Despite widespread speculation that aliens visited Earth after a series of UFOs were shot down over the US, the White House confirmed that the flying objects were not extraterrestrial in origin. But what would the first contact with aliens be like? Newsweek spoke to experts to find out.
How would aliens make first contact?
“I think the most likely way we’re going to detect aliens is through their transmissions into space,” said Michael Garrett, Sir Bernard Lovell’s Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the UK. Newsweek. “This is what SETI is looking for – primarily in the radio and optical part of the spectrum.”
Garrett is also chairman of the Standing Committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) of the International Academy of Astronautics. Not to be confused with the SETI Institute, which is a non-profit research organization created in the 1980s in California to look for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.
“We point our antennas at the sky in hopes of picking up a signal that tells us someone is out there,” said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. Newsweek. “The other things being looked at are interstellar lasers – flashing lights, if you will – which is basically the same idea, but with lasers instead of radio transmitters.”
However, even if we detected one of these signals, John Zarnecki, emeritus professor of space science at The Open University in the United Kingdom, said it would be difficult to carry on a coherent conversation. “The closest star, and presumably the planetary system, is about four light years away,” said Zarnecki Newsweek. “So the conversation would be awkward: ‘Hello, how are you?; send a signal; wait 4.25 years for the signal to arrive.’
“Suppose we get the signal. We think about it and decide how to respond. Suppose it takes nine months, then we send back ‘Okay, thank you very much,’ and that takes another 4.25 years. So it’s been 10 years and we haven’t been far away! And all of this assumes that we can find a common language.”
Then, of course, there’s the question of how different governments would react to a verified signal. “There is no agreed upon protocol regarding who speaks for planet Earth,” Garrett said.
In addition to lasers and radio signals, Shostak said scientists are looking for more tangible signs of extraterrestrial life. “One thing we’re doing more, which I think is a good idea, is looking for alien artifacts – the universe has been around for 13 billion years; Earth has been around for 4 billion years, so we’re the new kids on the block. And what does that mean? is that if there are aliens out there, most of them are more advanced than we are and some of them may be billions of years more advanced (…) so it might be worth looking for something that a very, very advanced society did. “
An example of such advanced technology could be a Dyson sphere: a huge hypothetical constellation of mirrors and/or solar panels arranged around a star, which would be able to collect large amounts of energy.
Were we invaded by aliens?
At a February 13 briefing, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said there was “no indication” that the four high-altitude objects shot down by US fighter jets since February 4 had anything to do with aliens or extraterrestrial activity. This did not come as a surprise to our experts.
“If you board our fastest rockets, they go about 10 miles per second,” Shostak said. “That’s very fast (…) but even at that speed, going to the nearest other star would take 75,000 years. So it’s really hard to go from one star system to another. (You would need) to have access to huge amounts of energy , or having too many good books to read and sitting on a rocket for too long. It’s just not practical, which is why they wouldn’t do it, when all they have to do is build a big antenna, pick up their television and learn everything they want to know about us by watching TV.”
Even if aliens did send UFOs to Earth — which are now officially referred to as unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) — Zarnecki said recent flying objects don’t seem like likely candidates for such craft. “It seems highly unlikely that an advanced intelligence would travel the vast distances of interstellar space at speeds close to the speed of light and then launch what look like ‘clunky’ balloons, apparently with ‘cords’ attached to them!
“Also, they would certainly expect to be detected – is this really how they would like to advertise themselves?”
Shostak also said that the recent downfalls do not look like likely candidates for first-contact UFOs. “It is possible that first contact (implies) aliens send large balloons tens of light years into space to provoke our Air Force, but it doesn’t seem very reasonable,” he said. “There’s nothing about these balloons that looks the least bit intriguing – it’s not like that thing couldn’t have been made by humans.”
Garrett said at least one of those balloons has been confirmed to be a Chinese surveillance device. “Presumably the others as well. No need to invoke a UFO explanation in my opinion.”
Are we alone in the universe?
While the recent spate of UFO sightings isn’t evidence of an alien invasion, it doesn’t mean we’re alone in the universe. “The universe is full of planets,” said Shostak. “Most of them are not interesting for life – places like Jupiter and Saturn – but even if maybe 5 or 10 percent of all planets could support life, that means there are millions and millions of planets in our own galaxy where there could be life. .
“Maybe most of that life is just things like bacteria, but you can expect evolution to eventually produce intelligent beings. So I really don’t think we could be alone.”
And research groups around the world continue to monitor radio waves for signs of extraterrestrial life. “Nothing has been found so far, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there,” Shostak said.
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