Gazing skyward, astronomers assemble Project Galileo’s new eyes and brain


Over the past few weeks, members of the Galileo project team have been engaged in a truly heroic effort to assemble the first telescope system at Harvard University.

The Galileo project is a scientific research program for extraterrestrial equipment near Earth. The project was publicly announced a month after the ODNI reported to the US Congress on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in June 2021. The name of the project was inspired by Galileo Galilei’s legacy of finding answers to fundamental questions, in this case the nature of UAP, by looking through new telescopes.

The research is agnostic as to its potential outcome. It represents a fishing expedition that could result in a mixed bag, containing mainly (after elimination of instrumental artifacts):

  • natural objectssuch as: insects, birds, rocks or atmospheric phenomena.
  • man-made objectssuch as: weather balloons, drones, planes, rockets or satellites.

Assembling high quality data on the first category would be of interest to zoologists or atmospheric scientists. The second category might be of interest to government national security agencies. But nothing else would be of great scientific interest for the Galileo project. This third category includes objects that appear to be of man-made origin, for example – showing screws or bolts in high-resolution images of their surface, but moving or interacting in ways that cannot be reproduced by devices. current humans.

The Galileo project is a new research initiative. Its new cameras will monitor the entire sky in the optical, infrared and radio bands, as well as audio, magnetic field and energetic particle signals. The data will be analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms which will aim to catalog the objects in the aforementioned categories.

As Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, noted: “When you have eliminated everything that is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

The Galileo project is a new research initiative. Existing astronomical observatories target objects at large distances and have a limited field of view of the sky, while the Galileo project aims to continuously monitor the entire sky and study fast-moving objects close to Earth. It is an astronomy project since it analyzes data obtained by telescopes and searches for interstellar objects from outside the solar system. Its new observation strategy uses state-of-the-art cameras and computers.

Government agencies aim to protect the safety of military personnel and national security interests. From their perspective, UAP reports from military personnel, such as those discussed in congressional hearings, are of primary importance to the first task, and data from military patrol sites are related to the second objective. Government agencies need to know what the vast majority of UAPs are, and to that end, they need to deal with compromised quality data, including blurry video.

However, the goal of scientists is complementary to this. They don’t need to explain most reports. Even if a single object is of extraterrestrial technological origin among the jumble of natural or man-made objects, it would represent the most consequential discovery in human history. To understand this, scientists need access to the highest quality data, like a high-resolution image of an object labeled “Made on Exo-Planet X,” or a maneuver at a fraction of the speed of the light or a set of buttons on a futuristic gadget.

Moreover, scientists are concerned with all possible geographical locations even if they do not host military or national resources. Alien gear might not respect national borders in the same way that a biker navigating the sidewalk doesn’t care which crack in the sidewalk is occupied by a specific colony of ants.

The Galileo project’s innovative new telescope system represents an entirely new observatory design with unprecedented capabilities. As his “Lego pieces” have been seamlessly put together over the past few weeks, my heart has been filled with respect and appreciation for the professional quality of the Galileo team members. In the years to come, we will harvest new knowledge from copies of the first observatory model they built.

These telescopes are the new eyes and the computer system attached to them is the new brain of the Galileo project. Looking at the sky through new observatories is our best way to find out if we have neighbors. What we do with the answer depends on the details it involves.

Avi Loeb is head of the Galileo Project, founding director of the Harvard University – Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and former chairman of the astronomy department of the Harvard University (2011 -2020). He chairs the Advisory Board for Project Breakthrough Starshot and is a former member of the President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology and a former Chairman of the National Academies Board of Physics and Astronomy. He is the best-selling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and co-author of the “Life in the Cosmos” handbook, both published in 2021.


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