Dr Avi Loeb has taken to the sea in his hunt for tangible evidence that humankind is not alone in the universe (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
More than 800 tiny spheres retrieved from the depths of the Pacific may hold clues of extra-terrestrial life, according to a Harvard professor.
Dr Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist, spoke about a breakthrough in an ongoing project which is monitoring the skies and gathering new objects.
Dr Loeb told Metro.co.uk that his pioneering team has made some potentially world-changing discoveries, with the fragments found deep in the Pacific Ocean showing a composition never before recorded on Earth.
While they are still being analysed, the ‘spherules’ are believed to be from an interstellar meteor and could be ‘natural or artificial’, he said.
The best-selling author spoke ahead of his appearance at the world’s largest UFO and UAP conference, Contact in the Desert, which is due to take place in California this spring.
He is head of the Harvard-hosted Galileo Project which is searching for extraterrestrial technology in the form of objects, including through watching the skies 24-7 with telescopes.
The expedition to a remote part of the Pacific in June 2023 opened up an intriguing mystery as the spheres — retrieved from the ocean floor beneath where the meteor exploded around 20km above sea level — apparently show an unprecedented composition.
The spherules are believed to hold tantalising clues about the universe outside the solar system (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
‘The most exciting thing in my field of research at this moment in time is the spherules from the IM1 meteor which we retrieved from the Pacific Ocean,’ Dr Loeb said. ‘The meteor was travelling too fast to be bound to the sun, so we know it came from outside the solar system.
‘On our expedition to the meteor site we retrieved 850 spherules, which are molten droplets the size of a grain of sand, out of which about 10% are of extra-solar origin never reported in scientific literature, while the rest are made of solar system materials.
‘The next step is to find bigger pieces, because that will tell us much more about the original meteor, and the next expedition in the coming year will be bigger and more expensive.
‘Finding bigger pieces will allow us to tell the difference between what is natural and artificial.’
The meteor is thought to have travelled from outside the solar system at a speed of 60km per second before the airburst off the coast of Papua New Guinea in January 2014.
Dr Avi Loeb has headed the Galileo Project’s search for extra-terrestrial technology (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
Dr Loeb hopes the tiny clues, retrieved via a magnetic trawl of the sea bed, will eventually form part of a bigger cosmic picture, possibly revealing extra-terrestrial technology.
Extremely high abundances of beryllium, lanthanum and uranium were found in the spheres, leading the Galileo team to label them as having a ‘BeLaU’ composition.
The fragments, believed to be from the surface of the meteor, also have iron isotype ratios unlike those found on Earth, the Moon or Mars, according to the scientist.
‘Imagine melting a semi-conductor or a computer screen, the droplets might not tell you much about what the original object was and you won’t even be able to confirm that it was technology,’ he said.
The tiny spherules are believed to have come from the surface of a meteor (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
‘But if you get a piece of it, you can tell if it is artificial, or just a rock from another star, in which case we will still have something new from the yard of a neighbour.
‘I always ask my students if we find a gadget with a button on it, should we press the button?
‘That is an interesting question.’
Presenting his findings in a video to promote the multi-disciplinary Galileo research, Dr Loeb described the spherules as ‘magnetic marbles’.
The finds were retrieved through a ‘risky’ expedition which involved trawling the sea floor with a type of sled.
The composition of the spherules has hitherto not been documented according to Dr Loeb (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
‘It took a heroic effort to retrieve the spherules because the ocean’s depth is about six kilometres and we surveyed a region that is about 11km in size with a magnetic sled, hoping to recover millimetre-sized particles about the size of a grain of sand,’ Dr Loeb said.
‘It was a challenging, risky scientific project, but all the stars aligned.
‘I was able to get one and a half million dollars from a donor to support it and then the sled built by our engineers worked and we were able to keep it on the ocean floor and collect the material.
‘My colleague at Harvard, Stein Jacobsen, a world-renowned geo-chemist, agreed to dedicate his research team to studying the spherules we brought back and the same is true about the Bruker Corporation in Berlin who also helped us.
‘We published two papers last week and we are now finishing a very comprehensive account of the findings in a new paper we hope to submit very soon for publication.
‘The bottom line is that we have found a composition from the periodic table of elements that is not found in the solar system and which has not been reported before, not on the Earth, not on the Moon, not on Mars, not on asteroids.’
Dr Loeb, author of Interstellar: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Our Future in the Stars, rebuffed a claim that the spherules are in fact coal ash and emphasised his team’s analysis of the objects.
‘The concentration of the elements is quite different,’ he said. ‘For example, Uranium is up to 1,000x larger than the standard composition of the material that made the solar system.
‘There are also other elements which are more abundant than in primordial solar material.
A magnetic sled was used to trawl the sea bed in the site of a meteor airbust (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
‘As well as the composition of the objects, we believe another independent argument that the meteor came from outside the solar system is its speed, which was faster than 95% of the stars in the vicinity of the sun when it entered the solar system.
‘A few months ago, there was a claim that we found coal ash, so we compared 55 elements from the periodic table to the composition of coal ash. We found the composition of the spherules is very different and beyond any reasonable doubt is not coal ash.
‘The scientists who made this claim did not have access to our material, they just didn’t like to see a flower rising up above the grass, it just bothers them to see our discovery.’
The Galileo Project’s ocean-going research work runs in tandem with an observatory at Harvard, which is watching the skies around the clock and using machine learning to analyse the findings.
Reflecting on his search for the tangible signs that humankind is not alone in the universe, Dr Loeb described the Galileo mission in romantic terms.
The Galileo team took on the challenge of finding millimetre fragments in the depths (Picture: Dr Avi Loeb)
‘Before the expedition I was told by people that we wouldn’t find anything but it’s important to be optimistic, because sometimes life is a self-fulfilling prophecy,’ he said.
‘We know from our daily lives that we get a meaningful existence when we find a partner.
‘Here we are looking for a partner in interstellar space.
Dr Avi Loeb believes humans could benefit from a cosmic awakening (Picture: courtesy Dr Avi Loeb)
‘From a scientific perspective, we can find technologies that represent our future.
‘If the other civilization is far more advanced we could learn from them.
‘It would probably change our priorities at a time when we are engaged in wars, spending trillions of dollars collectively, on the rock we are born on.
‘Maybe finding a letter in our mailbox from another civilization would give us a different perspective, because there is much more real estate in outer space.’
Dr Loeb spoke ahead of his appearance at the 10th Contact in the Desert gathering, an annual event which is due to take place between May 30 and June 3 in Indian Wells.
A long list of attendees also includes Nick Pope, who ran the UK government’s now-defunct UFO desk, film-maker Ron James and investigative journalists George Knapp and Linda Moulton Howe.
Taking place under the heading of ‘Conscious Contact’, thousands of people from around the world are expected to attend the event, which is billed as the world’s ‘largest and most prestigious’ conference in the field of UFOs and UAPs, which stands for unidentified anomalous phenomena.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org