A topic about outer-space and everything in it, from little green men to big spirally galaxies

TED Talk: The Most Mysterious Star in the Universe


One of the big controversies in astronomy this year has been the "Astronomers Discover Something 'You Would Expect an Alien Civilization to Build', and SETI Wants a Look" story. For anyone wanting to better understand the scientific story behind this topic, check out the TED talk above by astronomer Tabetha Boyajian.

Something massive, with roughly 1,000 times the area of Earth, is blocking the light coming from a distant star known as KIC 8462852, and nobody is quite sure what it is. As astronomer Tabetha Boyajian investigated this perplexing celestial object, a colleague suggested something unusual: Could it be an alien-built megastructure? Such an extraordinary idea would require extraordinary evidence. In this talk, Boyajian gives us a look at how scientists search for and test hypotheses when faced with the unknown.

Related stories:

Vallee Collector's Edition Crowd-Funding Campaign - Last Chance to Order a Copy

Golden Orbs from 73BCE

Late last year we linked to a crowd-funding campaign to help fund high-quality UFO research through the sale of a collector's edition of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck's Wonders in the Sky.

Though the campaign didn't reach its financial target before the end date, Jacques was encouraged enough by the amount of interest from collectors to go forward with the publication of the limited edition, and while doing so started a secondary campaign for those that might have missed the chance to grab a copy first time around.

That second campaign is now at 97% of its target funding (just $385 short of its goal), with only two days to go before it finishes. So if you want to grab your own copy of this special edition from one of the legends of ufology (only 500 copies will ever be printed), you can help get this crowd-funding campaign over the line by heading to the IndieGoGo page and making a pledge now.

We have re-launched our campaign based on the initial success with early collectors, who have already reserved the first 150 books. Their contributions have enabled us to finish the research and the layout for the book, which is now being printed in China, with an expected release date in the US of late May 2016.

Wonders in the Sky is a collector's limited edition book by world-leading UFO researchers Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, which presents the scientific research and artistic beauty of 424 UFO sightings prior to the Industrial Revolution. This is the new benchmark in UFO research.

Under our contract with the initial publisher of the paperback edition of Wonders in the Sky (Tarcher-Penguin) we have agreed no more than 500 copies of this exceptional, Limited Edition will ever be printed.

The text has been augmented with many new cases, a new round of analysis of all previous cases, and stunning new iconography in high-resolution color.

Jacques tells me has just reviewed the final proof of the book, and printing will take place next week - so those who have ordered themselves a copy should begin receiving their books in late May and early June. Get in!

Link: Wonders in the Sky: A Breakthrough in UFO Research

The First Martian: A Short Film Inspired by Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot

Delivery from Earth is a sweet little science fiction short film that takes its inspiration from Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The film...

...was the winning entry of the Lockheed Martin / NM Film Foundation filmmaker grant. A science-fiction short film about the first human born on Mars, told from the perspective of a Navajo family living in Gallup, New Mexico.

(h/t @elakdawala)

The 1961 Story About a Chicken Farmer Who Claimed that Aliens Gave Him Pancakes

Joe Simonton with alien pancake

Those who have read the UFO classic Passport to Magonia, by Jacques Vallee, will be familiar with the odd case of Joe Simonton, a chicken farmer who claims to have met aliens and been given, of all things, pancakes by them (It is also, if memory serves me, mentioned in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger):

The time was approximately 11:00 A.M. on April 18, 1961, when Joe Simonton was attracted outside by a peculiar noise similar to "knobby tires on a wet pavement." Stepping into his yard, he faced a silvery saucer-shaped object "brighter than chrome," which appeared to be hovering close to the ground without actually touching it. The object was about twelve feet high and thirty feet in diameter. A hatch opened about five feet from the ground, and Simonton saw three men inside the machine. One of them was dressed in a black two-piece suit. The occupants were about five feet in height. Smooth shaven, they appeared to "resemble Italians." They had dark hair and skin and wore outfits with turtleneck tops and knit helmets.

One of the men held up a jug apparently made of the same material as the saucer. His motions to Joe Simonton seemed to indicate that he needed water. Simonton took the jug, went inside the house, and filled it. As he returned, he saw that one of the men inside the saucer was "frying food on a flameless grill of some sort." The interior of the ship was black, "the color of wrought iron." Simonton, who could see several instrument panels, heard a slow whining sound, similar to the hum of a generator. When he made a motion indicating he was interested in the food that was being prepared, one of the men, who was also dressed in black but with a narrow red trim along the trousers, handed him three cookies, about three inches in diameter and perforated with small holes.

The whole affair had lasted about five minutes. Finally, the man closest to the witness attached a kind of belt to a hook in his clothing and closed the hatch in such a way that Simonton could scarcely detect its outline. Then the object rose about twenty feet from the ground before taking off straight south, causing a blast of air that bowed some nearby pine trees.

...When two deputies sent by Sheriff Schroeder, who had known Simonton for fourteen years, arrived on the scene, they could not find any corroborative evidence. The sheriff affirmed that the witness obviously believed the truth of what he was saying and talked very sensibly about the incident.

I was surprised to find recently that YouTube has a video of Joe Simonton being interviewed about his encounter, and showing off one of the 'pancakes' he was given. For those interested, here it is:

Loved the matter-of-fact way he discussed the taste of the pancakes: "They were hot and greasy...if that was their food, God help them, because I took a bite of one of them and it tasted like a piece of cardboard. If that's what they lived on, no wonder they were small".

(Full disclosure: Passport to Magonia is currently published by us here at The Daily Grail)

Apollo 10 Astronauts Heard 'Music' on the Dark Side of the Moon

The Science Channel series NASA's Unexplained Files is airing an episode on a mysterious incident from the 1969 Apollo 10 mission. Declassified in 2008, NASA tapes reveal the three-man crew heard weird "outer space-type music" while orbiting the dark side of the moon. For the entire hour, the astronauts discuss and describe the music, even debating whether to inform NASA command.

"It's unbelievable! You know?"

"Shall we tell them about it?"

"I don't know. We ought to think about it."

Apollo 10 moon NASA music astronauts

It's a genuine mystery that remains unsolved. For one thing, Apollo 10 was out of radio contact while orbiting the far side of the moon, so the music couldn't have been a transmission from Earth. Also, the moon has no magnetic field or atmosphere that could interfere with their radio. Unfortunately, actual recording of the strange music isn't publicly available.

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden keeps an open-mind on the mystery:

"The Apollo 10 crew was very used to the kind of noise that they should be hearing. Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there. NASA would withhold information from the public if they thought it was in the public's best interest."

However, there's one explanation that is highly likely. Could the Apollo 10 crew have heard the sounds of Jupiter? All of the planets emit radio waves that can be reproduced as sound. NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have recorded the 'music of the spheres', eerie hums and whistles reminiscent of the "outer space-type music" described aboard Apollo 10. It's very likely, but until we hear what the astronauts actually heard, there's no way to know. It may as well be Hitler playing Wagner on the moon.

Previously, on the Daily Grail:

  • The Overview Effect
  • Musical Interlude: Beyond The Blue Horizon

    Here's a jazzy little tune spiced up by computer animation courtesy of Bill Domokos. Or, maybe, Bill removed the filter preventing humanity from seeing the true faces of the performers, The Three Suns.

    This tune's notable for inspiring Alex Courage's composition of the haunting Star Trek theme, as it was a "long thing that...keeps going out into space...over a fast moving accompaniment."

    Those were gentler times when the expanse of space held promise for everyone, not just the plutocrats and their k-razy exit strategies.

    C'mon and sing along with Artie Dunn and his pals, who certainly didn't name their band in honor of their homeworld's trinary system far, far away.

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Waits a beautiful day
    Goodbye to things that bore me
    Joy is waiting for me

    I see the new horizon
    My life has only begun
    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

    Beyond the blue horizon
    Lies a rising sun

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    New Developments Around KIC 8462852

    A new paper on prior observations of KIC 8462852 deepen the mystery surrounding this star. Also known as "Tabby's Star", this F3-type star is brighter, hotter, and more massive than our sun. The mystery lay in the sudden dips of luminosity seen by the Kepler Space Observatory. Kepler's mission is to detect earthlike planets transiting distant stars.

    Speculation about this object captures our imagination, with Jason Wright suggesting it could be evidence of an alien megastructure in his paper The Ĝ Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations with Large Energy Supplies [1], while others claim it's just comets. [2] The basis for arguing this is artificial stems from the lack of flux when it dims. If the cause was natural, like a cloud of cometary dust, the dimming should be gradual rather than abrupt.

    Recent attempts to detect the extraterrestrial intelligences behind this anomaly have fallen flat. No radio signals were detected by the Allen Telescope Array between the 15th and 30th of October 2015. [3] Between the 29th of October and the 28th of November, weather permitting, the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory joined the fun. But astronomers didn't detect any periodic optical signals one could ascribe to alien communications. [4] Barely two months of observations of an anomaly possibly a thousand years old is merely a drop in the bucket. Yet the absence of evidence from this dataset only emboldens those pushing their comet agenda. Which reminds me of a soundbite from Jill Tarter's 2009 TED Talk on the search for extraterrestrial intelligences:

    All of the concerted SETI efforts, over the last 40-some years, are equivalent to scooping a single glass of water from the oceans. And no one would decide that the ocean was without fish on the basis of one glass of water. [5]

    While SETI may only have forty years of observations, traditional astronomers are sitting atop a mountain of photographic evidence collected since the 19th century. Tabetha Boyajian, author of the original paper KIC 8462852 – Where’s the flux?, knew this and took advantage of the archives at the Digital Access to a Sky Century @ Harvard (DASCH) for past data on KIC 8462852. DASCH is a treasure trove of digitized astronomical photographic plates from previous sky surveys from the late 19th century to the present. Upon review, her conclusion was summed up as "the star did not do anything spectacular over the past 100 years" [6]

    Bradley Schaefer disagrees with her conclusion, having pored over the plates himself. His findings are outlined in his new paper at arXiv.

    The KIC8462852 light curve from 1890 to 1989 shows a highly signifcant secular trend in fading over 100 years, with this being completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star. Such stars should be very stable in brightness, with evolution making for changes only on time scales of many millions of years. So the Harvard data alone prove that KIC8462852 has unique and large-amplitude photometric variations. [7]

    Dumbing it down a bit more, the anomaly's been gradually dimming the star over the past 125 years. For the extraterrestrial faithful, it supports the hypothesis of little green men engaged in one of the universe's largest public works projects this side of the Death Star. Just as Jason Wright, et al., riffed on Boyajian's discovery, Chris Lintott and Brooke Simmons let their imagination run wild with Schaefer's evidence at the Journal of Brief Ideas.

    We assume our observations cover a typical period in a constant construction rate. Given the current B magnitude of 12.262 and a decrease in flux of 0.165 mag (or 14.099% of total observed flux) per century, an alien civilisation requires at least 7.09 centuries to occlude 100% of the observable surface of its star. Thus, if this time is typical, an alien civilisation capable of constructing such a structure requires a minimum of 1400 Earth years to do so. [8]

    Regardless of what's behind this, whether aliens, comets or something completely different, the mystery behind KIC 8462852 isn't going away anytime soon.

    You may also enjoy:

  • Astronomy, Megastructures, SETI, and Synchronicity
  • Astronomers Discover Something 'You Would Expect an Alien Civilization to Build', and SETI Wants a Look
  • 'Wow!' Signal Receives 'Meh' Explanation

    1. http://arxiv.org/abs/1510.04606
    2. http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?fe...
    3. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.01606v1.pdf
    4. http://arxiv.org/abs/1512.02388
    5. https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_tarter_s_...
    6. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1509.03622v1.pdf, page 7
    7. http://arxiv.org/pdf/1601.03256v1.pdf
    8. http://beta.briefideas.org/ideas/424bb64...

    'Wow!' Signal Receives 'Meh' Explanation

    If you talk to a member of SETI, he'll probably tell you the closest we've ever got to finding scientific evidence of Extraterrestrial intelligence was in 1977, professor Jerry Ehman at Ohio State University detected a peculiarly-strong signal from deep space using the Big Ear radio telescope. This is the famous Wow! signal, which was cemented in popular culture thanks to a brief mention during the start of The X-Files' second season.

    But now Antonio Paris, professor of astronomy at St Petersburg College in Florid, wants to burst our galactic bubble. His explanation for the Wow signal? The passing of one or two comets.

    He points the finger at two suspects, called 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs). “I came across the idea when I was in my car driving and wondered if a planetary body, moving fast enough, could be the source,” he says.

    Paris theorizes that the large quantity of hydrogen released by the comets as they were passing right in front of the Big Ear, could have generated the strong signal which caused the excitement of Ehman and spurred almost 40 years of speculation among SETI scientists.

    Other astronomers are skeptical that cometary hydrogen could create a signal that 'bright' in the radio frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum --because if they did, radio telescopes would be picking them up all the time. But the strength in Paris' hypothesis is that it can be tested: All we have to do is wait for those comets when they return to our solar neighborhood, and listen closely:

    To test his idea, Paris proposes looking at the same region of space when the comets are back. Comet 266P/Christensen will transit the region first, on 25 January 2017, then P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), on 7 January 2018. An analysis of the hydrogen signal of the comets should reveal if he is correct.

    If Paris is correct, then that gives yet another blow to the SETI methodology for searching intelligent life we can Skype to. Then again, if you're reading this then chances are you're already of the opinion that SETI is a pointless endeavor, because the aliens are ALREADY visiting us --or that instead of Skype they rely on PSI abilities to chat with self-proclaimed Contactees.

    Here is important to point out how Antonio Paris, unlike most of his colleagues, is not hostile to the UFO phenomenon. In fact, he's the director and founder of the Aerial Phenomena Investigation Team, intended to investigate UAPs through the lens of Science. He's been on many podcasts and radio shows, and here you can listen to an interview conducted by Open Minds' editor Alejandro Rojas.

    Should we mourn the Wow! signal's possible unexciting explanation? Certainly not, IMO. After all, as the late Terence McKenna used to say, "to search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture-bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant."

    LINK: Famous Wow! signal might have been from comets, not aliens

    Bon Voyage, Ziggy Stardust (1947-2016)

    There's a starman waitin in the sky
    He'd like to come & meet us
    But he thinks he'd blow our minds

    That's certainly one way to take El Chapo's capture out of the front pages...

    David Bowie, one of the biggest music icons in the last 4 decades, lost his battle to cancer last week, just after having turned 69.

    If you're an audiophile, that's a shitty enough way to start off 2016. But Bowie earned a special place in the Fortean pantheon due to his long-life interest in both the UFO phenomenon and the occult, which had a great influence in his music as well as his sporadic stunts as an actor. His role in the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth is highly commendable for his attempt to capture the inadaptation felt by an alien being on our planet --then again, alienation from the rest of the boring, one-dimensional humans living on this rock is something he must have been pretty familiar with all of his life...

    Bowie's interest in UFOs began with a sighting he witnessed in his early childhood, which was reported in the English newspapers after he became a celebrity:

    "They came over so regularly we could time them. Sometimes they stood still, other times they moved so fast it was hard to keep a steady eye on them."

    This was not to be the only close encounter Bowie would have throughout his life.

    Famous rock stars are not an unusual demographic in the annals of UFO reports; in fact, it would seem that artists are more open and predisposed to entertain ideas that would make left-brained people frown upon --and also more open to share their UFO sightings. What was unusual, though, was Bowie's departure from traditional explanations with regards to the phenomenon. In the book The Laughing Gnostic: David Bowie and the Occult, author Peter R. Koenig reports on another UFO encounter Bowie had --this time, while he was traveling across the English countryside with a friend-- and paraphrases his interpretation of the event:

    I believe that what I saw was not the actual object, but a projection of my own mind trying to make sense of this quantum topological doorway into dimensions beyond our own. It's as if our dimension is but one among an infinite number of others.

    That right there is a deeper insight into the mind-boggling reality of the phenomenon than the speculative theories of MOST 'professional' UFOlogists!

    Perhaps is because Bowie was approaching the UFOs more from a perspective closer to Aleister Crowley's teachings, than from a materialistic 'nuts and bolts' worldview. The Golden Dawn philosophy was not only right at the core of his musical output during the 1970s, but also present on one of his last videos: Blackstar (2015)

    I think about a world to come
    Where the books were found by the Golden Ones
    Let me make it plain
    You gotta make way for the Homo Superior
    Look at your children
    See their faces in golden rays
    Don't kid yourself they belong to you
    They're the start of a coming race.
    Homo Sapiens have outgrown their use
    All the strangers came today
    And it looks as though they're here to stay.

    ~'Oh! You Pretty Things' (1971)

    Androgyny, eccentricity, and the ability to walk back and forth between different worlds. These are all the stapler marks of a true shaman.

    Here's hoping Ziggy returned safely to his home planet, that Major Tom accomplished his cosmic transformation without a hitch, and that deep down in dark caves, the spiders from Mars keep singing Bowie's songs for many eons to come.

    Indians & Aliens: Close Encounters in Canada's Cree Country

    Indians and Aliens is a fantastic six-part documentary series exploring the surprisingly large number of UFO encounters in the vast, remote Cree territory of northern Quebec, Canada. Director Ernest Webb, himself a Cree native, speaks with local Cree as well as scientists and experts (including a familiar face in the UFO community, Chris Rutkowski) in a bid to understand the phenomenon. Although UFOs and encounters with otherworldly beings have long been a part of Cree traditions, it's no less a mystery to them as it is to the rest of us. And the mystery continues to perplex Cree communities into the 21st century. Webb describes his documentary as the Cree's "contribution to the global dialogue on Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon."

    "One thing is certain, with all the stories filtering in from the different communities, from so many different people, something is out there. The question is: what and who?"

    It's easy to say the UFOs are just misunderstood atmospheric lights, due to the far northern latitude, or the military up to shenanigans thinking no one's around to see them. But as Indians and Aliens clearly shows, Cree natives have stories of these unidentified lights stretching back generations. As one man said, some stories describe animals that are now extinct -- that's how old the stories are, and how long they have been handed down. Clearly, UFOs in this region have been around long before the word shenanigans reached North America.

    Indians and Aliens is currently being shown in full, for free, on Australian network SBS for the next two weeks. If that's geo-blocked for folks outside of Australia (oh the irony!), or you're reading this in the future, then use your Google Fu. Like the truth, the documentary is out there.

    For another fascinating look at the UFO mystery from an indigenous perspective, Encounters With Star People by Ardy Sixkiller Clarke is a must read. Dr Clarke, a Professor Emeritus at Montana State University, has worked extensively with American Indian communities. Being a part of their communities herself, she continually heard tales of close encounters with strange beings and lights in the skies. From reservation elders to policemen and basketball players, Dr Clarke was stunned at the number of stories she was personally told, and the consistency of their strangeness. Embedded below is a 2-hour interview with Dr Clarke on the Grimerica Show. And definitely read her book, which apparently is just a fraction of the many stories she's recorded over the years.

    So only rednecks named Bubba see UFOs on hunting trips? Try harder, skeptics and cynics! As Webb and Clarke have shown, the UFO mystery transcends modern America and has been a part of human history. The stories presented by Webb and Clarke also point to a spiritual side to the UFO enigma. The documentary begins with the suggestion of occupants of interplanetary most extraordinary traveling from other star systems. It's possible, the universe is infinite. But often throughout the series, their purpose for visiting our little blue and green planet is often interpreted as metaphysical than physical. It's also a testament to many American Indians (and I use this honorific instead of Native American, for reasons Dr Clarke explains in the Grimerica podcast) that they're willing to accept the mystery, integrate it into their traditions... and just let it be a mystery, for mystery' sake.

    Encounters With Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians
    Amazon US/Kindle
    Amazon UK/Kindle.

    Sky People: Untold Stories of Alien Encounters in Mesoamerica
    Amazon US/Kindle.