World’s Astronomers Comment on NASA’s New UAP/UFO Study (Revised and Expanded)

NASA UFO Study

 

Reposted today with new entries from Jacob Misra, Senior Research Investigator at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science and UCLA’s Mark Morris, a founding member along with Nobel Laurate Andrea Ghez of the UCLA Galactic Center Group.

Albert Einstein was fond of saying: “The scientific imagination is a preview of coming attractions.” On June 9, 2022 NASA announced that it is commissioning a study team to start early in the fall to examine unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) – observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena – from a scientific perspective. The study will focus on identifying available data, how best to collect future data, and how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward. NASA’s effort will be independent of the Pentagon and will be led by David Spergel, an astrophysicist currently president of the Simons Foundation in New York.

The limited number of observations of UAPs currently makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events. There is no current evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin.

Frankly, I think there’s new science to be discovered.”

“NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space – and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do. Frankly, I think there’s new science to be discovered.”

Here are several of the world’s leading astronomers thoughts on NASA’s initiative, which they emailed to The Daily Galaxy.

Rory Barnes, University of Washington, is a theorist primarily interested in the evolution of habitable planets. He is the lead developer of the VPLanet software package that simulates the internal, atmospheric, orbital, stellar, and galactic influences on planetary habitability. Prof. Barnes is a member of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, ROCKE-3D, and JPL Icy Worlds consortia.

“This isn’t really my area of expertise, and all I really know about the UAPs is what I’ve read in the news media. That said, I am broadly in favor of research that explores any kind of mysterious phenomena through the scientific method and I look forward to seeing the outcome of this new initiative. Any opportunity to find evidence for extraterrestrial life should be seized by the scientific community and I support NASA’s effort to identify the origin of the UAPs.”

Paul Davies, theoretical physicist at Arizona State University and director of the Beyond Center, and author of The Demon in the Machine. Davies has worked for much of his career in astrophysics and cosmology, with emphasis on the origin and early stages of the universe, the quantum properties of black holes and the nature of time. He is interested in the nature and origin of life – including extraterrestrial life – beyond Earth, and in complex systems generally.

Why would the aliens show up at this tiny sliver of time in which homo sapiens suddenly get interested in astrobiology?”

“What strikes me most about the new interest in UAPs is how so little has changed since Project Bluebook and the Condon Report of the 1960s. The same blurry images, the same he-said-she-said eyewitness stories, the same lack of hard physical data, and the same official conclusion that there is a small residue of unexplained – but not necessarily unexplainable – reports. For me, it’s a big yawn. Our planet has been here 4.5 billion years. Why would the aliens show up at this tiny sliver of time in which homo sapiens suddenly get interested in astrobiology? It’s too much of a coincidence. Of course it’s good to apply science to these aerial oddities, and we may discover some interesting new atmospheric phenomena, but I have little doubt that the conclusions of the NASA team will differ from the Condon Report, published in 1968.

“I am an interested skeptic and a one-time acquaintance of Allen Hynek, he of ‘close encounters’ fame. I have personally investigated a number of UFO reports and I was always struck by how the objective facts get shoehorned into a preconceived narrative. Any team investigating UAP/UFOs should include psychologists.”

 

 

Adam Frank, astrophysicist, University of Rochester. A self-described “evangelist of science,” Frank regularly writes and speaks about subjects ranging from intelligent life forms in the universe to climate change, from high-energy-density physics to the importance of science and its funding. He recently appeared on NBC’s Today Show to discuss the science behind alien civilizations and UFOs, and authored a New York Times op-ed on the subject. He also appeared on CNN, providing live coverage with Anderson Cooper of Jeff Bezos’s inaugural space flight.

There is zero evidence that UAPs have anything to do with life beyond Earth but it appears they do pose questions that need answering. 

“The real opportunity lying in the proposed NASA study is not just about what it finds.  Instead, it’s about showing the American people how NASA, and science in general, goes about the business of finding.  It would give Americans a masterclass in the most basic, most important, most boring topic in science: Standards of Evidence.  Those standards are the key to knowing anything about the world including if we are alone in the Universe or not.  But when it comes to UAPS/UFOs there have been no such standards.  It’s just a free for all.  There is zero evidence that UAPs have anything to do with life beyond Earth but it appears they do pose questions that need answering.  Science is the only way to get those answers so if NASA is careful it show people how that process works.”

Jonti Horner –astrobiologist and astronomer based at the University of Southern Queensland, of the leaders of the MINERVA-Australis facility, on the Darling Downs in Southeast Queensland, which scours the sky on every clear night, searching for new alien worlds.

“I’m actually really positive about this – I think that investigating peculiar sightings like the recorded UAPs is a fantastic way to uncover new and previously unexplored science. There’s a long history of UFO sightings leading to advances in our scientific knowledge of processes that happen here on Earth – and I think it likely that many of the sightings NASA is investigating will turn out to have really fascinating natural explanations. A good example of the kind of thing that was once scoffed at, or fell into the UFO-sighting box, were observations of what are now known as ELVEs – spectacular phenomena that occur above powerful thunderstorms. For years, pilots had reported ELVEs without them ever really being taken seriously. It’s only once our camera technology became advanced enough for them to regularly be captured on film that the scientific study of them really began. By opening up the files of previously secret reports of unidentified phenomena to scrutiny by the wider scientific community, I’m sure there’ll be many new examples of things like this, and that amazing new science will result! I think we may also see new insights into astronomical phenomena from the files – particularly of the kind of science involving the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and the space around our planet.

Any team investigating UAP/UFOs should include psychologists.

“My instinct is that eventually all of the UAPs will find mundane scientific explanations in this way – but I could be wrong! The only way to find out is to study them, learn more about them, and work out what they could be – to try to answer the question of ‘what on Earth are we seeing?’. That’s how science works – and I’m really excited to see what the team studying the UAPs discover in the months and years to come!

Daniel Holz, is a Professor at the University of Chicago. He is an expert on black holes, gravitational waves, astrophysics, and cosmology. He is also co-Chair of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which sets the time of the Doomsday Clock.

“Astronomers are a fundamentally curious bunch. We want to learn as much as we can about our Universe. If there are unexplained phenomena, it makes sense that we should want to study and understand them, and turn them into “explained phenomena”.

Gregory Laughlin, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Yale University. He is interested in hydrodynamic simulations, the characterization of extrasolar planets and planet-forming environments as well as the far future of the Universe.

I can’t help but feel a vicarious excitement to know that NASA is out there on this high-risk high-reward project.

“In the Bicentennial Summer of 1976, when I was eight, I came across a well-worn copy of Gray Barker’s 1956 UFO classic — They Knew too Much About Flying Saucers. With zero supporting context, I became immersed in the thrill of silvery disks from alien worlds, and I felt the delicious undercurrents of anxiety that the three men in dark suits might knock at my door. I had no idea that Barker had simply made it all up. And although I was unwittingly two decades late to the action, I took to heart the Cold War admonishments to watch the skies. I was out in the field many nights with my 50mm refracting telescope from the Sears Roebuck Catalog, hoping to glimpse UFOs. Those were my formative moments as a scientist. So I can’t help but feel a vicarious excitement to know that NASA is out there on this high-risk high-reward project…”

Avi Loeb is the Frank B. Baird, Jr., Professor of Science at Harvard University and a bestselling author. He received a PhD in Physics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel at age 24 (1980-1986), led the first international project supported by the Strategic Defense Initiative (1983-1988), and was subsequently a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (1988-1993). Loeb has written 8 books, including most recently, Extraterrestrial (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021), and nearly a thousand papers on a wide range of topics, including black holes, the first stars, the search for extraterrestrial life and the future of the Universe.

Before NASA’s announcement, it was common practice among scientists to ridicule the scientific study of UAP.

“I will be delighted to provide any input that could help NASA’s study, because it shares the intellectual DNA of the Galileo Project. Government agencies and academia should be working together towards the collection of new evidence-based knowledge on UAP. It is possible that by the time NASA’s study completes its nine-month pregnancy and delivers its independent “baby”, the Galileo Project will discover evidence that will change the charter of NASA’s report.  The Galileo Project is currently assembling its first telescope system on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory, planning an expedition to retrieve fragments from the first interstellar meteor, studying satellite data on UAP from above, and designing a space mission to rendezvous with the next anomalous (`Oumuamua-like) interstellar object.

“Before NASA’s announcement, it was common practice among scientists to ridicule the scientific study of UAP. The ridicule was surprisingly strong and public within the traditional SETI community, with one exception – Seth Shostak who joined the Galileo Project after publishing a brave supportive article in Scientific American.

“We should explore the unknown by seeking evidence agnostically and not assuming what we might find. Gladly, we now know that both the Galileo Project and NASA agree on following this principle.”

Jean-Luc Margot, Professor · UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy

“There probably is not anything extraterrestrial associated with UAPs, but we will not know that for sure until the evidence is evaluated with scientific rigor.  This team will produce an authoritative report, and I am looking forward to reading it.”

Jacob Haqq Misra, Senior Research Investigator at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, is an astrobiologist who is interested in understanding the origin, distribution, and future of life in the universe.

“I am encouraged that NASA is taking serious interest in the UAP problem. The press conference stated that the study being led by David Spergel would have a budget of no more than about $100k, which would be a relatively small effort compared to other NASA research programs. My understanding is that this study would attempt to assess NASA’s capabilities for detecting UAP using its existing network of satellite data. Such data is publicly available, so it is worth asking whether or not any useful data has been captured or could be captured in the future. NASA’s interest in studying UAP also helps to reduce the sociological stigma of investigating UAP. We do not know what they are, but we do observe UAP in Earth’s atmosphere, so it is important for our science agencies to study them.”

Mark Morris, Associate Director, and one of the founding members of the UCLA Galactic Center Group, along with Nobel Laureate, Andrea Ghez. Much of his research is aimed at understanding the innermost regions of our Milky Way Galaxy, an extreme environment characterized by high densities of stars, gas and energy, strong magnetic fields, and Sagittarius A, our galaxy’s supermassive black hole

“This initiative is a commendable attempt to bring UAPs into the realm of science, where ideas and hypotheses are judged on the basis of evidence, and where no hypothesis can be favored until all other competing hypotheses can be ruled out, or falsified, by finding that they are inconsistent with known facts.  For UAPs, that is a tall order, because the evidence is not usually repeatable or compellingly verifiable to everyone’s satisfaction.  But the proven scientific judgment of the leadership of the independent study team should lead us to expect the best investigation possible, and perhaps some recommendations for how to obtain the needed evidence in the future.”

Steven Tingay, astrophysicist and Executive Director of the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA) at Curtin University.

“NASA’s announcement that they will investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, in the wake of the US Congressional hearings on the matter, is welcome.  The first step in understanding is the systematic collation and classification of observations and data.  Then investigation and analysis can follow.  NASA will approach the task by utilizing the scientific method with rigor and with a promise that data and information will be available for any researcher to utilize.”

Ben Zuckerman,  an astrophysicist and an emeritus professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCLA. His recent work focus primarily on formation and evolution of planetary systems around various types of stars. 

“I’m sending you some words from a paper I wrote that is currently in press at Astrobiology.  My paper is part of a special issue that Astrobiology has put together on visitors from outer space (objects like ‘Oumuamua for example).  Until this special issue is published my paper entitled “Oumuamua Is Not a Probe Sent to our Solar System by an Alien Civilization” is embargoed.  But I assume that Astrobiology would not mind if I send you a few sentences from my paper. These words that are in quotes are from my paper: “UFOs never seem to go away. In the decades that followed WWII, fuzzy “pictures” of unidentified objects often appeared in the media. But now that half the world’s population – billions of persons – possess cell phones and are amateur photographers, we still do not have a single convincing picture of an alien craft of any sort. When a real object, such as a bright meteor, appears multiple cell phones often record its existence.

“The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”. To quote the Los Angeles Times: this ‘Long-awaited UFO report has few answers.’ This 2021 assessment focuses on reports, sometimes by military pilots, of fleeting apparitions, but with no more evidence of an extraterrestrial origin than has been supplied by the billions of cell phone cameras.”   

“The media continues to keep the extraterrestrials idea alive; one consequence is this 2021 report. Following WW II the Air Force was involved in studies that went on for about two decades.  These resulted in the Condon Report that concluded that continued study of the UFO phenomenon was not scientifically warranted.  This report was submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, which concurred with its conclusions.”

The best analysis to date of the Pentagon’s UAP sightings by Mick West.

Curated by the Daily Galaxy Editorial Staff

 

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One Response to “World’s Astronomers Comment on NASA’s New UAP/UFO Study (Revised and Expanded)”

  1. Ken McKeon says:

    I spent my late childhood reading all the SciFi I could carry home from the local library.. please keep posting.

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