70-year-old astronomy photos may be clues to alien visitors — study

On a series In 70-year-old photographs containing images of the night sky, some astronomers say they have found something strange: flashes of light that appear and disappear, like ghosts.

“We found an image where nine stars were out there, and they disappeared. And they weren’t there half an hour before, and six days later they weren’t there,” said Beatriz Villarroel, a postdoctoral researcher at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics. “And you wonder, ‘Is this real?'”

There isn’t any astronomical explanation available for what these vanishing points of light, which researchers call transients, might be. The dots could be defects in photographic emulsions or imaging artifacts from when astronomers first scanned the arrays. But in a recent series of papers, Villarroel and a small team of astronomers more seriously studied the possibility that lightning could be something more interesting – extraterrestrial objects.

A shiny, spinning object passing by the Earth will leave a dotted line in the long exposure image of the night sky. Asteroids or meteorites aren’t likely to look that way – most asteroids are dark, and meteors move so quickly that they look like streaks of color. And, most intriguingly to the researchers, there weren’t any satellites in the night sky when the image was taken, as all the plates were there prior to Sputnik’s launch.

However, Villarroel and colleagues have not yet ruled out Earth-based explanations for these tantalizing dots. And there’s a long history of events related to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) coming under closer scrutiny.

What they found – The vanishing dots made Villarroel so excited to appear for the first time as part of a search for more ordinary astronomical phenomena. There are some things in the universe that will shine brightly for a short time and then disappear again, such as supernovas, actively feeding black holes, star flares, and more. But finding these fleeting objects is nearly impossible today because thousands of satellites and millions of space debris are in orbit around the Earth, many of which appear as flashes of light in galaxies. night sky photo.

“The whole sky today is filled with transients from all the space debris,” Villarroel said.

So she and other astronomers turned to night sky pictures taken before the satellite era. Beginning in the late 19th century, astronomers conducted surveys of the night sky, using telescopes and photographic plates to image large swaths of the universe as seen from Earth. Villarroel used a series of panels from the Palomar Observatory’s Sky Survey, which operated from 1949 to 1958 and covered most of the sky as viewed from the northern hemisphere, to look for transitions.

One of the panels has a vanishing point source. Villarroel et al

Her research is part of the VASCO (VASCO) project, along with a citizen science project, which is searching for transient sources of light in the night sky. But after carefully examining the discs, Villarroel and her colleagues noticed something odd: Nine bright dots, all in a straight line, appeared in just one disc from April 12, 1950. do not look like supernovas and their quasars. d is often found, appearing only as single points.

In an article published in Scientific reports in 2021, scientists take a closer look at nine transitions to see if they can find a more normal explanation for them. They ruled out astrophysics, transits, asteroids, and other known light sources. They say the dots could come from contamination from nuclear fallout – it was the era of nuclear experiment anyway. But no known trial had occurred in 1950. Villarroel and her colleagues suggest that opens the door to other explanations. Like an extraterrestrial spaceship.

A second plate with the “missing” transition. Villarroel et al

Want to believe – In the next two papers, the researchers take that idea more seriously. In an article in Acta Astronautica Published in 2022, they explore ways to find similar instances of transitions in other images, laying the groundwork for future research. And in a paper published in 2022 for preprint servers, arXiv (Which means it has yet to be evaluated by colleagues), the researchers detail other cases of transient flashes of light that appear to line up.

Villarroel of course didn’t say it was an alien. “We’re very careful when we write our papers, because we’re not sure if they’re real,” she said. “We need to always assume that is the most boring explanation.”

Paul Horowitz, professor emeritus of physics and electrical engineering at Harvard and a member of the ET-hunting PANOSETI project, who was not involved in the study, said:

He had used Palomar plates earlier in his career, he said, and the presence of strange flashes did not surprise him.

“There will be these things we call Kodak stars, which are basically nipple opacities,” says Horowitz. “The movie is full of such things. If you watch enough of these, and there are a lot of them, you’ll find artifacts. “

He also shows that the object, if present, need not be in a geosynchronous orbit, as suggested by Villarroel and her co-authors. Depending on how often it flashes and how long it lasts, an object can appear as a sequence of dots over a long period of exposure at a range of distances, from within the Earth’s atmosphere to farther than our planet. That means anything on the disk could be something launched from Earth.

Animation to show the difference between panels. Villarroel et al

Eliot Gillum, director of SETI optics at the SETI Institute, said an object on the ground could be the best explanation for the flashing lights. Inverse. While there weren’t any satellites in 1950, the US government had begun testing the rocket a few years earlier, drawing on the expertise of Nazi-era scientists brought to the US after the World War. Monday. Gillum points out that there are several military bases near the Palomar Observatory, any of which may have been rocket-launched in 1950. He said the flashes could have come from an activity is called a roll program or from debris that breaks off after launch.

There is also plenty of precedent for seemingly mythical observations that turn out to be far more trivial. In 1962, two French astronomers were shocked to discover that the stars they were observing were emitting large sparks of potassium, something that astronomers had never seen before. Who can do it before. But upon closer inspection, the “potassium flare stars” are just the ends of matchsticks, containing potassium, lit by astronomers resting in smoke at the observatory. And more recently, scientists studying Fast Radio Bursts were excited by what appeared to be strange new signals coming from near Earth – only to discover later that they were coming from a microwave oven. The waves are heating up astronomers’ lunches.

Even if the mysterious flashes aren’t extraterrestrials, that doesn’t mean we haven’t learned anything yet, Gillum said. “One of the things I think is really great about SETI is that it says, ‘Okay, I think I understand all the science of things out there, [so] What’s on the side, what’s beyond what I understand? ‘”I said.

Exploring the edges of science can yield new insights – or, sometimes, explanations as simple as the dust particles that fell on photographs seventy years ago. But Villarroel says that if their study excludes an actual object, it suggests an upper limit on how many extraterrestrial objects could be near Earth. At one billionth for every square kilometer of space, that’s minuscule – not a great sign for those hoping to find extraterrestrials visiting our solar system.

Villarroel said she hopes to be able to study the Palomar plates herself – her team used scans of them – to study the images with a microscope to get a better look at the transition. And she wants to see images from other sky surveys to see if similar processes emerge. It is possible that there really was something out there on April 12, 1950. But what it was is still a mystery.

https://www.inverse.com/science/alien-craft-in-old-photos 70-year-old astronomy photos may be clues to alien visitors — study

Emma James

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