachón, Chile, in September 2019. Wil O'Mullane / Wikimedia Commons
Loeb describes the new project as a complement to the SETI Institute, which uses radio telescopes to search for extraterrestrial life. But the Galileo project, he said, will look for physical evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations rather than radio signals. This includes potential alien satellites that could orbit the earth or fragments of alien ships. (One of Loeb's hypotheses is that 'Oumuamua is a piece of light sail or antenna that broke off a larger ship.)
Loeb also plans to study unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs in the earth's atmosphere.
Last month, US intelligence agencies released a report describing 144 incidents since 2004 in which military personnel encountered UAPs. It turned out that one of these incidents involved a deflating balloon, but the rest remained unsolved, the report concludes.
A still image of Navy footage of unidentified aerial phenomena. Pentagon
"It is an unusual admission by the government to say that there are objects in our skies that we do not fully understand," Loeb said.
According to the Galileo project website, these UAPs could be artifacts from an extinct alien civilization or active alien equipment. Therefore, the group hopes to map future UAPs in higher resolution by building a network of 1-meter telescopes around the world.
Such telescopes, costing about $ 500,000 each, can see details as small as 1 millimeter on objects the size of a person a mile away.
"That could help us differentiate a label that says 'thing made in country X' from a label that says 'made by exoplanet Y'," said Loeb.
Physicist Avi Loeb on stage in New York in 2016. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
He added that the Galileo team plans to publish their data to encourage other scientists to join the search as well.
"Finding others on cosmic roads will help us mature - help us realize that the sharpest biscuits aren't in the jar and that intelligent life that goes far beyond us can exist out there," Loeb said.
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