Seen any spaceships lately?

A Harvard astronomer has studied objects seen flying through our solar system (that are believed to be extraterrestrial vehicles) and has done some math to try to figure out how many there are.

Apparently, it's a lot.

According to astronomer Avi Loeb, there could be as many as 4 quintillion spacecraft zipping about our solar system. That's a "4" followed by 18 zeroes. Which sounds like a lot (and it is). Granted, the solar system is huge, but still. That's a lot of spacecraft. Or, at least, potential spacecraft.

That might seem like a lot. But the solar system is vast. And the space between our star system and our closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is even more vast. Actually finding any of those 4 quintillion possible mysterious objects for closer study could be really, really hard.

To be clear, Loeb isn’t claiming there are quintillions of alien craft zooming around our corner of the Milky Way. After all, he’s never said that ‘Oumuamua is definitely a robotic probe or crewed craft—just that we should be open to the possibility.

So what Loeb and Ezell calculated isn’t the population of alien craft. It’s the population of possible alien craft or other possible artificial objects. Leftover ET rocket parts. Unexplainable fragments of alien technology beyond our understanding. That kind of thing.

Again, it's kind of difficult to put all of this into a fathomable perspective, because both the number and the vastness of space are really hard to comprehend. When I was growing up, the Animaniacs came the closest to explaining it.

Those of you a few years older than me, however, may prefer Monty Python's take on the impossible vastness of the universe.

Of course, there have been rumors of military aircraft coming across objects moving in impossible ways, close encounters with unidentified craft, and other things we've seen glimpses of in declassified videos from the Pentagon itself.

We've even got a whole government committee now studying this "Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon."

However, experts believe it's more likely that we'll get decisive evidence by studying them from afar than by coming across them in person.

But actually pinpointing these objects, not to mention closely inspecting them, is extremely difficult. It’s so difficult that a close encounter with a passing alien craft is the least likely way we’ll make first contact with extraterrestrials, according to Edward Schwieterman, an astrobiologist at the University of California, Riverside.

“In my view, we are much more likely to detect life that originates outside of our solar system through remote observation than by physical encounters,” Schwieterman told The Daily Beast.

Our technology, it seems, is getting way better at detecting these things... Of course, if they're zooming around our solar system like little green tourists, then our technology still has a ways to go.

Maybe... maybe we shouldn't try seeking them out?

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