Recently, I delivered the opening lecture to an auditorium full of team members of the Galileo Project, who traveled from all over the world to celebrate our second-year research accomplishments.
The project’s conception was triggered by anecdotal reports from military and intelligence personnel who happened to be at the right place to make observations of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP). In contrast, the Project’s research program involves a systematic study of the sky based on well-calibrated and fully-controlled sensors in the infrared, optical, radio, and audio.
During our recent event, the Galileo team visited the first operational Galileo Observatory at Harvard University, out of which data is currently being analyzed by machine learning software trained to identify terrestrial objects like birds, balloons, drones, or airplanes and check for anything extraterrestrial.
Over the past couple of years since we announced the launch of the Galileo Project with Dr. Frank Laukien, public awareness of UAP changed dramatically. Merely a week ago, David Fravor, Ryan Graves, and David Grusch testified under oath in the US House of Representatives about their encounters with UAP. Grusch promised to provide contact details of individuals who were involved in programs to retrieve and reverse-engineer alien spacecraft from crash sites. His cooperation offers a path forward to a factual verification or dismissal of his claims.
The fundamental question is whether the disclosure of UAP information from the government will happen before or after the Galileo Project finds independent evidence for UAP materials. In particular, is it easier to learn what lies in interstellar space from scooping a 2-kilometer depth in the Pacific Ocean than from politicians in Washington DC?
The Galileo Project expedition that I led to the crash site of the first recognized interstellar meteor, IM1, retrieved droplets that melted off IM1’s surface when it was exposed to the immense heat from the fireball created by its friction on air about 20 kilometers over the Pacific Ocean. Melting was inevitable as the fireball released a few percent of the Hiroshima atomic bomb energy into 500 kilograms of materials. Following our return from the expedition, my summer intern, Sophie Bergstrom, increased the total census of spherules to 727, more than an order of magnitude above the harvest on our ship, Silver Star.
Subsequently, my Galileo-Keto postdoc, Laura Domine, created a map of the yield of spherules per unit mass of background material collected. The map demonstrates a clear excess of spherules around the meteor path, well over background levels far away from the meteor crash site. By analyzing the composition of the spherules along the meteor path, defined by the three flares in the fireball’s lightcurve, we plan to check in the laboratory of my Harvard colleague, Professor Stein Jacobsen, whether the composition of the spherules
is different from solar system’s materials in terms of elemental and radioactive isotope abundances. The results will be reported in a scientific paper to be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
After visiting Jacobsen’s laboratory in the late afternoon, I rushed for the conference’s banquet dinner at the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Harvard Square. On the way to the dinner hall, I notice at the periphery of my vision some familiar faces sitting on bar stools in the adjacent room. They were Tim Gallaudet, Ryan Graves, Garry Nolan, and Danny Sheehan. After greeting them, I asked whether they might be interested in having a panel discussion in front of the conference attendees prior to our planned banquet lecture. They all agreed.
The panel discussion which I moderated, focused on the congressional hearing, bipartisan legislation, and implications for the immediate future. All panelists were excited about the months to come.
Is humanity at the cusp of a transformative revolution in its cosmic perspective and its aspirations for interstellar space? Here’s hoping for an even more exciting panel discussion in the third-year banquet of the Galileo Project, involving scientists, politicians, philosophers, theologians, and with some luck – maybe an interstellar visitor who happened to stop by at the bar of the Sheraton Commander hotel.
Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s – Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011-2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project and is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial:The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar” is scheduled for publication in August 2023.