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Bizarre Species

martes, 6 de julio de 2010

Where Would Space Aliens Come From?

A reader reminded me that today is the 63rd anniversary of the so-called Roswell UFO Incident. Even if you know nothing else about the UFO phenomenon, you certainly have heard about what supposedly happened in Roswell, New Mexico in July, 1947: a crashed flying saucer, autopsies on alien bodies, Government cover-ups. It ushered in the 1950’s kitsch of bubble-headed little green space jockeys inside silvery saucers flitting across our skies.

This space-age mythology, embellished over the years, tells of an alien interstellar vehicle simply falling out of the sky near a desert town. The only tangible evidence is scraps of wood and metal foil and other mundane debris that suspiciously look like they came from a crashed U.S. military balloon. That is, unless you believe the Government has been hiding all the goodies -- including alien corpses -- inside an Indiana Jones style warehouse all these decades.

Roswell_pieces This leads me to wonder that if flying saucers are supposedly real, why haven't we learned where the visitors come from among the stars? Didn't the Roswell aliens leave a driving map in their glovebox?

If someone who claimed to be in contact with space aliens could give us just a few simple numbers they’d unequivocally prove their case to skeptics. Simply send me (1) the celestial coordinates of the home star, (2) the number of planets orbiting it, (3) their distances from the parent star, (4) and their relative masses. Then all we’d have to do is look at the star and see if the planets were there. Viola!

This has never happened in UFO history. Well, almost never.

A search on the Internet comes up with one particularly legendary place, the double star system Zeta Reticuli. It's nearby, only 39 light-years away in the southern sky.

The naked-eye double star burst into UFO culture in the mid -1970s. An Ohio school teacher, Marjorie Fish, claimed to have decoded a star map from a 1961 UFO abduction case. It pointed to Zeta Reticuli as the aliens' place of origin.

The alleged extraterrestrial kidnapping, described in journalist John Fuller’s book “Incident at Exeter: The Interrupted Journey,” tells how a New England couple was taken aboard a flying saucer and medically examined. Under hypnotic regression the wife, Betty Hill, sketched a star map she said she saw while inside the spaceship.

In the pre-home computer days of the early 1970s, Fish actually constructed a wireframe cube and positioned beads on strings for the nearby stellar neighborhood. She viewed the model from different angles until a match was found with the Hill map. It pinpointed Zeta Reticuli.


This map is legendary but meaningless. First, the Hill drawing contains 25 dots for stars. If you flew around a computer database of the local stellar neighborhood you’d come up with more than one match that roughly “looked” similar to her sketch.

Secondly, Hill described the map as showing alien exploration and trade routes to other stars. The notion of trade between extraterrestrial civilizations is patently absurd. There is nothing worth trading that would justify the transportation costs (at least nothing short of Star Trek’s Green Orion Slave Women). And, clearly the Zeta Reticulans aren’t trading with us, unless they’re getting modeling fees and a cut from Roswell UFO souvenir stands.

Finally, in the Fuller book Hill described the map as a flat pull-down chart (later she changed her account and described it vaguely to me, in a hesitant voice, as some sort of 3D display). BTW the UFO also carried paperbound books with “Chinese looking printing” according to Hill. This is as nonsensical as Neil Armstrong carrying stone tablets to the moon. Didn't the aliens at least have something like an iPad?

Today, the Hill map even has a link to the Roswell incident. According to one website the Roswell aliens supposedly set up a secret exchange program with the U.S. military. Apparently 12 humans were sent to the home planet, named Serpio, in the Zeta Reticuli system. The write-up describes a “10-month journey” with poor food (what do you expect from an interstellar airliner?)

Zrec_DSS The reality is that the Zeta Reticuli system is a fascinating place where I’d expect to find advanced life. The two stars are similar to our sun and separated by 800 billion miles. This would leave plenty of elbowroom for inhabited planets to exist around both stars.

The stars are estimated to be as much as 3 billion years older than our Sun. Any intelligent life that originated there would be far too advanced for the shenanigans reported in Roswell. What's more, you could not place a sentient entity a billion years more evolved than us onto a dissection table. And, it definitely would not be humanoid, or perhaps even biological.

Therefore, it's simply ludicrous to imagine that there really was such a wayward craft over Roswell with pilots of flesh and blood. Over the past 50 years our newbie space civilization has reconnoitered the entire solar system with a pretty nimble and savvy armada of robots. They self-navigate into stable orbits and landings on hostile worlds. At least when one of them crashes, nobody gets killed.

Similarly, a native technological intelligent species certainly would be enticed to explore any inhabited planets orbiting the companion star in the Zeta Reticuli system. They would rapidly become and “extra-terrestrial” space-faring civilization. They would be motivated to develop far-advanced propulsion systems needed to hop over to the companion star. Such a trip would take close to 2,000 years with our present generation space vehicles.

In this star system UFOs could become reality. That’s because a less advanced civilization on the companion star might be able to see manifestations of a visiting advanced intelligence from the neighboring binary companion. Eventually they could decide to send a living emissary for a face-to-face contact between civilizations, assuming a similar astrobiology. It could be a scene straight out of the sci-fi classic film “Avatar.”

To date, no planets have been found around either star. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope did find the telltale glow of a dusty disk that would indicate planets are present.

As our survey techniques improve it’s probably only a matter of time before we discover a family of worlds in the Zeta Reticuli system. And, follow-up observations will seek out the biosignatures of life on any planets in habitable zones. This is a far more enthralling future narrative than the unimaginative fantasy of some space hot rodders totaling their vehicle in the middle of nowhere.

Now, Roswell UFO believers can save us a lot of time and effort by simply telling us exactly what the planetary system looks like . . .

Image/graphics Credits: Associated Press, Betty Hill, Marjorie Fish, & Jeffrey Kretsch, Digitized Sky Surve

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