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Interest in UFOs has billions of us looking up: Here’s what we’re looking for



Interest in UFOs has billions of us looking up: Here's what we're looking for

We are often told that we should take people at their word and trust them, but we’re also told to be skeptical. This leaves us with a conundrum: How do you know when which is the right approach?

I believe the answer is that it’s not an either/or situation, it’s a both/and. We need to be both skeptical and trust in order for our relationships to work. For example, if we only took people at their word, we would easily be fooled by anyone who tells us what they think we want to hear, or what will benefit them.

On the other hand, if we only were skeptical then this would cause us to distrust everyone who gives us an explanation for something that isn’t exactly what happened or doesn’t make sense at first glance

The UFO reports is only an example of how much interest there is in extraterrestrial life

A Dyson sphere is a speculative megastructure that completely encircles a star and captures a significant portion of the star’s solar power output.

The UFO reports is far from the only example of how interested we are in extraterrestrial life. People have been reporting UFOs for decades. And that’s just the beginning.

There are many people who claim to have been abducted by aliens (whether or not you believe them is up to you). There are tons of books, movies, and television shows about extraterrestrials and UFOs, as well as many citizen science projects that involve looking for aliens or their markers (like an alien megastructure).


Interest in extraterrestrials is so widespread that it even has a name: xenology. It’s a word used to describe “the study of alien life” and it includes things like the scientific search for extraterrestrial life, cultural interest in finding aliens, artistic depictions of aliens, and everything in between.

It also describes humans’ interactions with extraterrestrial intelligence, if we ever find any – like what we’d do if we discovered someone else out there in space beside ourselves.

A year ago, thousands of people signed up to be part of a citizen science project called Breakthrough Listen that’s scanning the skies for radio signals.

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at Green Bank, West Virginia, has surpassed the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope in Germany as the world’s largest completely steerable radio telescope. Until September 30, 2016, the Green Bank location was part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Jiuguang Wang / Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

Last year, thousands of volunteers around the world signed up to become citizen scientists with a project called Breakthrough Listen that was searching the sky for radio signals.

This particular project was funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and is a collaboration between several universities and organizations. The project will run for 10 years and has had access to some of the most powerful telescopes in the world.

The data collected by these tools will be shared with the public via an ongoing website to allow anyone interested in extraterrestrial life to help find it.

The name of this project comes from a Russian word, which translates as “listen.” It’s an indication that this project is not just about finding extraterrestrial life, but rather listening for it.


SETI researcher Jill Tarter said she was thrilled when she heard that the Navy released a UFO report. But Tarter warns that the public needs to be careful about what they believe when it comes to UFOs and extraterrestrial beings.

Jill Cornell Tarter is an astronomer from the United States who is most recognized for her studies on extraterrestrial intelligence. Tarter is the previous head of the Center for SETI Research and currently holds the SETI Institute’s Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI.

“I’m very excited that the Navy came out and said ‘we have no idea what this is, but we don’t think it’s something of our own doing’,” Tarter told CBSN in an interview. “We’re not alone. It’s a big universe out there.”

And while she’s thrilled with the Navy report and hopes it will continue to spur conversations about UFOs, she warns that people should not jump to conclusions when it comes to extraterrestrial beings.

She points out that most people automatically think aliens are coming from distant planets, but life could also be living on asteroids or comets or even here on Earth in the microscopic form under the ice sheets at the poles.

Look at who’s asking the question and why. Is it someone who’s genuinely curious, or someone with a political agenda? Tarter said.

The Pentagon released a report of UFO sightings last year. The report states that “no evidence” exists to show that the unidentified flying objects were left by extraterrestrial life. But it also acknowledges that there’s a lack of information about what they actually were and where they came from, according to The New York Times.

There’s a lot we don’t know about this topic, which makes it difficult to decide how seriously to take these reports and inquiries.


Astronomer Jill Tarter recently shared some advice on how to make sense of this question—and that was before the Pentagon released its report:

“Look at who’s asking the question and why. Is it someone who’s genuinely curious, or someone with a political agenda?” Tarter said.

She added: If you’re asking the question because you think you already have the answer, I’m not sure if I’d call that science anymore; I would just call it advocating for something one way or another rather than an open-minded exploration of both possibilities.”

UFO reporting is just one example of the ways people are trying to learn more about the universe around us and what life could be out there if any

That desire to know, and the willingness to accept that we may not be alone in the universe, is also behind scientific projects like Breakthrough Listen. The program “is a global astronomical initiative seeking evidence of technological life on distant planets, founded by internet investor and entrepreneur Yuri Milner in 2015 together with world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.” It’s a project that looks for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

So far, no definitive signals have been detected from deep space. But it’s just one example of the many ways people are trying to learn more about what could be out there—and what kind of life could exist beyond our own planet. If you’re into crowdsourcing information (or want to get a better handle on your fellow humans), then maybe [email protected] is for you. SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and the project uses data collected by radio telescopes to try and find alien transmissions here on Earth. An app called Alien Citizen Scientists combines data collection with citizen science projects—users can go out into their neighborhoods armed with binoculars (or other monitoring tools) and report their findings back to the team behind this project.



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Heathcliff Spencer Peters, born and raised in the Netherlands, has worked with Dutch and American artists as creative artist for over 10 years. From 2000 - 2001 he was the main character in a popular Dutch television docu-soap-travel program. He has also worked as a cameraman and video producer for over 11 years. In addition to his work experience, he has been practicing journalism and fact-checking since 2007 for Lions Ground, nowadays known as Astral Citizens.

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