Space scientists have known for some time that part of the night sky is mostly obscured from view due to a bulge in the galaxy known as the “zone of avoidance.” Astronomers are now exploring this vast area for various technosignatures from possible galactic civilizations. An interstellar mission is now being planned to investigate alien artifacts and confirm extraterrestrial life but there is still some apprehensive containment of information by NASA which has a monopoly on the truth about the cosmic imperative. Tonight on Ground Zero, Clyde Lewis talks with astronomy expert, Dr. Sky about OUT THERE – IN THE ZONE OF AVOIDANCE.
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since I was on the air the night we reported that the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia. I was reporting on another meteor that had a slight chance of colliding with the earth — but NASA gave the all-clear that nothing would happen. I even had Bill from Connecticut a regular nay-sayer of mind call in and tell me that I was acting like Chicken little and that nothing out of the ordinary was supposed to happen.
Then during a top-of-the-hour break my phone screener, Brian told me of a massive earthquake that happened in the Ural Mountains. He was always monitoring for earthquakes and I thought that the reports of something registering at 7.9 on the Richter scale were significant.
Then I got an e-mail from someone who said that Chelyabinsk a Russian city well known for being Russia’s Area 51 was bombed. I was shocked, at first I was wondering if the bombing was retaliation for the U2 being caught flying over that area. But of course, that was long long ago. But then, the story came over the wire it was an asteroid that exploded over the city — immediately we became a show that was a play-by-play for what happened –and we were even getting calls from Americans in Russia that told us that school’s windows were blown out and that there were a lot of injuries. No deaths luckily.
It carried 20 to 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Its shock wave broke windows and knocked down parts of buildings in six Russian cities; furthermore, it caused some 1,500 people to seek medical attention for injuries, mostly from flying glass.
For a moment, the people of Russia saw a flash that was brighter that the sun. It was already daylight and this rock gave a blinding flash and a massive explosion. Cameras that were in cars recorded the events and the brightness of the flash was enough to completely wipe out the image of the surroundings.
It was enough to remind us that this is all it takes — one flash and then nothing.
Large and small bodies from space strike Earth’s atmosphere continuously. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization operates a network of sensors that monitors Earth around the clock listening for the infrasound signature of nuclear detonations. In 2014 it stated that the sensors had recorded 26 atom-bomb-scale asteroid impacts to Earth’s atmosphere since 2000.
Still, 10 years ago this February, the Russian super bolide was extremely powerful; in fact, it was the most powerful explosion caused by an asteroid since Tunguska. The Tunguska event flattened a wide area of forest and killed reindeer in Siberia in 1908.
The Tunguska event happened in a sparsely populated part of Siberia; therefore, it remained mysterious to scientists throughout the early part of the 20th century.
Since that time there have been reports of close calls where we are told that NASA has detected killer asteroids the size of the Eiffel tower missing us by thousands or millions of miles. To us that sounds like a lot of miles — for NASA these events are close shaves.
About 4 or 5 days ago it was reported that a huge fireball was seen exploding over eastern California. The flash was seen as far away as Oregon. The bolide came down over Nevada county. There were witnesses in a car that believed that the rock had fallen near them and gave chase. When they came over the hill they saw a house that was on fire.
On Nov. 5, the Penn Valley Fire Department was called to tackle a fire at a house in California’s Nevada County near Englebright Lake. The firefighters eventually extinguished the blaze, but not before the house, a nearby travel trailer, and a parked pickup truck were destroyed. There was also a fatality reported, the owner’s dog was killed in the blaze.
The owner said that he heard a big bang and then started to smell smoke. He then went out to his porch which was completely engulfed in flames.
Dashcam footage, captured and posted on Twitter by KCRA journalist Derek Schnell, showed the bright flash of the meteor burning up in the distance from his viewpoint in El Dorado County. After seeing the footage of the fireball and talking to locals, the owner of the destroyed home believed that his house was ground zero for the meteor fall.
So far, the Penn Valley Fire Department has not ruled out that the blaze was caused by a meteorite. There are some astronomers that believe that the meteorite may have fallen closer to Weed California– some say 170 miles south of there near Etna.
Perhaps a fragment fell on its way and hit the home it is certainly a coincidence. His odds are better with the lottery than having his house hit by a meteor.
It certainly is an interesting story if true.
However, this story was released at the same time another intriguing story about what is out there made the science pages.
Scientists are gaming out the best way to intercept objects that zoom into our solar system from interstellar space. The strange part of the story is not to intercept and destroy them but according to the gaming story — they are out to provide close-up views of entities that hail from alien star systems. Sending spacecraft to catch up with these interstellar objects, and potentially capture images of them from distances of just a few hundred miles, could reveal important details about their composition, evolution, and origin beyond our solar neighborhood.
It actually makes a case that there are still some scientists out there that think that Oumuamua was actually a derelict starship — and that it is particularly wise to be ready to analyze other interstellar objects that act peculiar — like accelerating quickly into the Jovian System and then out of reach.
It has now been 5 years since the discovery of Oumuamua which was spotted traveling through the solar system in October 2017. In addition to its sheer novelty, ‘Oumuamua was something of an oddball that puzzled scientists, especially because it underwent a sudden speed boost that still remains unexplained.
Scientists have presented many natural possible origins for the object, while the Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has famously suggested that it may have been a piece of alien technology. If an intercept mission had been ready to chase down ‘Oumuamua five years ago, we might have some answers to the tantalizing question of the object’s nature and origin. To ensure we don’t miss our next shot at rendezvousing with a similarly strange object, scientists hope to develop a spacecraft that can lay in wait until it is given the green light to pursue an interstellar target.
Now, a team led by Amir Siraj, a student pursuing astrophysics at Harvard University, has outlined some of the physical parameters of such a mission, including the potential timeline, spacecraft speed, and optimal distance of a flyby.
Whereas past studies have mapped out the feasibility of the concept, Siraj and his co-authors, including Loeb, investigated the “requirements for a rendezvous mission with the primary objective of producing a resolved image of an interstellar object” and discuss “the characterization from close range of interstellar objects that, like ‘Oumuamua, don’t have an unequivocally identified nature.
It is like ambulance chasing except we are chasing a possible Bracewell Probe or something more exciting like an alien ship or an alien structure.
American physicist James Benford suggested that alien satellites could be disguised as Near Earth Objects which are monitoring our planet. James Benford suggests in his new paper that “A probe located nearby could bide its time while our civilization developed technology that could find it, and, once contacted, could undertake a conversation in real-time.”
Discovering a “lurker” or even an alien base of operations would be an amazing find – and one where an alien civilization could communicate with us and observe us in real time.
We may have overlooked the reality of sentinels sending signals and that there are repeaters sending back replies.
We may have actually overlooked the possibility that in the vastness of space much closer to home there can be alien bases that send these probes to us to do a sort of recon mission.
This is not out of the question since we send probes and satellites to celestial addresses all the time.
Elon musk who has been making headlines because of the Twitter fiasco has also come forward with some interesting news about his launches of the Starlink satellites. Musk has said that SpaceX cameras keep finding something big out there in space when they are on missions.
They have noted that whatever it is it looks like a giant cigar. They have tried to get screenshots of this craft and they have submitted them to NASA and other groups speculating on their origins.
A team of researchers with members from Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and Universidad Andres Bello has found evidence of a large extragalactic assembly hiding behind one part of the Milky Way galaxy. The group has published a paper describing their findings on the arXiv preprint server while awaiting publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Space scientists have known for some time that there is one part of the night sky that is mostly obscured from view due to a bulge in the galaxy. Known as the “zone of avoidance,” it makes up approximately 10% of the dark sky and has had researchers wondering what might be behind it. Because it offers researchers so little to work with, the zone has not been very well studied; thus, little is known about what it might be hiding. In this new effort, the researchers used a variety of tools to gain a better understanding of what might be hidden from view.
Over the past several years, scientists have used a variety of tools to probe the zone of avoidance. The researchers with this new effort started by gathering all of the data that has been collected so far and added more using information recently obtained from the VVV Survey.
The VVV Survey is a project sponsored by an intergovernmental research organization called the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere. It involves multiple state-of-the-art research facilities located at multiple sites. The survey has been involved in studying the stars using infrared emissions rather than visible light. Such emissions are able to pass through the gas, dust and light from the stars in the bulge and onto instruments set up here on Earth.
In studying infrared imagery, the researchers found that they were able to identify several galaxies that exist far beyond the Milky Way. And because of their numbers, the researchers believe that together, they make up what they describe as a massive extragalactic structure.
I am sure that scientists are now exploring this Zone of avoidance for various technosignatures from possible civilizations but of course, we know that perhaps many of them could be extinct.
Again scientists could only hope for the last call from a civilization or one that also is curious about what is out there.
We have had a lot of reports of fast radio bursts that come from these yet uncharted areas of space.
Even though these signals have yet to be proven to be those of an intelligent civilization – they certainly motivated SETI – the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and NASA to up their game.
The itinerary for the 21st century is to find evidence for technosignatures, biosignatures and perhaps alien artifacts from space.
Unusual space artifacts when observed are now kept secret – that is of course only if it can be hidden away from the public— now it is becoming difficult to hide these findings as many people and scientists are closing in on what may be observing us from a distance.
Confirmation of alien life is becoming a constant at this time, but there is still some apprehensive containment of the information that is being doled out here in the United States as NASA wishes to have the monopoly on just what isn’t and what is the truth about the cosmic imperative.
The idea of space sentinels has always been an interest of mine. We could be seeing outposts designed as rocks or even alien material orbiting the earth watching us and then sending out spaceships to observe closer.
Sentinels are controversial but are now no longer out of the equation and quite possibly we will hear more about them in the future as more and more so-called objects resembling spaceships are being detected in space.
Is it so farfetched to speculate that small objects can approach the Earth closely and on an annual basis, using the same orbital period as Earth in order to disguise their movements?
What strange orbits these objects occupy, and imagine the proposal behind closed doors to conceivably contact or approach a sentinel to determine if it has been sent by alien overseers.
Think about it when we set up camera traps and monitoring equipment for animals, we camouflage it, therefore it would make sense that a suitably advanced society would use a natural body for the probe, it can be large or small, depending on needs.
If it is designed to work for a few hundred Earth years then a small probe makes sense on or in a very small body, however, if the probe is capable of self-repair or replication, then the larger body you utilize increases the potential life span of the probe due to the materials available.
What if there is a probe in our system, exactly in the co-orbital location that decides to communicate?
It could run radio silent at first ignoring all our remote probing. Then we would have to send out our own probe to sidle up and inspect it, showing that it is artificial and not a lump of rock.
There are some scientists that believe that this will be an inevitability and that first contact could happen very soon.
A team at the University of St. Andrews says Earth needs to work on communicating with extraterrestrials as first contact could happen any day.
They launched a new research hub to prepare humanity for first contact.
The University of St Andrews has joined forces with the UK SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Network to establish protocols and procedures if aliens are found.
The team warns that although there are measures in place for dealing with threats posed by asteroid impacts, there is no agreed response if a radio signal were picked up from another intelligent lifeform.
It is rather ironic to see that teams that study these near-earth objects are also interested in the possibility that we could be witnessing sentinel lurkers that could prove life out there.
The Seti Post-Detection Hub will bring together experts from around the world to decide how to decipher methods, enact space law and anticipate societal impacts.
Dr John Elliott, honorary research fellow in the School of Computer Science at St Andrews and coordinator of the Hub, said: “Will we ever get a message from ET? We don’t know. We also don’t know when this is going to happen.
“But we do know that we cannot afford to be ill prepared – scientifically, socially, and politically rudderless – for an event that could turn into reality as early as tomorrow and which we cannot afford to mismanage.
“We need to coordinate our expert knowledge not only for assessing the evidence but also for considering the human social response, as our understanding progresses and what we know and what we don’t know is communicated. And the time to do this is now.”
If you remember there have been two science fiction stories that come to mind when this discussion is brought up. One is Arthur C. Clarke’s story of Rendezvous With Rama. In fact Oumuamua was going to be named Rama in honor of Clarke’s story.
In Clarke’s novel, there is a group much like Space Force called Spaceguard. The fictional near-future Earth government operation is looking for asteroids in the wake of a major disaster in 2077 when an asteroid struck Italy. Spaceguard first detects a strange interstellar object—later named “Rama” after the Hindu god in the year, 2131.
An interesting coincidence is that both Rama and Oumuamua were given names from non-western cultures.
Rama, like ’Oumuamua, comes from interstellar space and will return there after passing through our solar system, and is thought at first to be an asteroid. However, images from an unmanned probe sent to Rama reveal that it is a perfect cylinder 34 miles long and 12 miles in diameter.
Only one ship in Earth’s space fleet is close enough to reach Rama before it leaves the solar system. That ship, the solar survey vessel Endeavor, is sent to intercept the alien craft. When they reach Rama the Endeavor scientists find their way inside through one of three airlocks grouped together. They discover the object has a hollow interior with a breathable atmosphere; the cylinder’s rotation also provides artificial gravity. They find “cities” full of “buildings” and machines but no sign of whoever built the object.
When Rama starts preparing to accelerate out of the solar system, the scientists retreat back to the Endeavor with little understanding of the purpose or workings of the discoveries they’ve made. Without spoiling the book, the men that explore Rama find what they are looking for but can’t believe that something that advanced wants nothing to do with humankind.
The only difference between Oumuamua and Rama is that when Oumuamua bolted away from the earth we did not make any attempts to chase it down and find out what it really was—and so our feeble scientists just called it a comet –albeit a comet that had none of the characteristics of one.
Another example of a science fiction story that is similar to what is happening in the Star Trek movie, The Voyage Home.
It depicts an alien probe sending out a message that inadvertently plays havoc with human technology with the crisis only resolved when Kirk and his crew realize it is trying to communicate with the planet’s whales.
Many scientists now think that intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is a real possibility, and Nasa recently launched an eight-month inquiry to investigate hundreds of unexplained UFO sightings.
The investigation into “unidentified aerial phenomena” is being led by Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and is due to report back next summer.
The Royal Society held a Scientific Discussion Meeting on “The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society” in 2010 but there has been no global agreement on how to handle contact.
Learning how to decipher an alien language or method of communication is likely to be one of the major hurdles that experts will need to consider.
In a recent BBC documentary First Contact: An Alien Encounter, scientists admitted it may never be possible to understand what aliens are trying to tell us.
Dr. Alexander Rehding, professor of music at Harvard University, said humans had still not learned how to translate animal communication.
Whales are a really good study, and they are in some ways the closest thing that we have to aliens here on Earth,” he said. “Whales are highly intelligent, and their environment is entirely different from ours. The patterns that we hear are purely patterns that we recognize as music, repeated patterns.
“It is a form of vocalizing but we don’t really know what it’s for. Is it music, is it a language? What does it mean? It can give us a sense of how difficult the task at hand is.”
Dr. Elliott admitted that deciphering an alien language would be tricky without some kind of extraterrestrial Rosetta Stone. Perhaps they could use babble fish — I think they used to have translations of Klingon — I know Google used to or still does.
We can’t talk to most of the creatures on Earth in an intelligent way. How are we going to talk to intelligent civilizations? I’m not sure we’ll ever understand.
Scientists are being conditioned to stick to what is accepted by the status quo in order to protect their careers. Only the older scientists who are sufficiently shielded from professional suicide by having already achieved enough recognition, or won enough prizes and medals, are the ones brave enough to dare to say “what if” out loud.
With that kind of rationale, we are less likely to make any major breakthroughs.
At this point, any interstellar mission is a long shot that must overcome a host of technical challenges and funding dilemmas. If the goal is simply to visit an interstellar object, we’d probably be better off waiting for them to come to us, rather than chasing them out there in the zone of avoidance.
SHOW GUEST: DR. SKY
“Dr. Sky®” is President/CEO of Dr. Sky Inc.; a multimedia company, with expertise in the realms of Astronomy, Space, Aviation, and Weather. Dr. Sky is a locally and nationally known broadcaster, with his own branded shows. The Dr. Sky Show cleared on the big KTAR/NEWS, 92.3 FM.
He appears with regular commentary on FOX 10 in Phoenix and AZ TV, with legendary broadcaster, Pat McMahon.
His college mentor was Dr. Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the then-known “planet” Pluto.
Steve Kates, “Dr. Sky R®”, continues to educate and entertain the public, on the science of Astronomy, Space, Aviation, and Weather, as a true; EDUTAINER!