Astronomers should be prepared to take a closer look at strange objects in the sky
When buying a new phone or tablet, it’s common to select the best technology that meets your needs within the available budget. This is also the strategy adopted by our Research Team to Galileo Project, a new initiative to image Unidentified aerial phenomena (PAU) like these reported by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to the US Congress on June 25, 2021.
Much to my amusement, I recently stumbled upon an online retailer that would allow us to “add to the basket” a one-meter telescope for half a million dollars. Fortunately, cheaper telescopes are all that is needed to study the sky at the correct resolution to identify PSU.
Under typical weather conditions, the Earth’s atmosphere is opaque to infrared light beyond a distance of about 10 kilometers or less. Solving a cell phone-sized feature on the surface of a PAN at this distance requires a telescope diameter of the order of 10 centimeters. Having a few telescopes of this type at a given site will allow us to follow the movement of an object in three dimensions. These telescopes could be supplemented by a radar system that would distinguish a physical object in the sky from a weather model or a mirage.
If UAPs are solid objects, they should heat as they rub against the air at high speed. The surfaces of objects that move through air faster than sound, like supersonic airplanes or space rockets, are heated to hundreds of degrees. I calculate that the infrared glow of fast-moving objects larger than one meter in size, supplemented by the heat from shock waves in the air around them or from a motor they are carrying, should be detectable with infrared sensors on the telescopes at the desired distance.
Data from an optical, infrared or radio telescope system will be transmitted to state-of-the-art video cameras linked to software that will filter out objects of interest that the telescope can track. If a bird flies over a common astronomical observatory, it will be ignored. The Galileo-Scopes will follow him. Drones or man-made planes might be of great interest to some residents of Washington, DC, but they are as uninteresting as birds to Project Galileo.
My student Amir Siraj and I calculated that the number of PANs described in the ODNI report is approximately one object per hundred thousand square kilometers per year (with large uncertainties up to a factor of 100). That’s well below the rate of unidentified objects from cellphone photographs or civilian eyewitness testimony, implying that many of these unofficial sightings may have trivial explanations. Millions of cell phones with millimeter apertures are smaller than what Galileo offers: a much smaller number of optimized telescope systems with 100 times larger apertures that are designed to quickly track PANs.
The iceberg of classified reports, only the tip of which has been publicly exposed, may contain higher quality images than those made public. Galileo’s goal is to capture new, sharp images with better instruments than those ever used by civilians. The full dataset of the project will be open, while much of the data associated with the ODNI report is classified as it was obtained by government-owned sensors. Because the sky is unclassified, Galileo-Scopes will function like common astronomical telescopes, except that they will focus on nearby objects. We aim to change the intellectual landscape of UAP studies by integrating them into the mainstream of credible scientific research.
In my book Extraterrestrial, published six months ago, I argued that the introduction of technological relics research into mainstream astronomy would attract new funds and young talent to science. In recent weeks, this forecast has become a reality. The Galileo project has attracted millions of dollars private donors and thousands of committed volunteers who volunteered their time and resources. Given the low incidence of UAP reported by ODNI, however, the project will need hundreds of telescopes to find the UAP over a few years. This is an order of magnitude more funding than what we have raised so far.
With good enough data, extraterrestrial technologies can be distinguished from terrestrial technologies or natural objects. The Galileo project will attempt to obtain this data from UAPs and unusual interstellar objects such as `Oumuamua.
If the inhabitants of the prehistoric caves discovered a cell phone, they would first assume that it is a shiny rock of a type never seen before. But it could be the start of their learning experience. By pressing buttons on this strange rock, these early humans recorded voices and images.
Likewise, the strange `Oumuamua has been interpreted as a new type of asteroid, such as a frozen piece of pure hydrogen Where nitrogen. But what if high-resolution images of such a strange object revealed pimples? This could prompt us to learn more by landing on the surface, just like the OSIRIS-REx the machine recently landed on the asteroid Bennu. Here is hoping that astronomers will be open-minded enough to check.
This is an opinion and analysis article; the opinions expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of American scientist.