Looking Through the Window
We cannot jump off the train of time as we age. It keeps going, so we better look through its windows and enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Life is a fascinating journey if we pay attention to the unusual sightings through the windows of our train cabin. From my perspective as an astronomer, the most unusual sighting over the past five years was that of the first interstellar object traced near Earth, `Oumuamua, which appeared different from all celestial objects we had observed before. Its many anomalies led me to the intriguing hypothesis that it might be extraterrestrial equipment.
The immediate action-item derived from this experience was to collect more data on `Oumuamua-like objects in the future, in order to identify their nature. This realization led to the establishment of the Galileo Project on July 26, 2021, a month after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) delivered a report to Congress about other Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) whose nature is unclear.
Six months after the ODNI report, President Biden signed into law — with bipartisan support in Congress — the establishment of a new UAP office. The office, to operate by June 2022, will have the authority to start a coordinated effort of reporting and responding to UAP and significantly improve data-sharing between government agencies on UAP sightings. This new office will be administered jointly between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, and will empower military and civilian personnel as well as the Intelligence Community to report incidents and information involving UAP.
Complementing the classified government-owned data, the Galileo Project’s data will be open to the public and its scientific analysis will be transparent. The related scientific findings would expand humanity’s knowledge, with no attention to borders between nations.
By now, the Galileo research team includes more than a hundred scientists who plan to assemble the first telescope system on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory in spring 2022. The system will record continuous video and audio of the entire sky in the visible, infrared and radio bands, and track objects of interest. Artificial intelligence algorithms will distinguish birds from drones, airplanes or something else. Once the first system will operate successfully, the Galileo Project will make copies of it and distribute them in many geographical locations. The number of copies will depend on the funding level of the project at that phase.
I was recently asked why the search for extraterrestrial techno-signatures would be of interest to a common person, like a taxi driver worried about paying the rent. Interestingly, the congressional task for the new UAP office involves a science plan that aims to:
“(1) account for characteristics and performance of unidentified aerial phenomena that exceed the known state of the art in science or technology, including in the areas of propulsion, aerodynamic control, signatures, structures, materials, sensors, countermeasures, weapons, electronics, and power generation; and (2) provide the foundation for potential future investments to replicate any such advanced characteristics and performance.”
The taxi driver would care about the second item if it would offer an opportunity for a higher paying job in driving a faster vehicle.
We should continue to revise our assessment of the cosmic environment outside our train cabin as we collect new data. It was recently reported that Jeff Bezos “observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.” The reverse must also be true: the expectation by some scientists to usher discoveries out of maintaining the mainstream status-quo implies lack of imagination.
Recently, I was approached by a colleague who saw a Boston Globe Magazine article and stated: “one can buy online pictures of “famous” people… It’s about time that you will be added.” In reply, I clarified: “this is not about me but rather the future of humanity. If the Galileo Project will photograph extraterrestrial equipment, this data would be far more valuable than my own picture.”