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Somewhere in the Skies: Book Review & Exclusive Excerpt

Ryan Sprague is, as many of the people I admire the most in this field, a man who wears several hats: He's not only a professional playwright and screenwriter, but also has a life-long passion about the UFO topic, every since he had an impactful observation of a triangular object at the tender age of 12 years old.

Mind you, he's not a UFOlogist per se (at least, he doesn't like to use the label… another thing we agree upon!). Instead he prefers to present himself before the witnesses he interviews in his investigations as a 'journalist', and that is exactly the approach he used when he decided to write 'Somewhere in the Skies': Putting the witness at the forefront and let THEM tell the story of what allegedly happened to them in their own words; without any judgement, bias, or established agenda of what it is they exactly experienced.

Believe me, if this book was only about cool or never-before-published close encounters, I wouldn't have bothered in reading it in the first place --my days of getting 'a hard on' by consuming what my friend Greg Bishop calls 'UFO Porno' are long gone. Where 'Somewhere in the Skies' stands out among the rest, though, is twofold: First, it covers THE WHOLE GAMUT of otherworldly encounters, from the blissful to the totally terrifying and with people from all walks of life --even former military personnel-- showing how the response elicited by the phenomena can be as varied as the particulars of the witness itself; some of them may see something incredible that challenges all of their preconceptions about Reality or how the world is supposed to operate, and then move on with their lives; others may end up being so totally shaken up by the experience, it completely alters the course of their lives forever. Sometimes for the better... and sometimes for the worst.

It is the 'post-scriptum' of said experiences the second and most important part Ryan's research focuses upon. Yes, studying UFOs may yield us some new revelation in Physics, or even inspire us to conceive novel propulsion systems of energy sources --which is IMO what the great majority of 'nuts-and-bolts' UFOlogists' primary goal is.. that and being FINALLY vindicated by the individuals and institutions who have scorned them for so many years; but in dealing with such an elusive phenomenon thusly, the field has reprehensibly neglected that treasure trove of information which, unlike UFOs, tend to stay closer to the ground and for longer periods of time --the witnesses themselves.

Ryan decided to meet those individuals who are often relegated as a number on a graph by the 'just-the-facts-ma'am' researchers; he contacted them either via e-mail or by meeting them in person whenever possible, to see not only WHAT they experienced when being face to face with the Unknown, or HOW the experience impacted their lives (and that those closer to them); but also WHY they believe it happened to them in the fist place: Is it merely a matter of being in the right place and the right time, or are the witnesses being SELECTED somehow for some ulterior motive which escapes our comprehension? A supposition which seems more plausible, especially when dealing with the most extreme aspects of non-human encounters which are currently referred to as 'alien abductions'.

Some of the people Ryan interviewed have had years to process what they witnessed; decades even, for a few of them. Integrating such a transcendental experience into one's life is not an easy feat, and obviously some turn out to be luckier than others (perhaps because of their particular 'safety net' of strong social and family relations). But among the wide array of testimony Ryan gathered, there spawns a single commonality: The world of these persons cracked wide open all of the sudden, and grew bigger and more incredible than they had never suspected before.

Perhaps, just perhaps, that's just the whole point of all of this.

In one way or another, many whom I’ve interviewed in the
writing of this book described the very same thing: a spiritual
experience. Something just beyond the physical realm had
struck them as they stared into the sky, trying so desperately to
process the mysterious phenomenon before them.

Throughout Ryan Sprague's text, an overall sense of optimism was palpable. Optimism when he interviewed a few brave scientists who dare to study the phenomenon seriously despite the obvious peril to their careers. Optimism when seeing how UFO witnesses and experiencers are creating support groups and online networks which help them deal with what may very well be the ultimate social closet of the XXIst century --interaction with a non-human intelligence.

But most of all, Ryan's optimism seems to spawn from a hope that, whatever the hell may be behind the UFO phenomenon, and the reasons behind its bizarre way to operate, it will nevertheless help us move forward in our collective and individual evolution.

I too confess to share that optimism. And because of that, perhaps my only big caveat with Ryan's book lies in his choice for the title. Because the true key to uncover this mystery may not reside 'somewhere in the skies.' The key may be right here, with each and every one of us.

So let us find that key, and see what doors we may unlock with it.
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Addendum: In order to entice those Grailers who may still be in the middle of a rush Xmas online shopping, into adding Somewhere in the Skyes on their Amazon list, Ryan and Richard Dolan Press were kind enough to grant the Daily Grail with an exclusive excerpt. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

The Catalyst

Being the sole patron in a bar can be liberating. Then again, it can also be depressing. I embraced the former.

“What’ll it be?” he asked.

“Bourbon. Neat.”

Tyler, as I would soon learn his name, poured a generous dose of Kentucky goodness into a smudged glass. It was April 25th, 2013, and I was one of few patrons in this dive bar on the
Lower East Side, an area of Manhattan that I didn’t frequent often. But this was a special occasion and I needed something to calm my nerves. Within the hour, I was to take part in an
interview about UFOs. So it didn’t hurt to have a small bit of inebriated confidence.

As I took my first sip, something caught my attention above the two tiered shelf of liquor behind the bar. Hung rather haphazardly by a rusty nail was a billiards triangle rack. On one side of it was a smudged autograph, presumably from a celebrity pool shark back when this bar actually had a table to play on. I stared up at the triangle, its shape reminding me quite vividly of how my entire interest in the UFO topic had begun.

It was 1995, and I was twelve years old. My parents and I were on a weekend getaway to the Saint Lawrence River, a lengthy body of water situated between upstate New York and Canada. As I fished off a nearby dock at our motel, hoping to catch every perch and sunfish the lake had to offer, I noticed a reflection in the water of something in the pitch black above.

Naturally, my gaze veered upward. I spotted three white lights in a distinct triangular formation. While I could see no solid structure, the stars were blotted out behind the formation. These lights, constant, yet pulsating, were moving over the water in complete silence. I could then make out a hazy red light in the center. It seemed to burn brighter than the lights at each point. All I remember hearing was the water hitting the dock in its natural rhythm. I could feel a low vibration behind my ears, running down my neck and into my chest. I watched in awe as this formation slowly moved north toward the Canadian border. I called for my parents to come take a look. When they finally did, all they saw was what they assumed was an airplane fade out of sight. I knew differently.

This experience at such a young age terrified me. I became obsessed, taking out book after book from the public library, researching accounts of sightings, encounters, and even abductions. I would write essays to myself about them. It was clear that whatever I saw that night stayed with me for years to come, prompting me finally to seek out others who had found themselves tangled in a UFO web. I started to interview people in my hometown. I compiled local reports. I was essentially paving my way to finally branch out and begin writing for several alternative publications on the topic. And thus, my career as a UFO journalist had ostensibly begun. And while most days consisted of interviewing others, the proverbial pen (and camera) were now being flipped onto me.

My colleague Peter Robbins and I were to be interviewed by a research group out of Copenhagen, Denmark. Their focus: the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident which occurred near a military base in rural East Anglia, England. Over three consecutive days, U.S. military personnel witnessed a craft of unknown origin land in the forest that surrounded their base. One witness also stated that the craft had adversely affected nuclear ordnance stored in nearby bunkers. A strategic coverup was set in motion days after the events, keeping the entire Rendlesham incident under wraps for years to follow. Robbins had co-written a British best-selling book about the incident, along with one of the key witnesses and the original whistle-
blower, Larry Warren. The book, Left at East Gate: A First-Hand Account of the Bentwaters-Woodbridge UFO Incident, Its Cover-Up and Investigation, remains the best-documented account of this deeply controversial case.

My involvement in the case was peripheral, consisting specifically of a stage play I was developing at the time. The play would chronicle the ten year journey it took Robbins and Warren to write the book. Robbins, having a strong theatre background, embraced my endeavor with open arms. It was a match made in ufological/theatrical heaven. And I was very excited to share my own thoughts on the case.

“Brings ya down here, man?” Tyler asked.

“Being interviewed for a Danish television show,” I responded.

His ears perked. This clearly wasn’t the answer he was expecting.

“What’s the interview about?” he asked.

“An incident that occurred on a military base in England.”

“Heavy. What happened?”

“About eighty personnel witnessed some... strange stuff.”

He pressed on. “What was strange about it?”

I was cornered. I had no choice. What I said next would either make or break the conversation. I’d experienced this conundrum many times before, and I was ready to immediately be shrugged off.

“It was a UFO sighting.”

You could hear a pin drop. Rather impressive for lower Manhattan.

“UFOs. That’s uh... that’s...”

He was done. I went to take a sip from my glass when Tyler suddenly slapped his hand on the bar, a sharp echo bouncing off the empty brick walls, causing me to dribble the bourbon down the front of me.

“Fucking awesome!”

He proceeded to throw down a coaster next to my drink, quickly rounding the bar and sat next to me.

“So are you like, a ufologist or something?”

I hadn’t lost him after all.

“Journalist,” I bit back. The term, ufology, had always rubbed me the wrong way. While it was indeed a topic of study, I never considered myself knowledgeable enough to stamp the “ologist” on my forehead. At least, not yet.

“Ever heard of the Phoenix Lights?” Tyler asked.

I had indeed. I had actually written extensively about the Phoenix Lights incident in past articles. The incident occurred on Thursday, March 13th, 1997, in and around the areas of Phoenix, AZ and Sonora, Mexico. Hundreds of individuals witnessed variouslights and v-shaped craft floating through the night skies. Their testimony was only strengthened when the Arizona governor at the time, Fife Symington, also came forward to say he’d witnessed the event. Not only had I written
about these events, but I had personally spoken with half a dozen witnesses who were directly involved. Tyler would now make lucky number seven. He went on to describe his sighting in great detail, a rush of excitement consuming him. I watched his eyes shut tightly as he tried recalling street names, his arms flailing like helpless ribbons taped to a desk fan. His wingspan
was impressive as he went on to describe the enormity of a craft, once again in a v-shaped formation, that hung silently in the Arizona sky that night. Every word seemed like a confes-
sion. Something he had pushed down so deep for so long. He began to sweat as he fell further into his own memory, living out every moment in great detail.

I couldn’t help but revel in this situation. I had walked into a random bar in a random neighborhood on a random day that a random bartender happened to be working, and this hap-
pens. In his incidental questioning of why I was there, Tyler had opened the floodgates to something he most likely hadn’t spoken of in years, if ever. He had sparked a conversation that
many had before but rarely admit to: experiencing something beyond his control. Beyond his concept of reality. Whatever happened in Arizona that night touched the lives of thousands
of people. And each and every one of those people had stories to tell.

Tyler told me to stop by the bar any time and we’d discuss his sighting in greater detail. But for now, I had to make way to my appointment. And as I left the bar that day, warm and fuzzy from the bourbon sloshing around in my empty stomach, I headed toward my destination invigorated by the serendipitous encounter that had just occurred. I walked toward the location of the interview to meet our interviewer, Frederik Uldall, and his wife, Ditte. Peter was already there,
dawning his usual brown leather jacket and Indiana Jones-like hat. He smiled brightly, conversing with Frederik. After a few hugs and handshakes, we headed upstairs to begin.

As Frederik prepared the camera, I looked over at Peter. He was making small talk with Ditte, who was playing gracious host for the day. Peter let out a sincere laugh that stood out to me. And for a brief moment, I thought to myself of how rigorous it must have been for both he and Larry to spend ten years of their lives on a single book project. The passion, blind faith, and sheer determination to bring to light not only a case they felt deserved it, but the fact that they had placed the UFO phenomenon prominently in front of so many people who had never thought twice about it.

I wanted that. I wanted something that I could bring to the table that would make people think. And in that moment, as I sat in my chair, feeling like I still had so much to learn, I knew I wanted to write this book. I wanted to write it for Peter. For Tyler. And for the hundreds of people I have
corresponded with throughout the years who all have stories to tell, but weren’t quite sure if anyone would listen. I hope, in some small way, that this book is evidence that there are those
who will listen. Who will relate. Who will think. And perhaps will feel compelled to come forward with their own experience.

Perhaps,reflecting back on that moment as Frederik pressed record on the camera, I didn’t quite know how crucial it was for these stories to be told. Not for some grand revelation or epiphany of sorts. But for closure. For those who have experienced something they cannot explain and feeling as though they were alone. So many others have had similar experiences, each more bizarre than the last. And perhaps they’d find closure in knowing that most would empathize the best way they know how: by listening, reading, and acknowledging that something far more complex is happening than just lights in the sky.

After about an hour or so of on-camera conversation about Rendlesham and various other UFO-related topics, Frederik stopped recording. He shied away from the camera, staring
straight at the floor. He shook his head. With a nervous laugh and a sharp Danish accent, he reacted simply with, “Unbelievable.”

And it was. Most of it. With each passing story, it never got easier to just believe. In fact, it was the complete opposite. As I ventured further and further down the rabbit hole of mystery, I would meet many different people on the way. Some would become close friends. Others would remain on the periphery, happy to tell their story, but going no further. And some would leave lasting impressions on my journalistic and personal life. And it began where most UFO sightings often did. With lights in the sky.

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Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon [Amazon US & UK]

Excerpt shared with permission by the author and Richard Dolan Press, 2016.

Speculations on the Physics of Alien Spaceship Propulsion

Shell Spaceship in Arrival

When I saw the new 'alien first contact' movie Arrival last week, one particular element that made me smile was seeing the alien spaceship leaving Earth basically by dissolving into a cloud or mist. Readers with Fortean tastes will likely be familiar with tales of UFOs disappearing into clouds. For example:

On many occasions UFOs are reported to become gradually engulfed in a vapor cloud. One such case can be found in James McCampbell's "Effects of UFOs upon people": A highway patrolman saw a strange object sitting on the ground in the San Joaquin Valley of California. It was early morning on a wintry day. Suddenly, the object became surrounded by a mist. Then a brilliant glow appeared as the object rose off the ground.

And another:

A doctor saw two large disk-shaped objects merge into one, and the single object sent a beam of light in his direction. It vanished with a sort of explosion, leaving a cloud that dissapated slowly.

This 'dissolving into mist' factor - along with other elements from UFO sightings - have been discussed at length by some UFO researchers as possible clues to they way in which they travel (although doing so does tend to make the perhaps erroneous leap from 'UFO' to 'spaceship'). However, there seems little consensus, with explanations for the link ranging from the effects of plasma propulsion, to reduced atmospheric pressure surrounding the UFO.

So I was interested today to read polymath Stephen Wolfram's length discussion of his contribution to the science in Arrival. Wolfram covers a lot of ground, but at one point he does appear to discuss his idea for how the aliens might achieve interstellar travel (an idea which he came up with overnight, surprising even himself):

Maybe the spacecraft has its strange rattleback-like shape because it spins as it travels, generating gravitational waves in spacetime in the process... The gravitational waves would lead to a perturbation in the structure of spacetime, [and] the spacecraft somehow “swims” through spacetime, propelled by the effects of these gravitational waves. Around the skin of the spacecraft, there’s “gravitational turbulence” in the structure of spacetime, with power-law correlations like the turbulence one sees around objects moving in fluids. (Or maybe the spacecraft just “boils spacetime” around it…)

So there you go UFO researchers, there's another possibility to add to your list of propulsion theories!

There's much more of interest in Wolfram's blog post, I recommend it for anyone interested in high-concept scientific thinking about the alien contact scenario. And one particular passage stood out to me, not so much because of the 'alien' concepts discussed, but a very human one. These days, it often seems to be the case that 'speculation' is a no-no in scientific thinking - "stick to the facts". But Wolfram points out how liberating it felt for him to explore how 'the impossible' might be achieved:

It’s fun for an “actual scientist” like me to come up with stuff like this. It’s kind of liberating. Especially since every one of these science fiction-y pieces of dialogue can lead one into a long, serious, physics discussion.

I think there has to be room for plenty of speculation in science - it's just a case of communicating clearly to others that you are doing so, rather than suggesting something as a certainty.

Link: Quick, How Might the Alien Spacecraft Work?

Further reading: Your Choice of Starships (at Centauri Dreams)

People of Earth: A New Comedy Series about Alien Abduction Experiencers

People of Earth is a new comedy series that premiered last night (Halloween) on TBS, starring former The Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac. The entire first episode has been made available online, and is embedded above.

After a car accident, reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) travels to the rural town of Beacon, New York to write an article on a support group for victims of alien abduction. His reporting leads him to realize that his memory of his accident may not be accurate—but instead a cover-up for his own experience with extra-terrestrial species.

I was fully expecting to hate this show, thinking it would be cheap laughs at the expense of experiencers (whatever you think they actually are, there is no doubt that many people have the experience - and many are terrified by it). And there certainly are cheap laughs, but the treatment (at least in the episode above) is good-natured and quite sympathetic to the experiencers.

And it helps that there's some basic research behind it: screen memories of seeing animals like deer is a central part of the storyline, as is the topic of the range of 'species' of aliens involved (the Greys, the Reptilians and the Nordics).

Give it a try above, and let me know what you think.

Alien Intelligence: Stranger Than We Can Imagine?

"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." Ever since I first grokked this insight from Terence McKenna, I've made it a mission to try and think outside the anthropomorphic box when it comes to the question of what intelligent aliens might be like.

So I thought the Aeon video above was worth posting, along with the asking for your thoughts on what form ETI might take?

When we look for aliens, why do we always find ourselves staring back?

Humans have long imagined beings in other worlds or on other planets whose emotions, motivations and physiologies closely mirror our own. Science fiction in its many forms tends toward a human-inflected conception of non-human life out in the Universe. This view of aliens as rather like us is fine for ancient myths and Hollywood blockbusters, but even modern scientists can’t seem to shake the notion that extraterrestrials’ decisions and behaviour would follow logic and patterns akin to our own. Many of the major scientific projects seeking life elsewhere in the cosmos still rely on assumptions that reflect, above all, ideas about how we would do something if we were aliens.

We in fact already know what non-primate intelligence, of varying degrees, looks like: corvids, cetaceans, horses, even bees.

But what does it take to become an interplanetary species? A major topic, I think, has to be the ability to get yourself off the planet. Is it necessary to be able to construct complex devices, as we have with rockets? Or are there other ways - for example constructing hardy lightweight 'transports', such as mushroom spores, that could escape the planet on the explosion caused by an asteroid impact? Or are we even so primitive that we think interstellar travel requires fighting against the power of our gravity well, when advanced species simply transfer their consciousness or slip between dimensions?

Is this a question you've pondered? Would love to hear your ideas for what form an interplanetary alien species might be like, and what their transport technology they might use to travel.

Apollo Astronaut Emailed Hillary Clinton's Campaign Chairman About 'Space War' and 'Extraterrestrial Intelligences'

Aliens Blow Up the White House

In case you thought this US election couldn't get any more surreal: among the Wikileaks release of hacked Clinton campaign emails last week was one from an Apollo astronaut, warning of the coming 'space war' and the danger in angering certain extraterrestrial intelligences "from the contiguous universe".

The email was sent last year by Dr Edgar Mitchell, the 6th person to walk on the Moon, who kept a keen interest in fringe ideas from parapsychology to UFOs (he was the founder of IONS: the Institute for Noetic Sciences). Dr Mitchell passed away earlier this year.

The recipient (and overall target of the Wikileaks-released hack) was John Podesta, Chairman of Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Podesta is an obvious person for Mitchell to be contacting, given their shared interest in the UFO phenomenon (I mentioned Podesta's interest back in 2008). But it's the content of the email that is of interest, as it seems to speak knowingly about ETIs (extraterrestrial intelligences) who are apparently bringing 'zero-point energy' to Earth.

Because the War in Space race is heating up, I felt you should be aware of several factors as you and I schedule our Skype talk. Remember, our nonviolent ETI from the contiguous universe are helping us bring zero point energy to Earth. They will not tolerate any forms of military violence on Earth or in space.

A separate email requests that Podesta meet with Mitchell and colleagues to discuss [UFO] 'Disclosure', zero point energy, and "the Vatican’s awareness of ETI".

For his part, Podesta has suggested that at least some of the hacked emails released by Wikileaks are 'bogus'.

(h/t @TheUFOTrail)

Related stories:

Elon Musk Wants to Make Humans a Multiplanetary Species, in Our Lifetime

Tech billionaire Elon Musk is a man who has set his sights on transforming our world, from his push towards a future of electric cars (through his company Tesla) and solar power, through to him taking the lead on 'corporate space vehicles' with SpaceX. And today, he set out perhaps the grandest vision of space exploration heard since John F. Kennedy issued his challenge for the U.S. to travel to the Moon before the 1960s had ended.

"What I really want to try and achieve here is to make Mars seem possible...Make it seem as though it's something we can do in our lifetimes, and that you can go.", he noted in his speech today at the 67th International Astronautical Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico. He then went on to discuss the 'long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars'. (His hour-long presentation is embedded below, as well as a shorter 'highlights' package created by The Verge.)

For me, as a child of the 1970s who - after viewing the amazing images of of the Viking probes - thought that we'd be traveling to the Red Planet before the next decade was done, Musk's vision is seductive. Maybe I will one day get to venture to Mars myself! On the other hand, the technical challenges are not trivial - from getting off this planet, to staying safe and sane on the journey there, and then landing and setting up a settlement.

But, when you consider the success of JFK's challenge, perhaps what Musk is doing here is exactly what is needed. Stop talking in increments, in absolute safety, and instead have a grand vision and set yourself a timeline to try and do the near-impossible.

What do you think of Musk's vision of space travel?

Below are some links to news coverage of the announcement:

And, for a view from a completely different angle, remember that m1k3y has covered Musk's plans previously in his Nightmares of the Future series right here on the Grail.

Kickstarter: Limited Edition Reproduction of the Records on the Voyager Space Probes

Voyager Record

Since their launch in 1977, the two Voyager space probes have toured our Solar System - providing some amazing, 'first look' images of the planets - and headed off into the 'great beyond': interstellar space. If any aliens out there ever intercepted the probes, they would discover that they have gold records attached to them, intended as messages from Earth to introduce ourselves and our (current) culture.

Added to the mission by a committee headed up by Carl Sagan (who was also behind the message plaques attached to the Pioneer probes, launched earlier in the decade), the records contain an assortment of music from multiple cultures and eras (including Beethoven, Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion and Solomon Island panpipes) as well as many of the natural sounds of our planet. The record also features spoken greetings in 55 human languages (and one whale language) as well as one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Whether aliens ever find the Voyager records is probably a question we'll never know the answer to. But humans can now access them via this Kickstarter that will produce a limited edition reproduction of the original:

An exquisitely-designed objet d'art, this limited edition Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition vinyl box set will only be available through this Kickstarter. It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package.

The cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay will house three, heavyweight translucent gold vinyl LPs protected by poly-lined paper sleeves. The LPs will contain all of the same magnificent music, greetings, and sounds as contained on the original Voyager Golden Record, nearly two hours of audio. Those records will slip into old style tip on, black ink and gold foil jackets. The audio will be complemented by a beautifully-designed hardbound book of captivating images from the original interstellar message, glorious photos of the planets returned to Earth from the Voyager probes, compelling essays, and ephemera from the project's history.

Each set will include a color, plastic digital download card with a code to access all of the audio in MP3 or FLAC format. A lithograph of the iconic Golden Record cover diagram, printed with gold metallic ink on archival paper, will complete the box set.

Head over to the project's Kickstarter page to learn more, including the various rewards on offer for backers.

Link: Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition

Related stories:

Space Probe Found on Comet

Philae Lander Found on Asteroid

There's something otherworldly, if you'll pardon the unintended pun, about looking at a photo of an asteroid traveling through outer space which clearly shows manmade technology sitting on its rocky surface. A few days ago, the Rosetta probe orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was able to image the Philae probe which landed on the comet in late 2014.

The images were taken on 2 September by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera as the orbiter came within 2.7 km of the surface and clearly show the main body of the lander, along with two of its three legs. The images also provide proof of Philae’s orientation, making it clear why establishing communications was so difficult following its landing on 12 November 2014.

Philae was last seen when it first touched down at Agilkia, bounced and then flew for another two hours before ending up at a location later named Abydos, on the comet’s smaller lobe. After three days, Philae's primary battery was exhausted and the lander went into hibernation, only to wake up again and communicate briefly with Rosetta in June and July 2015 as the comet came closer to the Sun and more power was available.

At 2.7 km, the resolution of the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera is about 5 cm/pixel, sufficient to reveal characteristic features of Philae’s 1 m-sized body and its legs, as seen in these definitive pictures.

The image comes at the 'last minute', as at the end of the month the Rosetta mission will also come to an end, with the orbiting probe itself descending to the comet's surface.

Now, can you imagine the excitement if, in one of these images, we saw non-human technology sitting on the comet's surface...

More information, and a high-res image, can be found at the European Space Agency website.

Researchers Announce Discovery of a Signal Coming from a Star in Hercules

Not aliens...but aliens

An international team of researchers has revealed the detection of “a strong signal" coming from the direction of a star in the constellation of Hercules (HD164595). The signal was picked up by the RATAN-600 radio telescope at the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Science.

As always, there are a number of possible mundane explanations for the 2.7cm wavelength 'transmission' - which was originally detected last year on May 15 - ranging from passing satellites through to micro-lensing of a background source. But it's still definitely worth looking for a repetition of the signal, and SETI researchers are no doubt cautiously excited.

No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study. Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization. The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.

Signal detected coming from vicinity of HD 164595

HD 164595 is just under 100 light years from Earth, and an exoplanet (HD 164595 b) has previously been detected orbiting the star. As Paul Gilster notes at Centauri Dreams, the planet is "0.05 Jupiter mass with a period of 40 days, considered to be a warm Neptune on a circular orbit". But there could also be other, still undetected planets also orbiting HB 164595.

Geekwire science journalist Alan Boyle spoke with SETI researcher Douglas Vakoch about the announcement, and he confirmed that his team will be taking a look at HD 164595 as soon as possible, using the Boquete Optical SETI Observatory in Panama. Not only purely out of interest and excitement, but also because SETI protocols require it:

Standard SETI protocols call for confirmation of possible signals from a separate observatory. This helps ensure that the original signal didn’t arise from a technical glitch in the original observatory, and it helps rule out a hoax perpetuated by some enterprising graduate students targeting a SETI experiment.

In the past, plans for SETI follow-up observations have focused on confirmation of the original signal, seeking a repeat signal at the same frequency. That’s a critical step for confirmation – and we don’t yet have evidence that this sort of follow-up has happened for HD 164595.

In addition, we need to be alert to the possibility than if we do really find a signal from an advanced civilization, they are also transmitting at other frequencies than the one where we first detected them. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for follow-up SETI observations at both radio and optical frequencies, to be launched as soon as we detect a credible candidate signal at any frequency.

Be sure to read the full articles at both Centauri Dreams and GeekWire via the links below.

Link: An Interesting SETI Candidate in Hercules (Centauri Dreams)

Link: They’re not saying it’s aliens, but signal traced to sunlike star sparks SETI interest (GeekWire)

Government Deception Operatives Conclusively Linked to the 'UFO Summer' of 1947

Roswell UFO Newspaper Headline

In his ongoing research to clarify the extent Cold War spy games influenced public perception of the UFO phenomenon, writer and former intelligence analyst James Carrion recently linked military deception planners to the UFO wave of 1947. His latest blog post cites declassified documents that conclusively demonstrate how a career intelligence officer, part of a high-level unit now known to have been specifically assembled to execute strategic deception operations, petitioned the FBI for assistance investigating flying saucers. Given the purpose of the unit, titled the Joint Security Control Special Section, and details of the documents quoted, Carrion concludes there would have been no other reason for the interaction with the Bureau than to actively promote a deception plan.

The post is well worth the time to absorb and digest. It contains several relevant points of interest, including key aspects of the career of Col. Carl Goldbranson. The colonel trained extensively in military deception and, according to author and historian Thaddeus Holt, engaged in deception activity during the 1940s and until the end of his career. Holt documented Goldbranson to be one of the most skilled deception planners in the Allied service in his 2004 book, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War.

Carrion reports Col. Goldbranson to have been the senior member of the deception-tasked Joint Security Control Special Section at the time he was advising FBI personnel on incidents of flying disks. Carrion explained:

This July 21, 1947 FBI memo is extremely important. It unequivocally documents the connection between US strategic deception planners and early UFO events by relating how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events. Goldbranson was a WW2 member of Joint Security Control and one of its principal deception planners.

Carrion continued:

The Special Section of JSC consisted of only seven individuals including Goldbranson who as a full bird Colonel would have been the senior member. So for those who question the importance of Goldbranson to this analysis, only one question need be answered. What are the odds that the senior member of the principal US organization and specific section charged with planning and implementing U.S. strategic deception is on record in FBI official memorandum, getting his hands dirty in the UFO controversy of 1947? Goldbranson had no reason to be involved unless he was actively promoting a deception plan.

For those unfamiliar with James Carrion's work, he focuses on the 1946-47 time frame. He cites declassified documents and related materials to present forensic historical analysis. Carrion proposes that a small group of U.S. intelligence personnel masterminded deception operations surrounding reported UFOs for a variety of purposes designed to create military advantages. Learn more in his free book, Anachronism, and keep an eye out for his forthcoming work, The Roswell Deception.

I've followed James Carrion's research rather closely, including summarizing some of it in my recently published book along with an interview he graciously provided. Some highlights of his work, in my opinion, include demonstrating the 'ghost rockets' saga conclusively involved aspects of deception; a discontinued classified operation, Project Seal, was misrepresented to be ongoing and consisting of developing an airborne weapon more powerful than the atomic bomb; and, now, Carrion shows deception planners were conclusively linked to the UFO summer of '47.

Critics of Carrion's work typically cite unrelated UFO cases or peripheral circumstances. Rarely do they directly address the material presented. Arguments are common that Uncle Sam couldn't be responsible for all reported UFO phenomena, in spite of the fact Carrion is simply sharing what he is learning about the specific 1946-47 era.

A primary point, as far as I'm concerned, is that Carrion's findings justify further research into the extent public perception of the UFO phenomenon was exploited at the time. It's clear that it happened - relevant questions revolve around how much, why, the specific instances and the consequences.

Jack Brewer is the author of The Greys Have Been Framed: Exploitation in the UFO Community. He blogs at The UFO Trail.