Commander Bodler’s Undersea Wheel of Light

On November 11th, 1949 in the Hormuz Straits in the Persian Gulf USN Commander Bodler and his team witnessed a strange USO - an Unidentified Submarine Object. The following event would be recorded, remembered, and wondered about by the UFO community ever since.

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Commander J.R. Bodler wrote in an article that appeared in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings writing, “About four points on the port bow, toward the coast of Iran, there was a luminous band which seemed to pulsate. Its appearances suggested the aurora borealis, but much lower’ in fact on or below the horizon. Examination with binoculars showed that the luminous area was definitely below the horizon, in the water, drawing nearer to the vessel. With the approach of this phenomenon, it became apparent that the pulsations seemed to start in the center of the band and outwards towards its extremities.”

Imagine how stunningly strange this must have been to behold. These seafaring men were aware of the Aurora Borealis and the extreme beauty and power it had...and now they were seeing something similar, impossibly, below the horizon that seemed to be pulsating and moving closer and closer to the ship.

Commander Bodler continued, “At a distance of about a mile from the ship, it was apparent that the disturbance was roughly circular in shape, about 1,000 to 1,500 feet in diameter. The pulsating could now be seen to be caused by a revolving motion of the entire pattern about a rather ill-defined center; with streaks of light like the beas of searchlights, radiating outward from the center and revolving like the spokes of the gigantic wheel.”

I find it quite interesting that although this was originally compared to the Aurora Borealis, natural phenomena, it is clearly very different. Unlike the Aurora Borealis, this wheel of light is described in mechanical terms, almost like a machine although what its use would (or could) be baffled the Commander and his crew.

The vessel, at one point, occupied the center of the phenomenon which must have been initially terrifying to the crew. “Slightly curved bands of light crossed the bow, passed rapidly down the port side from bow to stern, and up the starboard side from the aft, forward. The luminosity was sufficient to make portions of the vessel’s upper works quite visible. The bands of luminance seemed to pass a given point at about half-second intervals. As may well be imagined the effect was weird and impressive in the extreme; with the vessel seeming to occupy the center of a huge pinwheel whose spokes consisted of phosphorescent luminance revolving rapidly as the vessel a hub.”

Commander Bodler did not specifically believe this strange phenomenon to be unearthly at first. In fact, he believed that “the actual illumination was caused by the natural phosphorescence in the water, periodically stimulated by regular waves of energy” and that the machine-like appearance could have been caused by “schools of fish, porpoises, or similar cause.” 

This would happen two more times on this clear night, with the third and last being smaller and much less brilliant. 

Commander Bodler ended the report with, “It is the present writer's conviction that he has been privileged to witness one of the rare instances of a most curious and impressive natural phenomenon. If other seafarers have had a similar experience, or [if] anyone of scientific bent can offer an explanation of the foregoing, he would be most interested to learn more on the subject.”

It does cause me to wonder...with a man with so much experience and a crew full of men who had been at sea for weeks, months, and years that they could not identify this phenomenon and could not even confirm it was fish. Although it happened three times and it was a clear night, there was never a clear answer to this strange phenomenon.

I am unsure if anyone ever reached out to Commander Bolder with a similar experience, or he had ever witnessed anything similar the rest of the time he spent at sea. One thing is certain...whatever was seen, whether it be natural or supernatural, was certainly astonishing.

Thank you to Marco A for this #Blogstonishing suggestion!

The above image is of the Aurora borealis in Torkilstöten, Ljungdalen by Arild Vagen licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Zigmund Adamski

More interesting than his captivating name, Zigmund Adamski’s death has been whispered about in the corners of the paranormal world for decades. He left his house on the evening of June 6th, 1980 for potatoes and would be found inexplicably dead just five days later. But how did Polish-born miner end up dead on top of anthracite coal in Todmorden, England?

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56-year-old Zigmund seemed to live a fairly normal life. However, that changed on the eve of his niece’s wedding when he left the house on routine errands. When he did not return home that evening his wife was distraught and called the police. She was afraid he had been kidnapped (although why anyone would kidnap a relatively unknown middle-aged miner is unknown) and a search for Zigmund began.

Sadly (and strangely), his body was found just five days later on June 11th, 1980 in the town of Todmorden. If that name sounds a little strange to you...maybe it should. Todmorden translates, roughly, to ‘kill the dead’ in German (well according to google translate, anyway). However, it is believed to be an odd coincidence.  But this does beg another question...why is there a town named Todmoern in West Yorkshire?

Anyway, back to Zigmund! Zigmund’s body was discovered on top of a 12-foot pile of anthracite coal. Anthracite coal is hard coal that has the highest energy density and fewest impurities of all types of coal. A miner being found on top of a pile of coal may not seem too strange, but Zigmund had no ties to Todmorden and was roughly 20 miles away from his home. His body was discovered around 3:30pm by Trevor Parker, the son of the owner of Tomlin’s Coal Yard where Zigmund laid.

Police arrived on the scene a short while later and the Police Constable, Alan Godfrey, examined the body to the best of his ability (although he was not a trained medical professional) and decided it was likely Zigmund had died from a heart attack. 

Although this seemed like a routine cause of death...there were some questions about the scene that even the seasoned PC Godfrey had. For example, how had the body made its way facedown on top of the coal pile? Furthermore, there was no evidence that this person had been roughing it, homeless, or in any way anything but a normal man. Although he was dressed smartly in his suit, his shirt was missing along with his wallet and watch. Some reports claim that it appeared someone had re-dressed Zigmund, but had done a poor job of it...almost as if they had no idea the right way to tie shoes, use buttons or fasten pants.

Besides his clothing, there were also strange burn marks around his neck and shoulders which appeared to be covered in a green gelatinous substance, like a salve...although its origin could not be identified. 

Even stranger, once it was established that the body was that of Zigmund’s, was the time of death. Although he had been missing for five days, Dr. Alan Edwards, the consulting pathologist at the Royal Halifax Infirmary, concluded that Zigmund died between 11am and 1pm on June 11th, just mere hours before Trevor Parker discovered him.

What’s more is he, as the police on the scene had noticed, had not appeared to have been roughing it or under any extreme physical distress. Furthermore, according to the corner he only had about one day of beard growth, despite being missing for several days. 

The burn on his neck was also believed to have happened about two days before his death and, as mentioned before, the apparent ointment that had been rubbed on the wound could not be identified. Ultimately, after some debate, it was determined that the cause of death was a heart attack. The strange burns and his strange final days were never addressed or discussed.

Questions about Zigmund’s strange death and the circumstance his body was found in began to swirl and soon rumors of a potential abduction began to brew. Some believe that this may have been a Close Encounter of the Sixth Kind. According to Hynek’s scale, the Sixth Kind is “Death of a human or animal associated with a UFO sighting, although some might consider this as a more severe example of a second-kind encounter.”

Several months later, PC Goddard had another strange experience that became tied to Zigmund’s story. On November 28th, 1980 PC Goddard was driving around Todmorden shortly after 5am in the morning. He saw what he believed to be a bus and its headlights coming towards him. However, as he drove closer he realized that what he had perceived as a bus was floating roughly five feet above the ground. He attempted to radio in this sighting but his car radio and walkie-talkie both failed. Nervous about what he had experienced, he later heard that four policemen in the nearby town of Halifax had reported something similar. This encouraged PC Goddard to submit his own sighting. 

UFO researchers later heard about this sighting and contacted PC Goddard who believed he had been missing roughly 15 minutes of time. He was encouraged to undergo hypnosis to see if any memories of that time could be dredged up.

A journalist, John Sherard, watched a video of the hypnosis video and wrote in an edition of Sunday Mirror  (published on 9/27/1981) Goddard’s strange words...

“They’re horrible…..small…three to four feet, like five year old lads! There are eight of them. He’s touching me…..He’s feeling at my clothes. They have hands and heads like a lamp. They keep touching me…….they are making noises……Joseph, I know him as Joseph. He has told me not to be frightened.

They are robots! They’re not human! They’re robots! They’re his! They are Joseph’s robots! There’s a bloody dog…’s horrible! The size of an Alsatian!”

As a note...I googled appears to be a breed of dog, or, someone from Alsace.

So, was there a strange flap in Yorkshire in the 1980s? Or is this just a very strange missing-and-then-found case? What do you think?

The above image from Anthracite Coal 01 10x Photomicrograph From Randolph Black licensed in the Public Domain.

Thanks to Tracey S. for this blogstonishing suggestion!

John Winthrop and Aliens and Missing Time - Oh My!

When one thinks about the great American UFO stories, no doubt Roswell comes to mind. Although Roswell might be the most popular, it was hardly the first story to shake the American public. One of the most interesting, and earliest, sightings occurred in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. 

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John Winthrop, one of the cofounders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and governor, recorded an event when a man named James Everell approached him. The entry in his diary recounting his meeting with Everell and Everell’s strange story stands in stark contrast with the other entries into his journal. Much of the other entries rack the wins and losses of developing the new world, Puritanism, and daily notes about being a governor. However, his March 1st entry covering the strange event on Muddy River doesn’t resemble the day-to-day happenings of the governor.

James Everell begins his story by saying that he and two colleagues had boarded a small boat and set out for Muddy River in Boston. As they made their way downstream, roughly a mile from where they left, mysterious events began to occur.

First, they a huge, bright light hovered above them in the sky. According to the journal entry, Everell says the light covered an area of about “three yards square”, or about 27 square feet. To set the scene, these men did not live in a world filled with light like we do today. So, imagine their intense fear and wonder as the pitch-black above them erupted into light. As they watched the light, mesmerized, they reported that it began to contract and change shapes, even taking the figure of a pig. It moved quickly through the sky, seeming to head towards Charlton. 

As they continued to navigate their small boat, they watched as the light moved back and forth between their location and Charlton. When the light finally left the sky, the men realized that, inexplicably, they ended up exactly where they had left from. The men have no memory of rowing against the tide, dropping the anchor, turning around, or otherwise making sure the boat moved anywhere but its intended location (the Muddy River in Boston). 

Winthrop must have taken an interest in this case and asked about town a bit because the journal entry also notes, “Divers other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.”

But did those people see a UFO...or was it something else? Some historians explain away this strange occurrence with “ignis fatuus”...yes, swamp gas! Ignis fatuus usually appears over marshland (the Muddy River got its name for a reason) during the evening. Typically, what happens is that gas from decomposed organic matter combusts and rises from the marsh. However, the movement and where the light originated from (the sky, not the ground) that explanation doesn’t quite make sense. 

At the time, some people who encountered the story believed it was the work of the devil trying to mislead and tamper with good Puritans. Others believe this is a classic ‘fisherman story’ used to distract from the fact that the three men never made it to their destination to finish out whatever job they were supposed to do. However, Winthrop did describe Everell as a “sober, discreet man”...but even seemingly sober, discreet men might lie if enough is on the line.

Winthrop continues in his journals to discuss strange, similar events that suggest that Everell’s story was powerful enough to stay in the back of his mind for years. On January 18th, 1644 Winthrop writes about a similar incident, also including a group of three men headed to Boston. Then, another event that happened a week after that in Boston Harbor...this time with a strange voice attached to the light. Winthrop offered up his own theory on this incident - the devil had taken possession of a recently deceased sailor who had died in the harbor. But, for what purpose did the devil have to give such pointed, light-filled attacks in this city?

The header image is Title: The Muddy River Creator: Peter H. Dreyer Date: 1965 October Source: Collection 9800.007, Peter H. Dreyer slide collection File name: 9800007_072 Photographer: Peter H. Dreyer Rights: Public Domain, Please credit Peter H. Dreyer Citation: Peter H. Dreyer slide collection, Collection #9800.007, City of Boston Archives, Boston. It is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Do Aliens Glow in the Dark?

Astronomers have been searching our cosmos for decades trying to find intelligent life. Every year, our ability to locate intelligent life grows and our technology expands. But could the key to intelligent life be looking for a bit of the shine? I’m not talking Stephen King’s shine...but, glowing planets.

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This August, Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute released Biofluorescent Worlds II: Biological Fluorescence Induced by Stellar UV Flares, a New Temporal Biosignature, which was published in the Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. This paper, in short, purports that we may be able to find an alien world by looking for glow. The idea is similar to how bioluminescence works here on earth. Some creatures render potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation into harmless visible wavelengths. These wavelengths create the glow, and also indicate life.

Blaine Friedlander, of Cornell, writes: “Astronomers generally agree that a large fraction of exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system – reside in the habitable zone of M-type stars, the most plentiful kinds of stars in the universe. M-type stars frequently flare, and when those ultraviolet flares strike their planets, biofluorescence could paint these worlds in beautiful colors.” 

As our telescopes begin to develop and become more advanced, they may be powerful enough to catch the glow from these small planets to further analyze. We aren’t quite there yet, but it is estimated that in 10-20 years the telescopes developed will be able to capture this glow.

This bioflurescence may have the ability to expose biospheres we would not notice otherwise, thanks to the glow that occurs when a flare from a star hits the planet. Lead author of the paper, Jack O’Malley-James notes, "These biotic kinds of exoplanets are very good targets in our search for exoplanets, and these luminescent wonders are among our best bets for finding life on exoplanets,"

Currently, there are a few potential exoplanets that may have a bit of shine. One of them is named Proxima b, which orbits Proxima Centauri (the closest star to earth, besides the sun).

Dr. O’Malley-James, succinctly summarizes this new way to search for life: "This is a completely novel way to search for life in the universe. Just imagine an alien world glowing softly in a powerful telescope.”

Image Source: ‘Artist's impression of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b shown as of a arid (but not completely water-free) rocky Super-Earth. This appearance is one of several possible outcomes of current theories regarding the development of this exoplanet, while the actual look and structure of the planet is known in no ways at this time. Proxima Centauri b is the closest exoplanet to the Sun and also the closest potentially habitable exoplanet as well. It orbits Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf with a surface temperature of 3040 K (thus hotter than light bulbs and therefore whiter, as depicted here). The Alpha Centauri binary system is shown in the background.‘ The image is liscensed under CC BY 4.0, ESO/M. Kornmesser.

The DC Flap of 1952

You’ve heard about the Chicago Mothman Flap, the Welsh Flap...but what about the Washington, DC flap? In 1952 UFOs were seen all over the nation’s capital, particularly that summer. On a humid Saturday Night, July 19th to be exact, air-traffic controller Edward Nugent at Washington National Airport spotted and reported several oddly slow-moving objects on his radar screen. These objects were not flying in from or following any kind of civilian or military flight paths. He made a joke about a fleet of flying saucers headed for DC...but little did he know how monumental this sighting would become.

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Shortly after Nugent reported the strange flying objects two more air traffic controllers spotted an unexplainably bright light that as soon as they laid eyes on it sped away at an impossible speed. These sightings were reported and tracked by the team at National. They had no idea that Andrews Air Force Base radar operators were making similar reports of unidentified blips. According to they were “slow and clustered at first, then racing away at speeds exceeding 7,000 mph. Looking out his tower window, one Andrews controller saw what he described as an “orange ball of fire trailing a tail.” A commercial pilot, cruising over the Virginia and Washington, D.C. area, reported six streaking bright lights, “like falling stars without tails.”

Soon enough, the objects were headed right for the White House and the National Mall. In a serious moment it was unclear what may happen but luckily the unexplained objects buzzed right over the Mall without any attack. However, two nearby F-94 inceptor jets were scrambled.

In addition to formal reports, there were dozens of witness reports on the ground that had been reported on the same strange path that the teams at National and Andrews had reported. By dawn, what the teams at Andrews and National had seen seemed to have cleared the area...but this night wouldn’t be the last of the DC flap. In fact, the next night’s radar, as reported by the Air force, the objects were backed and performed inexplicably powerful gyrations and reversals. Some reports clocked the movement of the objects at 900mph. HowStuffWorks reports, “At one point, as an F-94 moved on targets ten miles away, the UFOs turned the tables and darted en masse toward the interceptor, surrounding it in seconds. The badly shaken pilot, Lt. William Patterson, radioed Andrews AFB to ask if he should open fire. The answer, according to Albert M. Chop, a civilian working as a press spokesperson for the Air Force who was present, was "stunned silence. . . . After a tense moment, the UFOs pulled away and left the scene."

As a resident of DC, I find these reports particularly interesting. The airspace above DC is regulated to an altitude of 18,000 feet and planes fly through predictable paths. An object breaking these rules would be impossible to miss and quite frightening.

One week later on Saturday, July 26th, another pilot on a flight into Washington noted strange objects above his aircraft.

Another interesting thing to note is that the Washington National Weather Station confirmed a slight temperature inversion was present over the capital during this time. However, these inversions alone could not explain the activity on the radarscopes. Two other jets from Newcastle Air Force Base were also scrambled. One of the pilots reported nothing of note while the other said he saw a white light. Once again, sunrise began a new day and ended the sightings.

1952 was a key year for UFO research lead by the government. Since the late 1940s when sightings boomed Project Blue Book and other government-led initiatives arose to try and figure out what exactly was behind this phenomena. On top of this, the media was hungry for new stories. So, when the sightings leaked the Washington Post gave the flap front-page treatment with the snappy title, “‘Saucer’ Outran Jet, Pilot Says; Air Force Puts Lid on Inquiry” and the rest of the country followed suit and the sighting made national headlines.

Nuremberg, 1561

You might think UFOs had their heyday in the 1950s-1970s, but there are many interesting stories from hundreds of years before. Yes, you read that right *hundreds* of years before. One of the most interesting UFO reports comes from Nuremberg.

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On a seemingly normal morning on April 14th, 1561, chaos broke loose in the skies over Nuremberg. In the sky, seemingly out of nowhere, crosses, tubes, wheels and other strangely shaped multi-colored objects appeared over the city. They were said to number in the hundreds and appeared to be smoking. In fact, some even crashed into the ground (although their remains were never discovered). One thing that was noticeable? The smoke, which was apparently visible for miles. After the battle and the skies had somewhat cleared, it was said a large black, spear-like object was seen in the sky. Almost every witness that observed this strange event categorized it as a ‘battle’ or in some way aggressive.

This event was recorded in the Nuremberg Gazette shortly after, and it is no surprise. It is said that people emptied out of homes, businesses, churches, and other buildings to get a better view of what was happening in the skies above. Although there is clearly no picture, artist Hans Glaser created an image of the strange event for the Nuremberg Gazette.

Interestingly enough, I haven’t really found any stories or reports commenting about noise or spell. It seems that this was a highly visual event. This surprised me a bit, as there are significant reports of smoke. I wonder if the smoke was also in the air and it was just a typical smoke smell, or if it was largely ‘normal’ smelling.

The entire event began early in the morning shortly after dawn and lasted about an hour. Ancient Origins (the third link) shared a translated abstract from the paper, “The dreadful apparition filled the morning sky with cylindrical shapes from which emerged black, red, orange and blue-white spheres that darted about. Between the spheres, there were crosses with the color of blood. This frightful spectacle was witnessed by ‘numerous men and women.’ Afterwards, a black, spear-like object appeared. The author of the Gazette warned that ‘the God-fearing will by no means discard these signs, but will take it to heart as a warning of their merciful Father in heaven, will mend their lives and faithfully beg God, that he avert His wrath, including the well-deserved punishment, on us, so that we may, temporarily here and perpetually there, live as His children.”

Scientists theorize that the events were not UFOs or cognizant creatures but a freak meteor shower and perhaps some comets as well. Another trick of the light could be caused by ‘sun dogs’, although the witness accounts don’t make them seem very likely. It is believed that the people at the time thought it was an act of God (or gods) and took place in heaven. Others theorize it was early air tech gone wrong (or even fireworks), but airplanes and the concept of humans and large objects in flight were still centuries away.

Just a few years later another similar event took place nearby in Basel, Switzerland. However, instead of the colorful and bright display that the citizens of Nuremberg witness, the Basel event only involved black orbs. This event was also recorded in the city’s gazette.

What do you think happened that day? Was it an astonishing battle in the sky? Is there an astonishing, yet non-supernatural, explanation?

The above photo is Celestial phenomenon over the German city of Nuremberg on April 14, 1561, as printed in an illustrated news notice in the same month. It is licensed in the public domain.

Nullarbor Car Jacking Incident

Australia is home to many strange stories and creatures. From the Bunyip to the strange Black Mountain. But did you also know it is home to one of the strangest UFO stories I’ve come across? Enter the Knowles family. The Knowles family was driving deep in the Australian outback on the Nullarbor Plain when their lives would forever change.

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To set the scene, let’s talk a little bit about the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor Plain is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock, is quite arid, and nearly treeless. It is not the most inviting or habitable place in Australia.

In the early hours of January 20th, 1988 the Knowles family had been driving for roughly 13 hours with very few stops. In the car were Faye Knowles and her three young adult sons Wayne, Sean, and Patrick who were all between 18 and 24 years old. They were making the trek from Perth to Melbourne.

At this point, Sean was behind the wheel and the rest of his family was soundly asleep in the car. While the typically plain landscape flashed by Sean he noticed something eye-catching in the distance: a light. Now, a light seen while driving at night might not seem out of the ordinary but this particular stretch of land was sparsely and barely populated and the Knowles hadn’t seen another car for some time. So, the sudden appearance of an inexplicable light caught Sean’s attention.

The light continued to grow and become more prominent until it became apparent that it wasn’t something as simple as light. Sean, scared, woke up the rest of his family to witness what was happening. This initial sighting turned into a 90-minute ordeal that left the family shaken.

According to Faye Knowles, the large glowing object looked “like a big ball” and followed the family and terrorize them for almost two hours. During the chase, the ball of light continued to grow larger and create more of a presence. The culmination of the event occurred when the ball of light landed physically on top of the Knowles’ car. Faye rolled down the window and noted that “all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff.”

When the object made contact with the car the car was briefly lifted into the air. Sean, unsure of what could be done in their state of suspension, pushed his foot on the accelerator hard. He and his mother screamed but according to reports their screams were distorted and changed as if they were in slow-mo mode.

A police spokesman who took the Knowles’ witness accounts later told media, “It apparently picked the car up off the road, shook it quite violently and forced the car back down on the road with such pressure that one of the tyres was blown.”

The family fled from the car. Even after the event, Faye’s fear is palpable when she says "We thought we were dying, then we got out the car and we hid behind a little tree and the bushes and it couldn't find us."

Once they believed they were safe the family re-entered the car and had almost no issue getting it back up and running. They drove to the nearby Ceduna and went right to the police station. The police took the report seriously namely because of the physical evidence. What physical evidence, you may ask? Well, the car was strangely dented and had an inexplicable dust-like film over most of it.

But what really happened that night? Skeptics and believers have yet to come to an answer but Psychology Today believes it was a shared hallucination. According to them, “Given the lack of corroborating physical evidence, and the frightened state of the occupants, it appears that family members, fatigued from a long trip, under the cover of darkness while traveling on an unfamiliar road, mistook an anomalous light for an extraterrestrial spacecraft that they believed was pursuing them.  It is also notable that based on interviews with the family, they were all in an extremely emotional state, “shouting and crying.” Mrs. Knowles even said she thought they were going to die.”

While this is admirable, I was surprised that the article lacked the rarity and potential implausibility of shared hallucinations. Additionally, if they were just fatigued and were frightened by a small light why don’t we have dozens and dozens of reports from long-haul truckers in Australia and across the world with similar stories? Perhaps I am not keeping an eye on the news as much as I need to, as I have come across very few possible UFO-sightings like this.

Whether you believe the Knowles encountered a UFO or other non-human tech that night or that they simply had an extremely powerful shared hallucination both answers seem fascinating and the Knowles case is certainly a unique one in UFOlogy.

The featured image is from Paul Banfe and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). It is of the Nullarbor valley.

Getting the Aliens’ Attention

It should come as no surprise to Astonishing Legends’ fans that scientists have been working on contacting aliens for generations. In 1974, the most powerful broadcast, the Arecibo Message, was sent into space. The Arecibo message contained a basic pictorial message that was aimed at the M13 globular star cluster about 21,000 light years away from us. According to SETI, “It consists, among other things, of the Arecibo telescope, our solar system, DNA, a stick figure of a human, and some of the biochemicals of earthly life. Although it's unlikely that this short inquiry will ever prompt a reply, the experiment was useful in getting us to think a bit about the difficulties of communicating across space, time, and a presumably wide culture gap.”

But, that was over 40 years what have we been doing lately to reach extraterrestrials?

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In November 2018 an article published in the Astrophysical Journal written by James Clark and Kerri Cahoy, researchers at MIT, posit that it may be a little be easier to reach our cosmic neighbors if we mark our position with bright lights. Well, not bright to us because the several million watt laser would shine with infrared light.

This kind of light could be detected as far as 20,000 light-years away. In that distance, there are about 10 billion start systems. As notes, “this would be the mother of all porch lights.” It is also important to note that this would also be enough light to be deemed “non-natural” so other space travelers would know the light was left purposefully on.

However, this isn’t the only idea to contact otherworldly beings. While not as far reaching, in 2017 astronomers sent a radio message to a neighboring star system, specifically Luyten’s star (GJ 273) which is a mere 12 light years away and there is a planet in the system that is in the habitable zone, meaning it might harbor liquid and even life.

This new message was beamed from an antenna in Norway for 8 hours over a 3-day period. According to New Scientist the new message “Begins with information about counting, arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry, and includes a description of the radio waves that carry the message, as well as a tutorial on clocks and timekeeping, to see if any potential inhabitants of GJ 273b have an understanding of time similar to our own.”

We haven’t heard anything back (yet) but it could take up to 25 years to receive a reply message.

In 2018, SETI is launching a competition to compose a new message for SETI. According to ,”This time though, the scientists want to involve school kids through an online competition. To enter, teams of students will first have to solve puzzles about space exploration, Arecibo and astronomy. Only the first 45 teams to solve the puzzles will be able to submit a design that could be beamed beyond the Solar System – although the direction has yet to be decided. The interstellar message is due to be broadcast in November next year.”

Not everyone thinks contacting aliens is a good idea. In fact, there were 28 signatories who warned against the possible dangers involved in messaging extraterrestrial intelligence. quotes a portion of that letter which says, “We know nothing of [ET’s] intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether [ET] will be benign or hostile,” wrote the authors of the letter, including Elon Musk. Stephen Hawking, too, has warned of the dangers of contacting an alien civilisation that may be much more advanced than us.”

Artist impression of a habitable exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger)

Darwin and Aliens

Wondering what aliens may look like has been a question humankind has been imagining for decades. There only seems one thing people can agree on when it comes to conceptualizing aliens: we have no idea what they really look like. But, scientists are working on trying to get closer to a correct conceptualize of lifeforms that may one day visit us.

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One movie immediately springs to mind when I think about aliens: ET.  In the Steven Spielberg movie we have "an alien botanist and explorer who became unwell after being abandoned during an expedition to a forest in North America." In an interesting scholarly investigation into ET, Gregory Scott and Edward Presswood present their findings and analysis of ET. They describe him as, "ET is a bilaterian tetrapod, sharing many of the physical characteristics of primates. Given that ET’s species evolved on a remote planet, the similarities are a striking example of convergent evolution." According to ScienceDaily, convergent evolution "is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches." Although his age is unclear, as his gender (although he seems to be presumed male) we do know he weighs roughly 35 pounds and is about 4ft 6". 

But ET isn't the only movie alien that remains front-of-mind for many people - there is Alien, Mars Attacks, Earth Girls are Easy, District 9, Independence Day, War of the Worlds, and Men in Black. In each of these movies aliens are depicted in completely different ways - from little green men to humanoid beings to completely inhuman. 

However, researchers believe they may have a better idea now what aliens look like. Why? Well, we can thanks Charles Darwin for that. Samuel Levin, co-author of a new paper published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, believes that beings on other planets might look shockingly similar to life on Earth. Why? Because, like on Earth, living beings on other planets would also be subject to some kind of Natural Selection, even if isn't carbon based or has different DNA or, like ET, light-up fingers. 

Levin emphasizes, "Living things are adapted...They appear to be 'trying to do things' like eat, survive, grow, reproduce." And, the only way to adapt is through Natural Selection. 

But what does this have to do with what aliens look like?

Although we would be no closer to confirming aliens are or are not little green men or face eaters or even have similar features like eyes or noses, we can take on a theoretical prediction. For example, if the theory of Natural Selection holds true than "Aliens that have undergone natural selection would be "nested." This means that they would have had to transform in complexity over time and that they would retain the history, of sorts, of their transitions. For further proof, the scientists suggest that the only thing we know that can just arise without natural selection are molecules.  Furthermore, it means that anything "more complicated than a virus" has certain objectives. Even something as small as a bacteria cell still moves and eats. 

Levin continues, "Aliens might not be made of cells as we think of them, but they will be made up of parts that were once free living, and those parts will be too – all the way down to aliens’ hereditary material (whatever it is). Our parts have mechanisms in place that keep all the parts working together to make an organism."

Although aliens might look insanely different, their actual structure on a fundamental level will likely be more similar than their outward appearance suggests. Their bodies, like ours, would have to be constructed by "formerly free-living parts within formerly free-living parts...and they will have undergone a similar evolutionary history' of independent organisms cooperation to form new and even higher level organisms. 

Levin notes that his work does not answer the overarching question of "are we alone?" But, he does say: "but it [their research] does tell us something about our neighbors if we're not alone."


The above image is unrelated to the story and was provided by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). 

Winston Churchill & Aliens

Thinking of Winston Churchill likely brings to your mind a number of things: England, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, World War II, and more. But what about aliens? Yep, Winston Churchill was very curious about our universe. In fact, in a recently found essay from 1939, he writes about aliens, our universe, and more.


The essay itself was found in a galaxy far, far away. Okay, it wasn't that far but it wasn't found it England! In fact, it was unearthed in the Churchill museum in Fulton, Missouri. As noted, it was first written in 1930. However, it appears to have been edited again by Churchill sometime in the 1950s. The essay itself is not some long document on UFOs, aliens, and more - so don't get too excited. But, it is an 11-page authenticated essay by Churchill himself.  

In the journal it was found in, he titled the essay "Are we Alone in the Universe?"

Timothy Riley, the museum's director, invited astrophysicist Mario Livio, to review the essay and give his thoughts on it. After reviewing the piece, Livio remarked how similar it was to today's scientific process in trying to figure out if there is life on other planets. In fact, he told "[I] was even more astonished, because I saw that this great politician is musing about a real scientific topic, an intriguing scientific topic, [and] he is reasoning about this in the same way that a scientist today would go about it."

In a surprisingly humble move, Churchill muses "I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures," he continues on with this train of thought, writing "or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time."

The essay structure itself is quite interesting...

1. He first sets up to define what life is, and settled on "comparatively highly organized life,"

2. Then he mentions places that would be smart places to look for life (water, or where it is feasible for water to exist)

3. Then he asks what are the necessary ingredients for life to exist

4. From #3, he believed that only Venus and Mars would have these necessary ingredients - so that is where life should be searched for first. Like Goldilocks, all the other planets are too hot or too cold. He also considered the existence of exoplanets which, at this time, were not proven.

Livio commented about Churchill's organization "This chain of logic is astounding, in my opinion, for a politician," 

It is interesting to think that this famous politician, known and respected for so many decades and even today, actively and critically thought about life on other planets. And not only mused if it exists, but what exact conditions would be needed to sustain it and where we should be looking for it. 


The above picture of Winston Churchill is liscensed under Public Domain of the UK. 

Were There Alien Civilizations?

This is not a new question in the world, or even this show. 55 years ago astronomer Frank Drake came up with an equation that weighed the odds for aliens. This is equation is something we explore in episode 022. But what's happened in-between now and then? Now two astronomers have tweaked the formula to come up with a slightly different spin. NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is helping, too. link

Woody Sullivan (University of Washington) and Adam Frank )University of Rochester) published their complicated findings recently in the May 2016 issue of Astrobiology. They slightly alter the question - not if they exist, but if they did. They say:

“While we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history,” (Adam Frank)

According to them, there’s an astronomically high chance that other technological civilizations have risen and fallen elsewhere in the universe at some point in its 13.8 billion-year history.

How did they arrive at this conclusion? Well, by deconstructing the Drake equation. Here's how they use the equation:

  • They start out with an estimate of 20 sextillion stars in the observable universe (2 x 1022).
  • There appears to be at least one planet for every star (1.0).
  • And about one-fifth of those planets appear to orbit in habitable zones (0.2).

That gives you an estimate of habitable planets in the universe: 4 sextillion, or 4 x 1021

hen the astronomers add a bit of a twist to the equation:

How low do you have to set the chances that a habitable planet gives rise to a signal-beaming civilization, in order to reduce what you get when you do the multiplication (planets times probability) to just one world? The number would have to be one chance in 4 sextillion, or 2.5 x 10-22. Pretty low contact rates, huh?

In a press release after their explosive conclusion, Frank says: “To me, this implies that other intelligent, technology-producing species very likely have evolved before us, Think of it this way: Before our result you’d be considered a pessimist if you imagined the probability of evolving a civilization on a habitable planet were, say, one in a trillion. But even that guess, one chance in a trillion, implies that what has happened here on Earth with humanity has in fact happened about 10 billion other times over cosmic history!”

Is it just a numbers game, or is this a breakthrough?


The above image is from Flickr User Kevin Gill and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Did the International Space Station just get Footage of a UFO?

This footage was captured by the International Space Station's base's cameras, where they released the  on Facebook - and theories abound to exactly what this could be. The slightly infamous UFO investigators, Secure Team 10, has posted a video on it that is quickly accruing views. However, spectators can't help but clash over whether or not the images show an alien craft. Tyler Glockner, from Secure Team 10, adds..."He [the person who sent him this video] says he sees what looks like a fireball of some sort streak in behind ISS."

The unidentifiable object comes out of the darkness of the feed, flies behind the ISS camera and gives us the briefest glance just before it disappears, shining some red lights on the ISS.

But how could it be a fireball in space? A place, by definition, does not contain any oxygen. In response, people are highlighting the fact that it may just be a meteor or other similar space event could explain the strange sight.

The video is at the top of this page, so you can decide for yourself.

The above picture is not related to the story and was provided by Wikimedia Commons.

The Hunt for Alien Life just got some Major Funding

Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner (a Russian billionaire) are teaming up on a lavish, 100 million dollar hunt for alien life. This hunt will rely on the creation and implementation of stamp-sized spacecrafts to explore a greater expanse of the universe. link

The project is called "Breakthrough Starshot" and is based on the idea that an earth-like planet, according to astronomers, could exist within habitable zones of Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to earth and is located (roughly) 25 trillion miles away which translated to 4.37 light years.

The tiny light-propelled spacecraft, aptly called nanocrafts, have the goal of reaching this star system within twenty years.

Each and every nanocraft is designed to fly at 20% the speed of light on a sail pushed by a light beam. Each craft will carry cameras, photon thrusters, and the necessary light-sail. They are expected to have another 4 years to transmit any information gleaned back to earth, making any data roughly 24 years away.

Doesn't sound efficient? Well, it would make it over 1000x faster than today's fasted spaceship. If we only used conventional spacecraft tech to reach the star system it would take 30,000 years.

This picture comes from Flickr User Nuzznez and is licensed under Creative Commons.

The Transit Method Reveals Where We Should Look for Aliens

The search for signs of intelligent, extraterrestrial life continues but a new study suggests exactly where to start. Researchers, as we know, have identified and characterized many possibly habitable alien planets. They did this by utilizing the "transit method". The transit method analyzes how parent stars' light changes when orbiting across these stars' faces from Earth's perspective. This is accomplished via NASA's Kepler space telescope. link

Logically, intelligent aliens could possibly use this same strategy to discover Earth and learn that it has the ability to support life.

Rene Heller, of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in German says, "It's impossible to predict whether extraterrestrials use the same observational techniques as we do...But, they will have to deal with the same physical principles as we do, and Earth solar transits are an obvious method to detect us."

However, according to the rules of cosmic geometry, Earth's solar transits are visible from a limited swath of the sky. This has been dubbed by Ralph Pruditz, a professor of physics and astronomy at McMaster University in Canada, the "transit" zone.

Through this understanding, SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) should focus on this particular swath of space in order to gain the highest chance for contact.

The transit zone contains roughly 100,000 stars, which means there's no shortage of "potential targets for SETI scientists' radio telescopes."

This picture was taken by Flickr user AcidPix and is licensed under the Creative Commons.

Are UFO reports 10,000 Years Old?

10,000 year old rock paintings have been found in Chhatisgarh and depict aliens and UFOs. link 

The state department of archaeology and culture plans is reaching out for help from Nasa and Isro for research on the recently discovered rock paintings.

According to the archaeologist JR Bhagat, the paintings depict aliens resembling those shown in movies. Bhagat told Times of India, "The findings suggest that humans in prehistoric times may have seen or imagined beings from other planets which still create curiosity among people and researchers".

Locals in the area have their own ideas. While a select few worship the paintings directly, others tell grand stories in an oral tradition passed down from their ancestors about the "rohela people". These people are said to have landed from the sky in a round shaped flying object and take away 1-2people in the village and never returned.

The paintings are done in natural colors that, despite the many years, have yet to fade and some even appear quite vibrant.

The figures can be seen holding items that appear like weapons and lack any clear or distinct features. Interestingly enough, the nose and mouth are missing. In a few pictures it appears some of them are wearing space suits.

Other archaeologists are currently being consulted for further verification.


The above picture is not related to the story and was taken by Flickr User Jose Luis Hidalgo R and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Are All the Aliens Dead?

This is a follow-up on the Fermi Paradox show we did several episodes ago (check it out here). Link

Here is a quick reminder if you forget what the Fermi Paradox is: it is the apparent contradiction between the high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial life, and the lack of evidence for this life.

A recent team of astrobiologists from the Australian National University have proposed a modification to the scenario. They call this hypothesis "the Gaian Bottleneck".

The Gaian Bottleneck proposes that, while many planets may have good conditions for the possibility of life, at some point they become unsustainable. The team pointed to Venus as an example of this.

Basically, any life that had or could have emerged who fail to adapt to the rapid changes and quickly become extinct. Basically, this hypothesis states that though life could have been possible, it is unlikely because extraterrestrial global extinction levels "are the norm, not the exception".

Thus, they believe that the mystery of why we haven't yet found aliens, or proof of aliens, has more to do with extinction than existence.


This photo is from Flickr User David Wagner and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Argentine Alien Festival Held at UFO Sighting Site Hotspot

In Capilla Del Monte, Argentina thousands of earth-bound vessels, I mean humans, have gathered for the annual international alien festival that has made the town a hotspot for UFO activity and sightings. link

The weekened-long festival includes a parade of neon lights, Star Wars characters, alien costumes, and pop-up shops bursting at the seams with alien paraphernalia.

However, it's not just fun and games. Many also attended workshops on everything and anything extraterrestial held near a local hill that is the site of a UFO sighting 30 years ago.

This is the fourth year of the festival, but some of the locals are concerned. Luz Mary Lopez says, "The festival is fun, but it can also generate a lack of seriousness toward the issue". Lopez is the head of the UFO Investigation Center in Capilla del Monte. It seems it can get a little too E.T friendly and the grounds of the UFO sighting is often met with a lack of respect.

This hill is known as "Uritorco hill" and is often called "Magic Mountain". It is considered a special source of energy, largely credited to the UFO sightings. Some even believe it is a door to another dimension.

This photo is from Flickr User Jonas Bengtsson and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Aliens & Nokias: a 2,800 Year Relationship

Researchers have dug up something new...and it's stumping everyone. It looks like a 2,800 year old Mesopotamian clay tablet. That description is par for the course, nothing strange there. However, that's not the whole looks like a "clay tablet cell phone" and was found in the Austrian town of Fuschl am See. Link

Now, if you click on the link, you'll see a photo of it. This photo is far from the quality one would expect to find an archaeological or research-based dig. That's a bit of a red flag for us at ALP, but we kept digging.

First, how did a cuneiform tablet make its way all the way to Austria? Well, there's a theory, and it's a doozy: Aliens. Aliens created the Sumerian civilization, and left this particular artifact behind after a failed attempt to introduce people to wondrous power of the cellphone.

Okay, maybe not so much.

For now, it may be a hoax or just a strange artifact, but that's up for you to decide.


The photo above is from Pixabay user Frkotou and is licensed under Creative Commons.

Class B UFO vs. Ball Lighting

So, in a Class B UFO Sighting vs Rare Ball Lightning sighting, there really isn't a loser. Either we have some more proof of extra terrestrial life, or nature just did a totally awesome thing. So, this is kind of a win-win situation. There was a purported alien UFO sighting in Canberra, Australia. However, skeptics say the bizarre light was simply a burst of ball Lightning.


The video footage begins with a wide-angle shot of twinkling city lights while the sky above becomes brighter and brighter. This brightness is followed by a low frequency sound and a flash of circular light that hovers for a few seconds before completely disappearing.

Those that believe it was the aliens claims it was "a craft exiting portal" and that he observed "a flying saucer open up and enter a portal". Another UFO theorist claims that the light show was evidence of a Class B sighting and that the formation was "typical hyperdrive residue".

On the other side are the skeptics who believe ball lighting is the cause for this strange light show. Ball lightning is a big flash of light that looks circular and appears during a storm, it sometimes has a blue glow.

Either way, something really cool happened in the sky over Canberra, Australia on January 5th.


This pictures comes from Pixabay user TPSDave and is licensed under Creative Commons. It is not affiliated with the above story.