Shining a Light on an Enigma: Are We Alone in the Universe?

Are we alone?

It would seem unlikely given the latest estimates for the number of galaxies in the universe may exceed two trillion. That is 2,000,000,000,000 or 2×1012

When one considers that each galaxy on average may contain trillions of  stars (1011 or 1012) you get 2 X 1023 or 1024 or 2000000000000000000000000 stars in the universe.

Now, of course, not every one of these stars would have planets. Of those that do, not every planet is capable of sustaining life, and even those that can sustain life may not develop intelligent life. One might argue as to whether or not we are intelligent life given our history, but I digress.

So if we assume, arguendo, that somewhere in the Universe there are civilizations who have developed faster-than-light travel, able to traverse immense distances between stars and galaxies—to boldly go where no man has gone before (pardon the split infinitive)—then the only question remaining is have they come here?

A better question might be Why come here, but I am willing to bet curiosity is universal.

There was a time when the US government went to great lengths to deny the existence of such phenomena, let alone consider that they might be extraterrestrial. But recently, there has been a juxtaposition of the government’s policy on what we used to call UFOs and now refer to as UAP (Unknown Aerial Phenomena) in as much as they are now actively investigating rather than trying to debunk or explain them away. They even formed a Task Force (UAPTF) to study these UAPs.

I wrote an earlier piece about the release of video shot by US Navy pilots tracking a UAP and the question of are we alone in the universe. But now there is more information coming forward. (Click here to read the earlier piece)

Per a provision in a Congressional mandate, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was required to file a report with Congress on what the government knows about UAPs and their origin. The report was filed this month.

The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management

DNI Report to Congress

I, of course, have read the  nine-page unclassified report and would love to read the classified one but I did find some things they reported in the public report to be startling.

https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/reports-publications/reports-publications-2021/item/2223-preliminary-assessment-unidentified-aerial-phenomena

Here are a few excerpts

“Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.”

“144 reports originated from USG(US Government) sources. Of these, 80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors.” (Meaning radar, targeting systems, imagery, and human observation.)

“In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings. The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management.

I bolded this last sentence because it is rather shocking once one translates the government technical jargon. At least the way I interpret the language, “a degree of signature management” means somebody or something was flying them.

Nowhere in the public report does it definitively identify any of the UAPs as alien. They classify them into more terrestrial, if as yet unexplained, origin due to lack of evidence. They postulate the possibility they may be technologies of a foreign government so far advanced as to be inexplicable within our own technological level or that they may be some private or government domestic research as yet not available to the writers of the report.

But here’s the rub. They lump some into the “other” category. They don’t know what it is, where it is from, who is flying it, or why they are here.

I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what that implies, but I can think of a few possibilities given the immenseness of the universe.

And if anyone onboard a UAP is reading this, I’d love to take a ride. I wouldn’t tell a soul, they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.

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Are We Alone in the Universe?

With the recent release of video footage taken by US Navy pilots of Unidentified Flying Objects—UFOs—the question of are we alone in the Universe comes to mind. The UFOs are not incontrovertible evidence alone. The unidentified part is still the key, but their aerial performance begs an explanation.

At one time, people who argued against an Earth-centric solar system faced torture, imprisonment, and being burned at the stake. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest for his contention Copernicus was right and the earth revolved around the sun.

Eppur si muove (and yet it moves.)

At least they let him live. Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, was not so fortunate. He faced the Inquisition, was convicted of heresy, and they did burn him at the stake.

The evidence mounted, science persevered, and the heliocentric solar system is now unchallenged. We now know we orbit a rather insignificant star in a less dense area of the Milky Way—our galaxy—as one small system among billions of others. Many of which have planets.

To put it in perspective.

There are at least 2 trillion galaxies in the observable Universe. Assuming the Universe is isotropic, the distance to the edge of the observable Universe is roughly the same in every direction.

2×1012   galaxies doesn’t paint a clear picture. But this does,
2,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the observable Universe.

While each galaxy is different—some bigger, some smaller, some older, some younger—they average about 1×1012 stars. The latest estimate of the number of stars—something that continues to grow with each improvement of our ability to observe the Universe—is 2×1024.

2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe. Now we’re getting to some serious numbers.

If only a small percentage of these stars host planets and a small percentage of these planets can sustain life, that’s still a whole bunch of potential ETs in the Universe.

On 9 January 1992, radio astronomers Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail announced the discovery of two planets orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257+12. This discovery was the first definitive detection of exoplanets.

Since then, we’ve identified five thousand one hundred and eight ( 5108) exoplanets. Some, about thirty, are in the Goldilocks Zone. Not too warm, not cool, and thus potential locations for developing life.

A brilliant scientist, Frank Drake, once devised an equation to evaluate the potential for life in the Universe. This was back in the early 1960s when the picture of the universe was much smaller.

Each element represents variables—number of stars, number with planets, number of habitable planets, etc.—you can dig deeper into this on your own. But the most interesting element is L.

L is the average lifetime of an intelligent civilization. They are several factors, but the most telling is whether the intelligent civilization can survive the development of weapons capable of its own destruction.

We reached that threshold shortly after World War II with the advent of Thermonuclear weapons. There are at least 14,500 in existence on this planet. Whether we survive to travel the stars is yet to be seen.
(Here’s a neat link if you’d like to plug in the numbers and see what you come up with. https://www.easycalculation.com/science/Drake-equation.php)

There’s another aspect of the Universe posing a problem for interstellar or intergalactic travel.

The speed of light is a limit one cannot exceed, at least as best we can tell at the moment. There is always the imagination of Star Trek and Star Wars (although the very name is ominous for survival.) Yet the possibility of finding a way around this limit is there.

There is another issue. One discovered by Edwin Hubble, the name sake of the telescope that has provided much of the astounding images of galaxies. It seems the Universe is expanding, and the expansion is speeding up. Everything is moving away in all directions.

Expanding faster and faster away from every other object.

Eventually, the galaxies and stars will become so far apart, the light will no longer reach us, and the Universe will wink out. The good news is the sun will be a red giant long before then, and we will no longer inhabit a planet capable of sustaining life.

We won’t be around for the final lights out, but someone might be.

Is there intelligent life in the Universe?

No one can definitively answer that at the moment. A better question might be why would they come here? In such a vast Universe, why look in such a sparsely populated part of this galaxy? Why not explore the dense center with a much more target-rich environment? And if they are here, why not say hi?

Perhaps humans, with their propensity for killing each other in increasingly efficient ways over myths, misconceptions, and material possessions is an argument against the premise.

Maybe ET knows there are few signs of intelligence worth contacting here. I mean just look at…

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