Tag: Oumuamua

Harvard Astronomer Stands By His Alien Theory

by Dugan Arnett                     April 3, 2019                     (bostonglobe.com)

• ‘Oumuamua’, a mysterious celestial object that hurtled close to the Earth in 2017, is the first known object to come here from outside the solar system. Rob Weryk, the person who initially spotted Oumuamua at the University of Hawaii, says that there isn’t “any reason to believe that it’s anything but a natural object.”

• But Professor Abraham ‘Avi’ Loeb (pictured above) of Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics noted that the object did not behave like a typical comet or asteroid. If it were a comet, Loeb said, its excess acceleration would have likely been apparent in the form of a tail of dust or gas. Also, its elongated shape is unlike any asteroid or comet observed before. Loeb said he is simply using the available data to draw an evidence-based conclusion. “Let’s put all the possibilities on the table,” Loeb said. Perhaps, Loeb reasoned, the object had been an artificial object sent from an extraterrestrial civilization. “If someone would show me clear evidence that it’s natural in origin, then I would admit it and move on,” he said.

• Loeb’s speculation has drawn the ire of the scientific community. Astrophysicists from across the country have spoken out against Loeb’s theory, painting him as a sensationalist and worse. Some think that Loeb’s assertions will damage the field’s long-term credibility. “[P]eople think that astronomers are just hunting for aliens,” said Paul M. Sutter, astrophysicist at Ohio State University. “The next time we go out to Congress or the public asking for money, there’s going to be a lot of people shaking their heads saying, ‘Oh, you guys are just nutballs.’”

• But Loeb has refused to back down, digging in his heels against what he considers unjust appraisal. His work, he insists, is not the result of some half-baked sci-fi fantasy. The researchers whose opinions Loeb does value have offered support for the idea — even if they’ve been wary of putting their names to it publicly. Loeb argues that scientific study has become far too conservative — avoiding controversial or unpopular examinations in favor of safer subjects that might earn a scientist an award or induction into a prestigious society, but are not necessarily conducive to substantial scientific advances.

• Irwin Shapiro, the former longtime director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, called Loeb “brilliant.” Stephen Hawking once dined at his home. In 2012, Loeb was named one of the 25 most influential people in space by Time Magazine.

• Loeb was raised in an Israeli farming village. He passed his days reading philosophy books and writing notes to himself. He didn’t move into the field of astrophysics until the age of 26. “The reason I’m different from my colleagues,” he said, “is because I was different from the beginning.”

• In spite of the backlash, Loeb has been happy to field calls from media outlets across the world, and is close to signing a deal for a book on ‘Oumauamua’. Seven different filmmakers have reached to him out about the possibility of doing a film.

 

Like a lot of people, Avi Loeb, the chairman of Harvard University’s renowned astronomy department, does his best thinking in the shower.

It’s where he has hatched ideas for papers on black holes and the future of the universe, and where, last year, he spent some time pondering a notion that would eventually make him — in some circles, at least — the subject of considerable ridicule.

artist’s rendering of ‘Oumuamua’

He’d been thinking about the phenomenon of ‘Oumuamua, a mysterious object that hurtled close to the Earth in 2017. It had become an instant sensation in the scientific community, the first known object from outside the solar system, and astronomers and astrophysicists had jumped to analyze and explain the anomalous object. Theories were developed. Papers were published.

Loeb had a theory, too, and late last year, he detailed it, along with co-author and postdoctoral researcher Shmuel Bialy, in an article for The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Perhaps, he reasoned, the structure had been an artificial object sent from an extraterrestrial civilization.

Almost immediately, the piece ignited the kind of firestorm rarely, if ever, seen in the buttoned-down world of modern-day astronomy.

In the months since the paper’s publication, astrophysicists from across the country have spoken out against Loeb’s theory, painting him as a sensationalist and worse. The researcher who first discovered ‘Oumuamua — Hawaiian for “messenger from afar arriving first” — via telescope has called Loeb’s suggestions “wild speculation.” Another compared Loeb’s logic to that of flat-earthers.

But even as criticism has continued to pour in, Loeb — who is short and slight and wears a near-constant half-smile — has refused to back down, digging in his heels against what he considers unjust appraisal.

He has brushed off much of the negative feedback as the jealous or prejudiced grumblings of scientists he doesn’t respect, adding that the researchers whose opinions he does value have offered support for the idea — even if they’ve been wary of putting their names to it publicly.

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The UFO Community Still Believes — and Science is Starting to Listen

by Chabeli Herrera                March 19, 2019                   (orlandosentinel.com)

• Over the past two years, scientists, politicians and professionals have increasingly been willing to touch the taboo subject of UFOs and perhaps lend a little credence to those who still believe.

• In December 2017, the New York Times reported that the U.S. had funded a secret, $22 million project to study UFO claims from 2007 to 2012. Declassified video taken in 2004 by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets off the coast of San Diego showed a craft with no apparent propulsion moving at alarmingly fast speeds. Navy pilot Commander David Fravor who witnessed the Tic Tac-shaped craft told the Washington Post that it was “something not from Earth.”

• Harvard’s astronomy department chair, Avi Loeb, along with colleague Shmuel Bialy, wrote in a publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters that an interstellar object seen passing through our solar system called Oumuamua “is a lightsail, flowing in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment.” Loeb theorized that, “Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

• NASA’s Ames Research Center scientist Silvano Colombano went on record recently to suggest that NASA and the scientific community should be more open-minded in its approach to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. NASA is preoccupied with finding biosignatures through its Center for Life Detection Science than interested in analyzing alleged UFO sightings.

• MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) does analyze UFO sightings. It has 3,500 members in 42 countries. Barbara Stusse, 80, has been coming to MUFON meetings for three years. She says that her mother saw a UFO in 1947. In 1965, she read about Betty and Barney Hill and “believed it”.

• Kathleen Marden is MUFON’s director of experiencer research. She was 13 years old in September 1961 when her Aunt Betty Hill and her Uncle Barney Hill saw a UFO in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There were two hours they couldn’t account for, and Barney was sure he’d seen eight to eleven figures dressed in black shiny uniforms that were “somehow not human”. Under hypnosis, the Hills related how they were abducted and physically examined inside the UFO. “They examined their hands, they took their shoes off, they examined their feet, they did tests on them that appear to be testing their nervous systems, as well,” says Marden. She has written about the government’s ‘tampering’ with the Hill case. But lately Marden has seen a recent shift in the credence that people give to the UFO phenomenon, with the 2017 New York Times article being the turning point.

• Trish Bishop of Kissimmee, Florida, relates her story of March 2013 at dusk when she saw a tall, muscular man wearing a formfitting tan colored uniform, boots and gloves was lingering in her backyard at the edge of a forest. But his face wasn’t human. His eyes bulged far out of their sockets. His jaw was over-sized. And his skin was white as chalk. Paralyzed with fear, she pretended not to watch the man while she called for help on her phone. Then man appeared to be climbing invisible steps. When he was about 10 feet off the ground, he turned his back to her and pulled himself up “into a UFO?” she thought — and he was gone. After four years, she got the nerve to report the incident to MUFON.

• The challenge with UFO and alien sightings has always been the lack of evidence. Bishop said she was too scared to take a photo of her alien. Little to no consequential evidence exists in other cases. University of Central Florida psychology professor Alvin Wang thinks that people project their predisposition to believe in conspiracy theories, and seek out others who reaffirm that belief. “[T]hey get …confirmation support, when they are members of UFO believers community,” said Wang.

 

He appeared as if a hologram at first — then solid — suddenly there and clear as you or I, at the edge of the forest behind Trish Bishop’s home in Kissimmee.

It was a Thursday in March 2013, the glow of the afternoon tucking in for the day behind the trees. He stood tall, at least 6-foot-3, perhaps 220 pounds and certainly muscular, wearing a formfitting tan colored uniform, boots and gloves. He lingered by the crape myrtle tree in the middle of the backyard.

When he turned around, it was his face, she remembers, that stopped her.

Bulging eyes jutting so far out of the sockets that Bishop wondered whether he could close them. Skin white as chalk.
And a jaw so large, it dispelled any notions the government worker had of the visitor being human.

“If you compare a human jawbone to his, we would be a chihuahua to a pit bull,” Bishop said.

Paralyzed with fear, she watched as what she believed to be an alien appeared to climb invisible steps, stopping often to snatch glances at her from where she sat on her back porch, fumbling with her phone to appear as though she couldn’t see him.

Her finger was pressed on the number “9” to dial for help.

When he was about 10 feet off the ground, he turned his back to her and pulled himself up — “into a UFO?” she thought — and was gone.

Bishop sat stunned. “I’ve got a freaking alien in my backyard,” she thought.

It would be four years before she told anyone her story, before she’d discover the Mutual Unidentified Flying Objects Network, a nationwide organization 50 years old, and file her report under case number 84886 with the local Florida chapter.

But she worried: Who would believe her?

These days, more people than you’d think.

Across restaurants and meeting rooms in the United States, MUFON groups still gather every month to discuss cases like Bishop’s with the enthusiasm that once gripped the nation during the Cold War, when UFO sightings still made a splash on the front page.

The Space Coast group, made up of some former NASA employees and engineers, has 118 members, the largest in the state. Across the U.S. they number 3,500, with additional offices in 42 countries.

For many years, they were alone entertaining UFO theories. No more.

In the past two years, scientists, politicians and professionals have increasingly been willing to touch the taboo subject and perhaps lend a little credence to those who still believe.

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The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Heats Up

by Dirk Schulze-Makuch                  March 11, 2019                    (airspacemag.com)

• A remarkable meeting occurred over the weekend of March 9-10 in Tutzing, Germany, just outside of Munich. Its theme: Are we alone in the Universe? Eminent German astrobiologists and scientists were invited to give presentations, including Karl Menten, Director of the Max Planck Institute, Gerhard Haerendel, recipient of the Allan D. Emil Memorial Award for pioneering achievements in space sciences, Andreas Losch from the Institute of Systematic Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the article’s author, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, who spoke on the Cosmic Zoo hypothesis.

• The meeting was hosted by the evangelical academy, underscoring the continuing interest of religious groups in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and what it might mean for faith communities. The Catholic Church appears to me to be the most interested group of all. In 2014 the Vatican Observatory even co-hosted a conference in Arizona on whether we are alone in the Universe.

• Earlier this year, the discovery of a new source of Fast Radio Bursts suggested that they could be messages from advanced technological civilizations. Tabby’s Star, which suddenly dips its light curve, has been linked to alien megastructures.

• Last November, Avi Loeb of Harvard University suggested that ‘Oumuamua’, the first object seen to enter our Solar System from interstellar space, could be a lightsail built by an advanced intelligent civilization. Its motion seems to indicate that something other than simple gravitation might be at work.

• The longest unresolved enigma is the Wow! signal, which has all the hallmarks of an alien transmission but unfortunately was only received once. It may have been a transmission from one starship to another, or perhaps from a ship to its home base, and Earth just happened to be in the way.

• However likely or unlikely these anomalies, it is clear that interest in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is on the rise again, as shown not only by this latest conference near Munich, but by NASA’s renewed interest in what’s now called “technosignatures” of advanced life. Many people, beyond just scientists, understand what a detection of extraterrestrial intelligent life elsewhere would mean – nothing less than a complete re-assessment of our place in the Universe.

 

A remarkable meeting occurred outside Munich, Germany this past weekend. Its theme: Are we alone in the Universe? The most eminent German-speaking scientists in the field of astrobiology were invited to give keynote presentations, which included talks by Karl Menten, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, on the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life; by Gerhard Haerendel, recipient of the Allan D. Emil Memorial Award for pioneering achievements in space sciences, on messaging to extraterrestrial civilizations (METI); and by Andreas Losch from the Institute of Systematic Theology at the University of Bern, Switzerland, on the scientific, philosophical and theological consequences of the presence of extraterrestrial civilizations. I also gave a talk, on the possibility of complex life on other planets based on the Cosmic Zoo hypothesis.

The meeting was hosted by the evangelical academy in Tutzing, Germany, underscoring the continuing interest of religious groups in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and what it might mean for faith communities. The Catholic Church appears to me to be the most interested group of all. In recent years I’ve seen many of its representatives at scientific meetings. In 2014 the Vatican Observatory (yes, they have their own observatory) even co-hosted a conference in Arizona on whether we are alone in the Universe.

So, are we?

If you were to ask Avi Loeb of Harvard University, he would likely direct your attention to ‘Oumuamua, the first object seen to enter our Solar System from interstellar space. Last November Loeb pointed to six strange facts about ‘Oumuamua, suggesting that it could be an artificial object, possibly a lightsail built by an advanced intelligent civilization. Most puzzling of all is its shape: long, shiny and unusually thin for a rock. And its motion seems to indicate that something other than simple gravitation might be at work.

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