How a Harvard Professor Became the World’s Leading Alien Hunter

If Loeb’s mother had been around, he said, she would have tried to dissuade him from his late-career shift to alien hunting. “She would say, ‘Why would you give up everything you’ve accomplished?'” Loeb has described his mother, Sarah, as a “discontinued intellectual” whose family pulled her out of college in Bulgaria to move to Israel when it was founded. When he and his two sisters were old enough, she continued her studies, and in Loeb’s teenage years she took him to college philosophy classes. They were so close; Until her death in 2019, they spoke on the phone almost every day. “I realized on a personal level that, up until that point, I had tried to make everyone happy,” he said. “After my father died, I said, ‘Oh hell, I’m going to focus on the substance. I don’t care how many people like me or don’t like me, I’ll just do what seems to me to be the right thing to do.” The criticisms of other astronomers only served to increase his commitment. “The more response I get, the more appropriate it seems to me,” he said.

Perhaps the main scientists do They had drifted apart, but Loeb was discovering a different world of allies, fans, and sponsors. Newly revealed government interest in UAPs has the wealthy wondering how to invest in the search for alien life. This naturally led them to Loeb. He told me, “I started getting money without soliciting it.” In May 2021, the director of the Harvard Astronomy Department told Loeb that an anonymous donor had given him $200,000 to fund research. Within a few days, they determined that it came from a wealthy software engineer named Eugene Gong. Loeb arranges a Zoom call with Jhong and gets another $1 million. Around the same time, Frank Laocian, CEO of scientific instrument maker Broker, who had read Loeb’s book “Extraterrestrial,” showed up on his front porch in Lexington. Together they decided to create the Galileo project.

The observatory near Boston had been in operation for several months, and they were still training machine learning algorithms to identify birds, planes, and other common airborne objects. The goal is to install up to 100 such observatories around the world; To date, Loeb has secured funding to install five more plants in the United States. While the dream is to get the first megapixel image of something out of the ordinary, he says he expects almost everything these devices detect to be out of the ordinary. He told me, “The Galileo Project is completely agnostic, and has no expectations.” I asked him how such an experiment could lead to a convincingly negative result. A failure to photograph the UAP will never convince the believer that there are no spaceships in the sky, only that aliens were smart enough to avoid the Loeb camera trap. “If we looked at the sky for five years, 24/7, and we didn’t see anything unusual except for birds and drones, and we did that at dozens of different locations, maybe 100, we would go ahead,” he said. “

In the week after Loeb showed me the observatory, I joined a planning meeting for another Project Galileo initiative, the effort to recover an unusual meteorite that had fallen to Earth. Several years ago, Amir Siraj, a Harvard undergraduate working with Loeb, identified a strange entry in a government database of meteorites: On January 8, 2014, an object exploded near Papua New Guinea. Its orbit indicates that its origin is outside our solar system, although it was impossible to say for sure because the government satellites that spotted it were classified. In 2022, after much prodding from Loeb, the US Space Command released a message saying with “99.999 percent confidence” that the Papua New Guinea fireball was among the stars. The government has also published a meteor light curve, a graph of its brightness over time. From this, Loeb reasoned, it exploded so close to Earth’s surface that it must have been made of something much harder than ordinary meteorites, perhaps even an industrial alloy like stainless steel. Which made him wonder: What if it was a probe from outside the Earth? Can he find her remains?

If anything remains of this meteorite, or extraterrestrial probe, it was scattered across the sea floor north of Papua New Guinea. When meteorites burn up in the atmosphere, the molten residue condenses into sand-sized orbs called globules that flow down to Earth like sparkles. The logistics of searching for these pellets under several thousand feet of water were arduous, but there was reason to believe it could be done. And in 2018, scientists used remotely operated vehicles and a “magnetic comb” to find pellets from a meteorite that fell off the coast of Washington. Encouraged by this venture, Loeb and Siraj began to consider going after the Papua New Guinea meteorite. Charles Hoskinson, a mathematician who has made a fortune in cryptocurrency, overheard Loeb talking about the meteorite on a podcast and pledged $1.5 million to research. To figure out the logistics, they turned to EYOS Expeditions, the company that helped director James Cameron dive into the 36,000-foot-deep Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. They planned to go to sea later in the spring.

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