Monday's Meteor Shower Disappoints but Sparks Controversy Over Sending Intergalactic Messages to Extraterrestrial Beings

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Astronomer Carl Sagan said, "In the deepest sense, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves." Memorial Day Monday's forecasted 'tau Herculid' meteor shower, combined with news of a new spiral galaxy, NGC 3344, located nearly 20 million miles away, illustrates humanity's continued obsession with probing into what may exist outside of current discoveries. The existence of 'intelligent life' has led to the creation of the research discipline "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" (SETI) and SETI Institute, which seeks to prove the existence of life in other galaxies. [i]

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Though some information regarding Monday's impending meteor shower was inaccurate, and scientists disagreed on the potential notability of the event, NASA acknowledged a chance existed of viewing the 'tau Herculid' meteor shower, albeit slim. On the evening of May 30th, Earth would be passing through debris trails from a broken comet. Predictions are based on 2009 observations of how quickly the disconnected fragments of the comet are ejected. Following the ejection of the fragments, spectacular meteors were then predicted by some scientists to be visible from earth without using a telescope. Several outlets reported that the meteor event would dazzle the night sky if it occurred. The commotion stirred by the occasion was similar to that generated earlier this month when a Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse was visible with the naked eye. [ii]

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Though many skygazers likely missed the display of meteors, the photos resulting are breathtaking for those who were privy to witnessing it. Many users took to the popular social media platform Instagram to share what they contend are photographs from Monday's meteor shower. One user @bhalden_25, in Canada, shared a photo taken in Algonquin Provincial Park during Monday night's shower.

In other areas, falling short of the hype, Monday's meteor shower caused some skygazers to comment on the YouTube Livestream of the event that they witnessed only one meteor throughout the entire 3-hour event, while others claim to have seen multiple. [iii]

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Charnell Gilchrist

Another Instagram user, @scottlk_ also expressed his frustration at witnessing such a small number of meteors, but shared their photographs with the hashtag "#tauherculids2022."

Yet another Instagram user, @pam.yap_photogrEarthphy, on the other hand, seemed much more enthusiastic about her viewing of the meteor shower. She shared a John Powys quote alongside her photograph of a meteor caught on film in Edmonton, Alberta in, Canada.

Despite mixed emotions regarding the meteor shower, more developing news regarding the discovery of a new spiral galaxy and the acknowledgment of sightings of unidentified objects by Naval personnel reminds us that we continue to step closer and closer to discovering extraterrestrial life. [xiii]

If in fact discovered though, how would the world, particularly the United States, respond to such a discovery? As National Geographic describes it, most scenes depicting theatrical portrayals of humans who discover extraterrestrial life involve crumbling buildings, fire, uncontrollable riots, and the inevitable collapse of society as the world knows it. If the overall perception implies that the discovery of life outside of our own galaxy would lead to chaos and confusion, why do we still pursue it? [iv]

In further seeking to understand how humans would react to extraterrestrial contact, many may remember the Orson Welles radio drama broadcast of H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds." The radio broadcast detailed Martians attacking Earth. Some who tuned in to the radio broadcast heard the details of an attack and believed it to be real. Particularly those who tuned in to the show late are said to have mistaken it for a real radio report, though there was no specific data collected to corroborate exactly how many people were driven to mass hysteria as a result of the show. [v]

v

A survey was also conducted in an attempt to seek out how humankind would respond to contact with extraterrestrials, and the results were surprising. For the study, a large online sample was asked to "write about their own and humanity's reaction to a hypothetical announcement of [discovering extraterrestrial life.]." A separate online sample was also asked to "read and respond to a newspaper story about the claim that fossilized extraterrestrial microbial life had been found in a meteorite of Martian origin." The results from this study indicated an overall greater positive response to extraterrestrial life, but several critics questioned the sample size and selection of participants, weakening its impact. [vi]

Even in the face of critical judgment, the SETI Institute continues to pursue and study life and intelligence beyond Earth. For example, the Carl Sagan Center for Research uses ground and space-based telescopes, radio telescopes, field expeditions, and allies with volunteer scientists, and major partners such as NASA. The experiments that they engage in seek to find definitive proof of intelligent beings, not just life elsewhere. [xii]

Drawing similar criticism as did the unveiling of the 'Space Force,' the U.S. Military's House Intelligence Committee held a "UFO" hearing to address the progress of the 'Unidentified Arial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force.' Unveiling a dedicated task force was described as attempting to 'bring [the] organization out of the shadows.' Despite numerous Navy pilots having reported witnessing unidentified arial phenomena throughout the years, many are hesitant to report sightings due to the negative stigma attached to 'ufo sightings' and similar behavior. In spite of the long-standing negative connotation, the Navy has acknowledged several instances of 'triangle-shaped objects' flying through the sky. Although the Navy has also publicly released some videos confirming rumors of such unidentified objects, much of the data relating to UAP's remains confidential. [vii]

Following many viewings of the Navy's explanation regarding the process for reporting a UAP and the progress the task force has made thus far, even harsher criticism from the general public ensued. Some faulted the Navy for not having advanced enough software to capture more advanced videos. Additionally, much of the information provided during the hearing was lackluster in that it amounted to simple proposals such as the UAPs being 'adversarial objects.' However, the issue the Navy does admit to is that the objects do not appear to have a discernable means of propulsion, and thus simply lead to confirmations that the definite identity of these objects is still unknown. [viii]

In further response to the search for extraterrestrial life, a report from The World is One News states that on Earth, we have taken the first step to what may be "the first Interstellar 'hello'." During this 'hello,' two teams of astronomers will send messages into Space that they are hoping an intelligent lifeform will intercept. The intergalactic message will be sent using a telescope in 2023. The telescope is 500 meters and the largest of its type in the world, capable of detecting radiowaves in the cosmos. The message that scientists will send is called 'The Beacon in the Galaxy,' and will include prime numbers and mathematical operators as well as a number of other details. However, what is concerning to many, is that the message will consist of the location of our planet. The inclusion of such details raises ethical concerns. Many do not agree that scientists should hold the key to disseminating what could be such life-threatening information. [ix]

The willingness of those interested in communicating with the extraterrestrial to share this kind of information sheds light on the possible root of opinions such as that shared by American physicist and author Michio Kaku who asserts that the 'US is not 'ready' for UFO, extraterrestrial contact.' The seemingly haphazard attempts at communicating are thought by some to be self-telling of the nation's ill-prepared state. [x]

Overall, on the surface, the nation appears to be taking strides towards non-traditional approaches to UAP sightings. The presentation of the task force's progress to date did not, however, solidify trust in the efficacy of the team. Continued efforts and research will better predict future outcomes. Should scientists release information uncensored, the spiral galaxies discovered by Hubble we marvel at with such awe-striking beauty may prove to be equally as effervescent. Alternatively, the intelligent lifeform that intercepts our message may trigger a much more sinister movie-like extraterrestrial invasion. Who should have the power to decide what information is safe and reasonable for scientists to release into the unknown? [xi]

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References

[i] Paul Sutter, Why are we still searching for intelligent alien life? | Space,(Nov. 9, 2021)

[ii] Christianna Silva, Meteor shower this week: Everything you need to know about tau Herculids | Mashable, (May 28, 2022)

[iii] CBS Pittsburgh, Tau Herculids meteor shower lights up the night sky - YouTube, (May 31, 2022)

[iv] Nadia Drake, How Would Humans React to the Discovery of Alien Life? (nationalgeographic.com) (Feb. 16, 2018)

[v] Orson Welles, War Of The Worlds - Original 1938 Radio Broadcasts (2011 Remastered Version) - YouTube, (Feb. 24, 2015)

[vi] Jung Yul Kwon, Hannah Bercovici, Katja Cunningham, Michael Varnum, Frontiers | How Will We React to the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life? | Psychology (frontiersin.org), (Jan. 10, 2018)

[vii] Elizabeth Howell, U.S. military is bringing a systems approach to understanding UFOs | Space, (May 17, 2022)

[viii] CNET, Watch Navy Explain Newly Released Video of UFOs to Congress - YouTube, (May 17, 2022)

[ix] The World is One News, The search for extraterrestrial life forms, massive telescope to send inter-galactic message | WION - YouTube, (May 11, 2022)

[x] FOX Business, US not 'ready’ for UFO, extraterrestrial contact: Top physicist - YouTube, (May 18, 2022)

[xi] Elizabeth Howell, Spectacular Hubble image captures 'grand spiral' galaxy | Space, (May 30, 2022)

[xii] SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center (seti.org), ((2022)

[xiii] Paul Sutter, Why are we still searching for intelligent alien life? | Space,(Nov. 9, 2021)

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State, writer Charnell Gilchrist is writing her way through law school.

Aliso Viejo, CA
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