January 26, 2022
Since the Galileo Project's launch in July of 2021, many questions have arisen about the nature of the work being conducted, the scope of our efforts and how we conduct our research. This set of questions and answers is intended to provide basic information but is not intended to comprehensively present all details of the project. This page will be updated over time as the project evolves, and is only considered as current as the date listed above.
Project basics & core principles
Why does this project exist? Why UAP? Why ISOs?
There are multiple international scientific projects devoted to searching for evidence of life beyond Earth, from biomolecule detection in exoplanet atmospheres to biomarker detection in potentially habitable planets and satellites of the solar system. There have been very few attempts to investigate scientifically the putative existence of intelligent civilizations in the vicinity of Earth. (The Condon Report, the last publicly-accessible U.S. government-commissioned scientific analysis of the existing documentation about unidentified flying objects, was performed by the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1969.)
By now, the accumulated reports of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), culminating in the release of the June 2021 ODNI report, coupled with the novel discovery of the anomalous trajectory and physical properties of the interstellar object (ISO) 'Oumuamua, call for scientific analysis of this topic. This project will start by collecting new observations of UAP-like and 'Oumuamua-like objects to understand their physical characteristics, using calibrated instrumentation and published data sets, all subject to peer review.
What makes this project different from any previous civil or governmental UAP search?
This is a scientific project that uses scientific instrumentation to monitor the sky. The instrumentation will be operated by scientists and the data will be analyzed by scientists. The conclusions of the analysis will be summarized in the form of peer reviewed articles. This means that all scientific work completed by the project will be evaluated anonymously by independent scientists who are experts in data analysis, atmospheric science, image processing, propulsion, environmental monitoring, etc. The data will be made available to the public after a period of commissioning as happens in all space exploration missions. All data will be archived for posterity and accessible for free.
The project is designed as a scientific observational experiment; for this reason, all instrumentation will be first tested in dedicated campaigns and calibrated under controlled conditions. As in any other scientific experiment, reproducibility is critical, so that all data shall be analyzed in an unbiased way and error sources will be identified and estimated. To help achieve this unbiased approach, rigorous statistical methods will be used for the analysis and the instrument characteristics will also be described in peer reviewed articles.
This project is also unique through the application of two distinct research tracks--one searching for UAP within our own atmosphere and just above, and one searching for ISO in the wider solar system.
What is the process for disclosure if something significant is found?
We will approach this analysis in an incremental manner, to guarantee that our assessments are solid. Significant discoveries will be documented in articles and sent to peer-review journals where other experts will evaluate the assessment, data, hypothesis, methods, and conclusions. This is the standard practice in contemporary science where the methods, observations, and conclusions must be published in peer-reviewed journals.
What areas of scientific knowledge are involved on the project?
There are many areas of scientific knowledge and expertise represented on the Galileo Project. Within the research team there is experience in astronomy, astrobiology, planetary science and space exploration, theoretical physics, experimental physics, geophysics, instrumentation, software engineering, hardware engineering, machine learning and artificial intelligence, electrical engineering, computer science, observational analysis, chemistry, and biology.
Additionally, through the societal implications subgroup, the Galileo Project endeavors to apply the expertise of many areas of the humanities to better understand how this area of scientific study may impact various cultures, law, media and other societal concerns.
How do the different areas of research in the Galileo Project collaborate?
The Galileo research team works in an organic way. The project has several subprojects that focus on each instrumental part (like IR sensors), phase of development (like prototyping), or parallel topics (like funding) that are coordinated through the use of project management tools and centralized information hubs. Work is delegated according to expertise, experience, and resources.
The research team is focused on defining and conducting all research associated with the Galileo Project. However, collaboration with affiliates, many of whom have studied UAP for many years in various capacities, is encouraged and welcome. The Galileo Project has several weekly, standing virtual (online) meetings in order to define the plans, to propose and test instrumental solutions, and to ensure all sub-projects are on track.
The vast majority of Galileo Project contributors are volunteers, generously devoting their time and areas of expertise to the project. Paid fellowships or other opportunities will be listed on the website should they arise.
What is the nominal mission length?
In space exploration, the nominal mission duration is the expected period which is required to guarantee that the scientific objectives are adequately tackled. The Galileo Project’s nominal mission duration is a 1-year deployment, followed by 5 years (current best estimate) of atmospheric monitoring and scientific exploitation of the acquired data. This period of observation and scientific interpretation may be extended depending on the quality of the observations, the health of the instruments, the interest and nature of the discoveries and the availability of funding for upgrades and operation.
What are UAP?
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) are phenomena observed in the atmosphere whose characteristics and behavior cannot be readily explained in terms of well-known objects and physical processes. That is, all known explanations of aerial, atmospheric, or related phenomena, or even our current knowledge of technological advances, do not adequately explain why these phenomena have been observed.
What is the goal of the UAP branch of the Galileo Project?
To examine the possibility of extraterrestrial origin for UAP, by making observations of objects in and near Earth’s atmosphere, filtering out identifiable objects using AI deep learning algorithms trained on rigorous classification of known objects, and then examining the nature of the remaining data for anomalous characteristics.
What does the project hope to find? How will the project know what constitutes a "genuine" UAP? What criteria are we looking for?
The Galileo Project will apply the scientific method to test hypotheses regarding UAP as observed by a network of scientific instruments. Through this methodology the Galileo Project hopes to understand such phenomena through rigorous observational analysis and experimentation led by an international team of scientists.
The Galileo Project will utilize AI to filter observations of aerial phenomena through use of a ground-based telescope network in order to establish if an object is easily classified as belonging to an already known class, or can be explained in terms of mundane instrumental artifacts. Those observations that are not filtered by this system will then be analyzed to determine whether it can be explained with known laws of physics, or if more research and hypothesis testing should occur in order to understand the nature of these phenomena. In the cases where a sufficient data set is gathered for a new class of unknown aerial phenomena, the properties of this class will be described (frequency, size, shape, spectral signatures in VIS/IR/UV field, correlated signatures in audio or magnetic anomalies, etc.).
There are many examples of anecdotal descriptions of UAPs, including their appearance and behavior, in popular culture. These anecdotes will not be analyzed by the Galileo Project. Rather, the research will be undertaken with new data that is collected specifically for the Galileo Project’s scientific endeavors. Although anecdotal sightings will not be included as part of the research itself, they may provide useful context for Galileo’s observational data and analysis.
What will the UAP branch deliver?
A documented descriptive classification of (more or less known) existing natural and artificial phenomena with their corresponding phenomenology and a sub-set of candidate UAP. In addition, the project will develop and describe a state-of-the art system for monitoring objects in the earth’s atmosphere and develop evidential standards for detecting UAP.
There will be several products of the UAP branch of the project, including:
- An open-access, observational data archive with documented, validated, 3 level data (raw, processed with calibration, and interpreted)
- Peer-reviewed articles describing the instrument and software design, calibration, validation, evidential standards, and initial analyses.
- A GP-project science team summary consensus report about the interpretation of the results.
What are ISOs?
Interstellar objects (ISOs) are astronomical objects that are not gravitationally bound to a star. For the purposes of the Galileo Project's work, we are interested in ISOs which pass through our local solar system but which appear, based on their trajectories and other properties, to differ from "local" comets, asteroids and other objects in orbit around our sun.
What is the goal of the ISO branch of the Galileo Project?
To understand the origins of interstellar objects (ISOs) that exhibit characteristics which differ from typical asteroids and comets, like `Oumuamua, through discovery and characterization initiatives involving astronomical and atmospheric surveys as well as space-based observations.
What does the ISO branch of the Galileo Project expect or hope to find?
The Galileo Project will seek to detect and characterize anomalous interstellar objects (ISOs) by analyzing data from astronomical and atmospheric surveys and proposing space-based programs for observing ISOs, in order to understand their origin and nature.
What will the ISO project deliver?
New discoveries of ISOs, follow-up observations of detected ISOs, and the design for a space mission to an ISO.
Experimental design & instrumentation
What types of sensors are being used at each ground-based observatory? And what are each of their purposes? And how did the project choose that particular set of sensors?
The Galileo Project will have a multi-instrumental approach. Each ground-based observatory will monitor weather, detect magnetic field strength, and capture audio, radar signals, visible (both with a wide-view camera and a follow-up tracking high-resolution imaging scope), infrared and ultraviolet light sources of interest. All the instrumentation details will be summarized in a refereed article once the first testing campaign has ended. The instrumentation has been chosen based on a combination of factors that include measurement requirements, robustness for outdoor operation, cost, and the timescale for integration, testing and analysis. The whole system is designed to be passive, sending no signals into the environment.
Where will the ground-based observatories be located? How were those locations selected?
The selection of sites will be carefully determined by the Galileo Project research team to guarantee continuous operation of the instrumentation while also covering different latitudes and longitudes. The most important factors will be access to power, internet, security and technician support. Although anecdotal evidence will not be part of the analysis of observed phenomena, the Galileo Project may utilize public databases of reported UAP sightings to identify locations with reported elevated UAP activity.
Additionally, the research team will carefully consider the atmospheric conditions at such sites, local climate and weather, altitude, and other variables of interest in order to select the most suitable sites for the project. For many of these reasons, astronomical observatories may be good candidate sites, as well as other locations which could serve as control or represent potential regions of interest. The project will deploy its first units within the United States, but it is expected that some international collaborating institutions will also eventually host Galileo observatories.
The Galileo Project is also considering the development of a “rapid-response capability” to deploy high-sensitivity instrumentation in certain locations. These “semi-portable” observatories could be used as control cases, to benchmark the UAP detection methodology or investigate in depth specific natural phenomenon.
Can I visit an observatory?
Unfortunately, the Galileo Project’s observation sites will not be open to the public to visit. This is due to the sensitive nature of instrumentation. Should anything happen to the system, which is easily disturbed, then valuable observations of data may be compromised and discarded. Each Galileo site will operate continuously and remotely. The end-to-end integrity of the system acquisition must be guaranteed.
Please note that these observatories are small systems, not traditional observatory buildings that can be visited. Descriptions, photos and technical specifications will be made available once the details of the observatory designs are finalized.
Can I set up a Galileo Project telescope station on my roof?
Unfortunately not. Because the Galileo Project relies on sensitive equipment whose placement is decided by our scientific requirements, we must select the site locations. This is how the Galileo Project will be able to deliver reproducible results.
How far can each station see, both in terms of distance and altitude?
This is yet to be defined and will likely evolve as instrumentation specifications are refined. Additionally, for some research goals we may deploy multiple stations in a cluster, whereas for other purposes the facilities may be very distant from one another. This will also depend on the funding availability, as the Galileo Project has been designed in a scalable way, i.e. the same approach can be implemented if we have 10 observatories or 100.
Can I watch the real-time camera feeds online?
We will not be streaming the instrument data online, but data will be made publicly available, after a period of calibration and labeling, for those who wish to analyze them, and for future reference.
Interstellar object search
Are the same scopes/cameras being used to search for interstellar objects?
The search for interstellar objects (ISOs) will be conducted using a different suite of instruments that are specialized for locating and observing such phenomena. It will require different observations from those of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) in a fundamental way, so that by necessity the same instruments cannot be used for both sets of observations.
Meteors observed with the UAP observing system will be checked for hyperbolic heliocentric trajectories, which would correspond to small interstellar objects (ISOs) entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
Is the search for interstellar objects a separate experiment/effort from the search for atmospheric phenomena?
The search for ISOs is different from the search for UAP, but the two projects can overlap. There are connections between the two, as interstellar objects (like micrometeors) can and do enter the atmosphere. However, the effort and research between these groups of observations is undertaken in separate ways. The search for interstellar objects is therefore carried out as a separate branch of the Galileo Project, in addition to the search for UAPs.
Offers of volunteering/support
How can I get involved?
Thank you for your interest in supporting the Galileo Project! To get involved, start by filling out the new volunteer form on the “Get Involved” page of this site. We are keeping a database of backgrounds and expertise to reference when opportunities arise, and will contact you when we see a match. From time to time we may also have paying job opportunities available, though the vast majority of the work in the project is conducted by volunteers generously giving their time and effort.
Non-scientific ways to contribute to the success of the project include sharing our project with your friends and family through social media and word-of-mouth, or by donating to the project.
Can I send the project any photos/videos I've captured myself? Can you help me identify something I saw?
We are not at this time accepting any outside media or observational reports of UAPs. The Galileo Project research is focused only on our own observational data, in order to ensure that all information we analyze is high-quality and reliable, consistent, calibrated, and comparable. For this reason, we are not seeking outside media or observations of UAPs.
Where does funding for the Galileo Project come from?
The Galileo Project is funded by private citizens from around the globe who are interested in supporting the pursuit of scientific research into the nature of unidentified aerial phenomena and interstellar objects, i.e. to investigate the Earth and its nearby environment searching for unknown objects. This area of scientific research has not been supported traditionally and continues to be stigmatized by much of the scientific community. Thanks to our donors, we are able to subject this area of anecdotal observation to rigorous scientific scrutiny.
Does the project still need more donations to cover those costs? Where can I send money?
The Galileo Project needs more donations and funders to continue its work and grow. If you are interested in helping to support the project through a financial contribution, please navigate to our donations page, administered by Harvard University’s alumni giving system.
Why does “Harvard” need money when it's Harvard?
While Harvard indeed benefits from the generous giving of many donors, individual research projects housed at the University are responsible for finding their own funding. That funding may come in the form of science grants or philanthropic contributions from individuals or foundations.
Is the project sponsored by any government, by any military organization (or related agencies such as Department of Defense)?
The Galileo Project is not and will not be funded by any government, military organization, or related agencies such as the Department of Defense.
Has the project partnered with any government or military/defense organization?
The Galileo Project has not partnered with any government or military/defense organization. The project is carried out under the direction of the research team with affiliation to other collaborators. All those who are involved with the project are listed on our website.
While some project affiliates bring experience in the government sector, or with technology and aerospace companies that conduct business with the government of the United States, all participants in the project are required to follow the same ground rules, and are obligated to uphold the mission of open inquiry and peer-reviewed, rigorous science which is the foundation of the project.