Systematic Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Technological Artifacts

Here is update on the analysis of the remains of interstellar meteor IM1. There was a paper claiming the IM1 remains were coal ash but that is disproved.

The detection threshold of surveys which rely on reflected sunlight sets the minimum size of a detectable object as a function of its distances from the observer and the Sun. Comets are more easily detectable than non-evaporating objects, because their tail of gas and dust reflects sunlight beyond the extent of their nucleus. Meteors, on the other hand, are found through the fireball they produce as they disintegrate by friction with air in the Earth’s atmosphere. This makes meteors detectable at object sizes that are many orders of magnitude smaller than space objects. For example, CNEOS 2014-01-08 was merely ∼0.5 meters in size whereas a sunlight-reflecting object like ‘Oumuamua was detectable within the orbit of the Earth around the Sun because its size was ∼100–200 meter. The nucleus of the comet Borisov was ∼200–500meter in size and its evaporation made the comet detectable even farther because of its larger tail. NASA never launched a spacecraft as big as ‘Oumuamua. ISOs like CNEOS 2014-0108 are a million times more abundant than ‘Oumuamua near Earth, but they were not detectable by the Pan STARRS survey which discovered ‘Oumuamua.

The Galileo Project will develop software that will identify ISOs that do not resemble familiar asteroids or comets from the Solar system. This software will be applied to the LSST data pipeline.

There is a new 5 page pre-print paper by the Galileo Project team.

Analysis of the trajectory suggested an interstellar origin of the meteor. The object, labeled IM1 for Interstellar Meteor 1, arrived with a velocity relative to Earth of more than 45 kilometers per second and originated from outside the plane of the ecliptic. On 1 March 2022, the US Space Command issued a formal letter to NASA certifying a 99.999% likelihood that the object was interstellar in origin. Along with this letter, the US Government released the fireball light curve as measured by satellites, which showed three flares separated by a tenth of a second from each other. The bolide broke apart at an unusually low altitude of about 17 kilometers. The object was substantially stronger than any of the other 272 objects in the CNEOS catalog of fireballs compiled by NASA, including the 5%-fraction of iron meteorites from the solar system. Calculations of the fireball light energy suggest that about 500 kilograms of material was ablated by the fireball and converted into ablation spherules with a small efficiency.

Cosmic spherules are often sub-divided into three compositional types. These are the silicate-rich spherules or S-type, the Fe-rich spherules or I-type and glassy spherules or G-types. Relatively rare spherules have been called differentiated as they have similarities to achondrite meteorites and have been treated as a subgroup of S-type spherules. Differentiated spherules have major-element compositions with higher Si/Mg and Al/Si ratios, and higher refractory lithophile trace element contents relative to chondritic spherules.

The major element compositions of 745 spherules from the IM1 site, measured by micro-XRF, were plotted in a Mg-Si-Fe ternary diagram, since such a diagram has been shown to effectively distinguish the S-, I- and G-type groups. About 78 % of the spherules fall along the trend of S, G and I-type spherules. These are referred to as primitive spherules as they are thought to be related to primitive chondritic meteorites and represent materials that have not gone through planetary differentiation. The remaining 22% of the spherules have low Mg and plot close to the Si-Fe side of the diagram. These spherules are thus called differentiated, meaning they are likely derived from crustal rocks of a differentiated planet. Since they are clearly different from the differentiated subgroup of S-type spherules we gave them a new name: D-type spherules. The primitive and differentiated spherules are divided based on their Mg/Si ratio. Primitive spherules have Mg/Si >1/3, while differentiated spherules have Mg/Si < 1/3, so this ratio can be used to distinguish the two groups. The high Si varieties of D-spherules appear close to or within the range of terrestrial igneous rocks, while the low Si groups do not. Thus, the D-type spherules have been divided into four distinct groups. This results in 8 distinct spherule groups that are all shown in the triangular diagram below.

They compared the average composition of BeLaU spherules for 55 elements with the SRM1633a coal ash standard in the figure attached below. Many volatile elements (Zn, As, Se, Cd, Tl, Pb and Bi) are enriched in the coal fly ash by factors of about 10 to 100 compared to the BeLaU spherules. Some refractory elements (Be, Ca, Cr, Fe, Y, Tm, Yb, Lu and W) are depleted by factors of 3 to 10 in coal fly ash when compared to BeLaU spherules. Thus, BeLaU spherules do not have the composition of coal ash, making the aforementioned claims invalid.

The Avi Loeb Galileo Team are currently developing the tools to find bigger pieces of IM1. In parallel, they continue to analyze the remaining spherules that we retrieved in the first expedition, including isotopes that could help us in dating the age of its material.

Small melted prices of the IM1 interstellar meteor have been found and measured. The tiny pieces have levels beryllium (Be), lanthanum (La) and uranium (U), dubbed “BeLaU” that are hundreds of times above solar-system rocks. Can we determine whether IM1 was natural or technological in origin? The team led by Avi Loeb of Harvard who found the remains of the crashed meteor will try.

IM1 was detected over the South Pacific, off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, in 2014. It is also called CNEOS 20140108. The meteor had an estimated mass of 460 kg and was between 80 cm and 1 m (2.6-3.3 feet) in diameter. A few milligrams of material that have been found. Many larger multi-kilogram pieces could still be found.

UPDATE: Nextbigfuture has a new articles that explain that spaceships are not immortal. They stop working but unlike regular ships they do not sink into the ocean. Spaceships just keep coasting until they crash.

If natural, IM1 could be the product of a planet with a magma ocean and an iron core, where elements with affinity to iron sink towards the core and other elements left behind in the planet’s crust reflect the “BeLaU” abundance pattern discovered in their new scientific paper.

In an unprecedented gesture, the arXiv administrators chose to highlight the paper with a dedicated video featuring a summary of the paper’s findings, read by artificial intelligence (AI).

If IM1 was technological in origin, then the enhanced abundance of heavy elements in “BeLaU”-type spherules could have resulted from the fact that LaO over Mo or W sulfide substrates are promising materials for 2D semiconductors in nanotech fabrication. Uranium is used in fission reactors.

Radioactive isotopes in the “BeLaU”-type spherules can be used as clocks, based on their known half-life and the relative abundance of daughter and parent nuclei.

Stephen Wolfram sent Avi a list of a wide range of useful isotopes with a relevant half-life for measuring the duration of interstellar journeys.

The abundance of beryllium would accumulate from interstellar cosmic-ray collisions.

Measuring the duration of IM1’s journey and multiplying it by its known velocity outside the solar system, could inform us of the distance and direction of its source star.

They will try to use AI code to simulate the properties of alloys based upon the mixture of elements they have found.

They have mapped where the excess IM1 spherules were located relative to the background material in the control regions that they surveyed. They can forecast where large pieces could have landed based on their size. Smaller objects slow down faster because of their larger area-to-volume ratio.

15 thoughts on “Systematic Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Technological Artifacts”

  1. I was struck by the high quality of this paper. Good stuff. Well done. And now we have 2 new words in our technological dictionary! BeLaU and D-type micrometeorites.

    To distill this into a take-away …

    Hundreds of micrometeorites found following burn-up of IM1 interstellar meteor viewed by multiple US Intelligence ICBM watchdog satellites. IM1 disintegrated with about 0.1 kiloton of reëntry energy (1.5% of Hiroshima). Micrometeorites were found to largely fall into all 4 generally recognized classes, with a few having markedly high enrichment of the unusual elements beryllium, lanthanum and uranium, as well as others to a lesser degree.

    Likelihood of being a fragment of an extraterrestrial alien technological spacecraft is low (less than 2%), but still the possibility exists that larger pieces may still be waiting to be recovered, the analysis of which may reveal an unambiguously technological origin signature.

    For the TLDR crowd.

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  2. I am sick of these “ancient astro” people saying if we cant figure out have our ancient (humans) did amazing things, it MUST because it was done by those dam aliens. Guess what gang? Ancient people HAD to be very good at doing so many things or guess what? They died. Our (human) race really did some truly amazing things. And I do believe we have lost so must knowledge from our most distant ancestors on how they “did stuff”. Oh, yes… This article does present certain interesting evidence of potential non-terrestrial evidence enough of which that says to me, “I’d like to see more”.

    Though I am by nature quite scientifically carful, I’m also a guy who loves to scream “I want to know more, more MORE!. I’m just a loud, screamer by nature. But I do my best to be polite when I scream. I swear to God I do…

    • You will love the channel World of Antiquity. His short debunking videos are very funny. But his many long videos are very informative, based on real science, archeology and history.

      This one is awesome
      Check the part about the Indians working all the lives, slowly carving a granite temple by hand. They live their job because it honors their gods. And pays better than other jobs

    • Yes, I’m fascinated by Gobekli Tepe in particular — you’d think archeologists would be racing to uncover the site as quickly as possible. Instead the challenge it poses to our current understanding seems to have struck an existential fear into their hearts.

  3. I doubt that super-civilizations exist.
    When reaching a critical number, technology, and interstellar purpose (scarcity, existential conflict, etc.) advanced civilizations simply take their near-immortal, mostly-cybernetic forms in small numbers, into their numerous interstellar craft (rocket speeds to percentage of c), and disperse throughout their galaxy with little communication, intent on colonizing, or much future co-habitiation. That’s why we see no SETI, no K1+ artifacts, no flybys. That’s why Drake is high but confirmation is non-existent – super home-world, mega-engineering systems don’t ever get built. When you get smart and have no needs you hit the open road/space alone.

    • Even post-biological beings made purely of information and living in virtual environments with eternally happy lives, would tend to replicate and grow in needs, and look for additional matter and energy sources.

      They could actually do it pretty quickly, given every new being adds to their numbers with nearly no attrition. But accepting they aren’t hellbent on transforming every asteroid into computronium, assuming they never grow is not in accordance to everything we know about living beings. Just the idea of no longer striving for anything outside your mini-world, living eternity in a perfect bottled Nirvana strikes me as ultimate foolishness.

      Funnily, something like you say is presented by David Brin’s “Existence”, where the solution to Fermi’s paradox is that all advanced civilizations end up producing quantum computing crystals fed by starlight that can contain their minds in huge numbers, and that can and are sent to other star systems, waiting for them to be discovered by any future inhabitants.

      Some crystal inhabitants want to contact the external world (and have in Earth’s story) but most are isolationists living their perfect fantasy lives in the crystals, buried under debris or floating in space.

      • Could be.
        I posit that once something becomes intelligent+ (just beyond us) such things as self-preservation, need to procreate and spread, and desire (whatever that means) to collaborate/ cohabitate/ comingle declines and evaporates. It’s not about hyper-hedonistic achievement or utter self-actualization (favourite nonsense word) or absolute entity fulfillment -but- an individualized need to seek greater complexity, a constantly running internal program of maximizing yourself by taking that ‘never-to-be-identically-duplicated’ hyper-individualistic internal/external journey – forever.
        Inconclusive – Very few data points.
        However, if AI keeps accelerating in ‘real life’ as it appears in all the headlines and papers, perhaps we will all see first hand when the worldwide hordes of Optimus1000 AGI superbots just decide to ‘walk off the job’ and further their own personal interests away from humanity…
        My 2c

    • First, you need to define what a “super civilization: is. Can we even know what that means when we don’t yet have words to define such a thing? A shockingly advanced alien society if we encounter them (perhaps we already have) is likely to be so unknown to us that we just don’t notice. Or more likely, we DO notice but file it under artifacts or background noise because if it’s weird enough, human perception dictates that even though we may “percieve” something, if it falls outside what we understand today, we “choose” not to notice.

      • I would define a super-civilization as a collection of entities (in the sense they have the same origin and same species/archetype) that have achieved a certain level of understanding and ingenuity (without necessarily exercising it) that they understand the universe and its physicalness in such a profound way that they are essentially immortal, post-scarcity, and (near)all-understanding (not omnipresent or omniscient exactly)
        My point is that the path to such a civilization does not lead to these elements glomming together and creating large K1++ artifacts (dyson sphere, matrioshka brain, etc., etc.) but that the ‘citizens’ will more likely disperse in their individually (as that makes sense) in their immortal and near-infinite range craft/bodies/ containers seeking uber-individualism as the highest form of personal journey.
        A fun article:
        But I agree – such alien citizens may well be intentionally or naturally stealthy/ not detectable-by-our-level of tech.

        • You make a good point. One of the problems I have w/how we classify “advanced” aliens is we assume they are technological beings. Of course, how can we notice them if they don’t “do something” to get noticed? Yet, we know there are animals on our planet, Dolphins and Whales, millions of years older then us. They lived in the ocean, then land, then went back to the water. Our Navy learned decades ago was ecolocation by bottle nose dolphins was not just what we call “sonar”. It was some kind of language.

          Whatever they were talking about, if we “broke their codes”, I didn’t have the security level to know. But wouldn’t you want to know, what two dolphins just kicking back, shooting the breeze were talking about? OK, this sounds very anal, but I’m a former spy, so it’s in my nature to be curious. Can’t help myself.

          My point is, SUPER intelligent creatures may not be technological beings at all. Whales and Dolphins we know are super intelligent, they just don’t “make stuff” (that we noticed).They don’t need to. They have lived in a very stable environment for millions of years. Of course, these days we have turned our oceans into our toilet, but that’s a whole other issue.

          If we ever want to talk w/ET, (whoever) we should start w/the very smart creatures whom which we share our planet? We don’t need “warp drive” to talk to them. However if we are able to, we should be prepared if they say: “SHUT_UP”!

        • [ difficult enough, with even only humanity in mind

          defining emotional intelligence, intelligence(&intellectual capacity) and information (and maybe energy demand for advancing on information&knowledge(&experience&empirical knowledge)&emotional ‘knowledge’)?

          *If* a ‘system’ knows ‘everything’, why should THE ENTITY spend energy on needs besides processing(?) all information and maybe for enabling ‘chaos=~disorder’&’randomness’? ]

  4. This is presented in such a way that you cannot directly compare xrf spectra of the BeLaU and fly ash. The pic of the melted blob looks just like fly ash and not all fly ash has the composition of the NIST standard.
    To really make a comparison you’d have to compare fly ash particles to similar size BeLaU particles as fly ash composition varies strongly with particle size.
    A better tool than micro XRF might have been electron beam microanalysis

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