Aliens

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 ago...so what have we been doing lately to reach extraterrestrials?

Link Link Link Link


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 SFGate.com 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 Wired.co.uk ,”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. Wired.co.uk 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.

Link Link Link Link

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.

Link

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 Space.com "[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 description...it 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.

Link

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.