Galileo Project to search cosmos for alien life and UFOs


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An out-of-this-world research project is blasting off to see if extraterrestrial societies not only exist but also could create technology allowing them to travel in space.

The Galileo Project was launched by a multi-institutional team led by Avi Loeb, a professor of science in the department of astronomy at Harvard University. In a statement, project representatives told Live Science that it will seek and investigate evidence that could represent active or defunct “extraterrestrial technological civilizations,” or ETCs.

The project will design new algorithms using data from astronomical surveys and telescope observations to identify potential interstellar travelers, alien-built satellites and unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP).

Loeb authored “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth,” published in January 2021, which laid out a compelling case for why an object that recently wandered into our solar system was not just another rock but actually a piece of alien technology.

That strange cosmic object is called ‘Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “scout”) — which passed by Earth in 2017 and was likely a comet or asteroid — that he cited as an example of alien creation. It could have been a light sail, an antenna or potentially an alien spaceship. ‘Oumuamua was visible only for about two months, and its flattened cigar shape puzzled many experts in the field.

“We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never-seen-before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin lightsail or communications dish, which would fit the astronomical data rather well,” Loeb said in the statement.

The project will use new and existing telescopes — including the 8-meter Vera C. Rubin Observatory under construction in Chile — to search for mysterious artifacts that could be interstellar objects, satellites hiding in Earth orbit and unexplained craft in Earth’s atmosphere.

Loeb assembled a research team of several respected astronomers and researchers from other fields after receiving a donation of $1.75 million toward the project, despite some pushback. Loeb wants to design a launch-ready space mission to study incoming objects — or potentially aliens — at close range.

One of the Galileo Project’s research branches will focus on coming up with strategies for finding and tracking such interstellar visitors from space and telescopes. The project may also focus on locating small ETC satellites and analyzing UAP sightings.

Part of analyzing these UAP sightings is retrieving high-quality images of them. If using a 1-meter telescope with a modern sensor, for example, researchers could see details as small as 1 millimeter on an object 1 kilometer away, Loeb told Science magazine. However, at about $500,000 each, these telescopes are pricey. Loeb would station dozens of telescopes across the globe to scan for these UAPs if funding allows.

A recent report by the Pentagon documented 144 UAP sightings between 2004 and 2021, with only one identified with “high confidence.” Most were probably physical objects and not atmospheric phenomena, but the data were overall inconclusive.

The project has been met with much enthusiasm from researchers in the field of SETI, or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. However, some researchers believe that this project is adding little to already planned or developed initiatives, such as the European Space Agency’s Comet Interceptor — which will launch in 2028 and will sit in orbit waiting for comets or interstellar objects.

But Loeb feels that researchers should not deny the legitimacy or viability of this research, since open-mindedness is what leads to progress — and, perhaps, the discovery of alien life.

The project is named for Galileo Galilei, a pioneering Italian astronomer who used telescopes he designed to observe celestial objects like Jupiter’s moons, lunar craters and Saturn’s rings.

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