The British Ministry of Defence has released the eighth instalment of the public dump of their 'UFO files', which can be freely downloaded from the UFO page at the National Archives. Along with the files you'll find a handy guide to the newly released files written by Dr David Clarke (or you can watch/listen to this podcast narrated by Clarke on Youtube). On his personal blog, Clarke points out what he thinks is the most important 'reveal' from the new batch of files:
[T]he MoD’s Defence Intelligence Staff admit that “lack of funds and higher priorities” had prevented any detailed study of the thousands of reports they had received since the end of the Second World War.
The frank admission is contained in a formerly secret memo dated July 1995 and written by the UFO desk officer at DI55, the branch of the DIS responsible for the assessment of UFO reports for defence threat. The officer – a RAF Wing Commander - concludes the lid had already been blown on secrecy surrounding defence intelligence interest in UFOs by a series of media revelations. But he said the public perception of DI55 as “defenders of the Earth from the alien menace” was “light years from the truth”. And he told his opposite number on the MoD’s public UFO desk that few people would believe the “embarrassing truth…that lack of funds and higher priorities had prevented a proper study of UFO sightings.”
Another formerly secret document produced by the head of Sec(AS), the MoD’s UFO desk, in the same year underlines the MoD’s lack of interest in UFOs. The official admits that no research had ever been done on UFOs either by DI55 “or anyone else”...
Here's prominent British UFO researcher Nick Pope on the latest release:
In the clip above, Nick Pope has a laugh about one of the files discussing him not being allowed to dress up as Fox Mulder for a book release at the Ministry of Defence building. He doesn't mention other references to himself though, including the MoD's opinion that he has...
...a long history of sailing close to the wind in using his official position to further his public interest in UFOs... far from accurately representing the Department’s position [on UFOs], he [Nick Pope] has sought to embellish the truth at almost every turn.
I haven't had time to look over the latest file release myself, but you can find more highlights in the various news stories doing the rounds on the back of this latest release of documents (do a search for 'MoD UFO' on Google News). According to David Clarke, there may only be one more release of documents left. For information on previous releases, browse the Daily Grail articles below:
- UK UFO Files to be Released
- The British X-Files (Release #1)
- More MoD UFO Files (Release #2)
- UK UFO Files Part Three (Release #3)
- David Clarke on Third UK-UFO Release
- UK UFO Files Part Four (Release #4)
- UK UFO Files Part Five (Release #5)
- UK UFO Files Part Six (Release #6)
- UFOs and Radar Spoofing
- British MoD Dump UFOs
- UK UFO Files Part Seven (Release #7)
A couple of months ago it seemed that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was dead, suffocated by a lack of funding. So they took a leap of faith, and set up SETIStars - an attempt at raising $200,000 via public contributions (generally referred to as crowd-funding), in order to bring the Allen Telescope Array back online. And guess what: they reached their goal!
Thank you to everyone who helped us reach our goal of getting the ATA back online! Stay tuned for updates. We are discovering more Earth-like planets every day, so now is more critical than ever to look for extraterrestrial life. A contribution from you, today, will fund telescope scans for signs of intelligence beyond our solar system. Please donate and help us find intelligent life out there
I looked just a week or two ago and it seemed they were going to be well short of the $200,000 - so I guess they either got a big influx of contributors, or a few very big donations in the final days. Whatever the source, good to see SETI back online. Next up, my crowdfunding venture seeking $200,000 to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant...
Pretty big news from NASA today getting lost amid the financial panic: observations made by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on the Red Planet.
Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.
Some aspects of the observations still puzzle researchers, but flows of liquid brine fit the features' characteristics better than alternate hypotheses. Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water. Sites with active flows get warm enough, even in the shallow subsurface, to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth's oceans, while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures.
Why is this important? We already knew that Mars has water: ice has already been detected near the surface in many regions. But with liquid water comes a much higher possibility of life - and the knock-on effect from that is perhaps more chance of future missions to the Red Planet. According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the MRO observations bring us "closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form...and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."
For anyone caught up in political debates, patriotic fervour or any other human distraction: a little perspective. We're all humans, sitting on a rock spinning in space:
The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005. Several hundred images, taken with the wide-angle camera in MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), were sequenced into a movie documenting the view from MESSENGER as it departed Earth.
Comprising 358 frames taken over 24 hours, the movie follows Earth through one complete rotation. The spacecraft was 40,761 miles (65,598 kilometers) above South America when the camera started rolling on Aug. 2. It was 270,847 miles (435,885 kilometers) away from Earth - farther than the Moon's orbit - when it snapped the last image on Aug. 3.
(h/t Boing Boing)
A great shot from the International Space Station of the final shuttle mission re-entering Earth's atmosphere (click on the image for larger sizes):
Shuttle tragics will also enjoy this video montage of every shuttle mission from go to whoah.
In this conversation at the World Science Forum, alien-hunter Jill Tarter answers critics who wonder why SETI hasn't found anything in 50 years of operation:
Obviously, SETI has hit hard times since this was recorded, and so Tarter's call for funding is even more pertinent. The alien-hunting project is currently running a crowd-funding venture called SETIstars, which has so far raised one half of its $200,000 goal - so if you want more SETI, head on over and pitch in.
You can watch the entire 90 minute discussion on "The Search for Life in the Universe" that this video is excerpted from - featuring Tarter, planetary scientist Steven Squyres, astronomer David Charbonneau and astrobiologist Michael Russell - at the WSF website.
One Neptunian year that is - one complete orbit around the Sun by the planet - which takes 164.79 Earth years. The planet was discovered on September 23, 1846, and today it is back in the same location with respect to the Sun for the first time.
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun (now that Pluto has been taken out back and hit on the head), the fourth-largest planet (by diameter), and orbits the Sun at a distance 30 times that of Earth.
The image above was taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 as it flew past - the only (human-built!) spacecraft ever to visit Neptune.
A couple of months ago I reported that SETI's Allen Telescope Array had been shut down due to lack of financial resources. But the alien-seeking organisation isn't done with yet - they've now turned to crowd-funding to try and get the telescopes switched back on, via the new SETIstars project:
At the SETI Institute, we’ve made a name for ourselves exploring space. But it’s our community here on Earth — passionate, science-minded and creative — that truly defines us. That’s why we’re launching SETIstars, an initiative to connect us more closely than ever with the constellation of visionaries and supporters that make our work possible.
Priority one is getting the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) back online as soon as possible and once again fixing our gaze on the stars. The ATA is a powerful field of linked radio telescopes that enable countless avenues of astronomical study, chief among them the search for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations and insight into the nature of our cosmic origins. In the wake of a recent funding shortfall, however, this invaluable tool lies dormant and our vision of the universe around us has gone dark. With your help, we can change that.
But like any worthwhile endeavor, the first challenge is unlikely to be the last. This is a journey that will last our lifetimes, as we continually strive to get closer to answering the kinds of questions that may one day change everything about our world. It won’t happen overnight, but with your support, it will happen.
We here at the SETI Institute are making an appeal to the power of human collaboration, and now is the time to get involved. Join us!
As of this writing, SETIstars has raised $31,111 of their $200,000 goal (with 37 days remaining). Supporters ('Stars') are listed on the website, or you can donate anonymously if you so desire - note too that donations in the U.S. are tax-deductible.
If you're feeling in a givin' mood, just remember to squirrel away a few dollars for TDG's upcoming annual crowd-funding drive as well!
You know how in sci-fi movies they have those scenes where a spacecraft docks with a space station? It also happens in real-life:
The above image is one of a whole set of photos showing Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to the International Space Station, released today by NASA (high-res versions available at the link). They were taken by yet another spacecraft, a Russian Soyuz mission that had just left the ISS.
For more on the images, see Alan Boyle's latest entry at Cosmic Log.
There's no shortage of conspiracy theories involving Ronald Reagan and alien life. There's his famous U.N. speech about how an alien threat would bring humanity together, and also the story about his personal screening of Steven Spielberg's E.T., and his alleged mention of how close to reality the story was. Spielberg recently spoke to Quint at Ain't It Cool, mainly on the topic of Jaws, but he also was asked about this latter rumour. Spielberg notes that he was actually there at the time, and, as an eye-witness, gave his thoughts on Reagan's comment: in short, he's pretty sure it was just a deadpan joke.
Quint: Now, I’ve heard a story that I wanted to run by you. I have no idea if it’s true, but an effects friend of mine told me about a special screening of E.T. for Ronald Reagan. Have you heard this story?
Steven Spielberg: I was there!
Quint: The story I heard is that when Reagan saw it he started talking about how close to reality it was and he was quickly ushered out of the room. Is that true?
Steven Spielberg: No, he wasn’t ushered out of the room. He was the President of the United States! Nobody could usher Ronald Reagan out of the room! It was in the White House screening room and Reagan got up to thank me for bringing the film to show the President, the First Lady and all of their guests, which included Sandra Day O’Connor in her first week of as a Justice of the Supreme Court, and it included some astronauts… I think Neil Armstrong was there, I’m not 100% certain, but it was an amazing, amazing evening.
He just stood up and he looked around the room, almost like he was doing a headcount, and he said, “I wanted to thank you for bringing E.T. to the White House. We really enjoyed your movie,” and then he looked around the room and said, “And there are a number of people in this room who know that everything on that screen is absolutely true.”
And he said it without smiling! But he said that and everybody laughed, by the way. The whole room laughed because he presented it like a joke, but he wasn’t smiling as he said it...
Quint: So, do you think he actually let something slip there?
Steven Spielberg: I don’t think he let something slip there, no. I think he delivered a joke without smiling, without a little bit of a twinkle behind the joke. I think the joke landed because everybody laughed, but because I’m a little bit of a Ufologist I was hoping that there was something more to the joke than met my eye. I’m sorry to say I think he was simply trying to tell a joke.
For the truly conspiracy-minded, you can also listen to an audio clip of the above exchange, just so you know exactly what Spielberg said...