Janet Burka, Carl Kranz, Seth Persons, and Walter Schlect
Aliens. Where are they, and how can we make contact?
In 1901, Nikola Tesla argued that it was not just possible, but highly likely that he could make alien contact through radio waves, claiming that communication between Earth and Mars could be as simple as communication between New York and Philadelphia. Tesla was certain that “there would be no insurmountable obstacle in constructing a machine capable of conveying a message to Mars, nor would there be any great difficulty in recording signals transmitted to us by the inhabitants of that planet, if they be skilled electricians.”
In 1919 Guglielmo Marconi announced that he had received radio messages from outer space, and the United States Navy launched investigations into alien communication. On August 22, 1924, naval stations in the Pacific halted all wireless transmissions for three days, so that they could listen to Martian signals instead.
The Navy never obtained any signals from Mars, but nearly forty years later, the New York Academy of Sciences was witness to a presentation about possible contact with life from other planets–this time through a meteorite. On March 16, 1961, Bartholomew Nagy, a professor of chemistry at Fordham, presented results of a study of a meteorite then preserved at the American Museum of Natural History. Nagy discovered, “particles which were dissimilar to any known mineral form.” He said in his presentation that, “We believe that wherever this meteorite originated, something lived.” He concluded in a journal article published later that year that they were “possible remnants of organisms,” i.e. “microfossils.” These discoveries were juicy enough to escape the confines of scientific scholarship and received avid attention from tabloids and TV news.
Belief in microfossils preserved on meteorites would wane over the following decade, but scientific interest in extraterrestrial life thrived. In The New York Times Magazine in 1965, Isaac Asimov wrote an article on the burgeoning field of “Exobiology,” or the study of life-forms outside earth. One of the scientists consulted in the article was the young Brooklyn-native Carl Sagan, who even then had the audacity to suggest that there may be, “as many as 1,000,000 planets in our galaxy that not only bear life, but bear intelligent life and advanced civilizations.” Sagan had a lifelong fascination with extraterrestrial life. At NASA, he insisted that the Viking probes sent to Mars had cameras installed in case there were creatures walking around the planet, and he chaired a committee that created a “golden record” for the Voyager probes, to educate extraterrestrials about earth. Voyager is still traveling through space, waiting to make the contact that Sagan dreamed of.
Attempts to make interplanetary contact continue at The New York Center for Astrobiology based in Troy, New York. The center is devoted to investigating the origins of life on Earth and the conditions that lead to the formation of habitable planets in our own and other solar systems. This particular astrobiology center specializes in spectroscopy – or light signature – of the clouds and disks, so that researchers can determine which chemicals are present in clouds on other planets, and therefore determine if any extraterrestrial life could exist.
But more direct contact with aliens in the form of UFO sightings continued being reported in New York, even as recently as thirty years ago. On March 24, 1983, Lt. Kevin Soravilla of the Yorktown police reported seeing a silent, massive delta-shaped lighted ship. One person seeing mysterious lights in the sky can be laughed off, except that Soravilla was among hundreds of adults who claimed to have seen the same otherworldly lights. These sightings placed the Hudson Valley as one of three major UFO sighting hotspots in the world. It’s a funny coincidence that the New York Center for Astrobiology is in the Hudson River Valley. Or is it?
Bibliography and credits
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