This past Monday, a paper written by Silvano Colombano, a researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center, made international headlines thanks to the paper’s assertion that our planet may have been visited by extraterrestrial life. The ensuing media frenzy, Colombano admits, lost sight of his actual points in favor of exaggerated headlines and click-bait assertions… but the deeper premise remains: the idea of alien life is continuing to gain acceptance among the world’s preeminent scientists and experts.

The paper asserts that alien life may not come in forms we readily comprehend — in fact — it almost certainly would need to be vastly different from life we’ve seen thus far in order to survive the rigors of extended space travel. In keeping with that assertion about the nature of alien life, Colombano extended his line of thinking to the technology they may need to employ in order to traverse deep space.

“Considering further that technological development in our civilization started only about 10K years ago and has seen the rise of scientific methodologies only in the past 500 years, we can surmise that we might have a real problem in predicting technological evolution even for the next thousand years, let alone 6 Million times that amount,” Colombano wrote about the type of technology an alien civilization may utilize.

Since his paper made the global rounds, he has attempted to set the record straight about his analysis; explaining that his real intent was to get people to take the concept of aliens visiting earth a bit more seriously than culture permits at present.

“My perspective was simply that reports of unidentified aerial phenomena should be the object of serious study, even if the chance of identification of some alien technology is very small,” he explained.

Within the pockets of the internet devoted to UFO’s, alien life, and the government conspiracies that always seem to accompany them, none of Colombano’s assertions were all that new or original. The ideas that alien life may not be carbon based, would need to possess technology too great for us to imagine, and could be visiting us here on planet earth, are all old tropes for their community. To be honest, even having that signal boosted by a prominent NASA researcher and professor may not have been enough to really ruffle many feathers, but it’s the timing of Colombano’s work that’s helped garner attention.

His paper, titled, “New Assumptions to Guide SETI Research,” came after a series of notable stories once again catapulted UFOs, or UAPs, as they’re now frequently called (short for Unexplained Aerial Phenomena), back into the cultural lexicon. The first was the New York Times breaking a story about the Pentagon earmarking some $22 million for the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, which was devoted specifically to investigating UFO sightings made by U.S. military personnel. Among the sightings the Pentagon had investigated was the now infamous “Nimitz incident,” which saw U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets scrambled on multiple occasions to intercept UFOs in the airspace around the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group.

You can even watch footage from the Super Hornets tasked with the intercept:

This revelation came during a time of impressive scientific discoveries pertaining to exoplanets, some that scientists believe could potentially harbor life — as well as at least two separate Harvard studies that argue in favor of the possibility of not just alien life, but of alien life with technology so advanced, we humans struggle to comprehend what it could even be.

A series of repeating Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) that have been recorded from a specific distant galaxy has led to a debate between scientists who simply can’t come up with a plausible explanation for the immense amount of energy being released with each burst. Thus far, no natural explanation has come close to doing the bursts justice, prompting some to posit that they’re actually a side effect of a massive power source that could be used to propel ships great distances using an advanced version of light-sail technology.

Another Harvard paper released just this past month contended that a cigar-shaped object (called ‘Oumuamua) that entered into our solar system from deep space last year may have actually been artificial.

Artist’s rendering of ‘Oumuamua courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

“‘Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,” the paper asserted, citing the celestial body’s apparent acceleration as it departed our solar system as evidence to support the claim. While some acceleration is expected as orbital bodies slingshot through our neighborhood and loop around the sun, ‘Oumuamua’s speed represented an “excess” amount of acceleration… seemingly suggesting that it propelled itself forward to at least some extent — more so than gravitational assistance and the release of gasses or water vapor would allow, even for a comet.

So, as experts wearing employee badges as NASA, Harvard, and even the Pentagon, all assume a more open and engaged stance toward the possibility of aliens visiting earth… the question remains, why haven’t we found them yet?

That’s a topic we’ll explore further in Part II of this series.

Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Navy