Why Anonymous claims Nasa is about to announce the discovery of aliens

Much of the questionable claim relies on one comment from a senior Nasa executive, as well as the agency's pioneering work

Andrew Griffin
Monday 26 June 2017 11:49
Anonymous says Nasa is on the verge of announcing alien life

Anonymous claims Nasa is about to announce it has found alien life. The truth is a little more complicated – but no less wondrous.

An account affiliated with the hacking and activism collective has released a viral video claiming Nasa is "on the verge" of detailing contact with extraterrestrial species.

It takes much of its evidence from the work the space agency is doing to explore space and look for alien worlds across the universe. And while such claims might overestimate just how quickly the discovery will emerge, they are based in the truth.

Much of the video relies on one testimony from Thomas Zurbuchen, from Nasa's Science Mission Directorate, who spoke to the US's science and technology committee last year.

In a relatively long speech that summarised the work Nasa is doing on astrobiology as well as the chances that it would find life, Mr Zurbruchen said that the agency was close to revealing something very significant.

"With all of this activity related to the search for life, in so many different areas, we are on the verge of one of the most profound discoveries, ever," he said. "And as we know from experience, NASA’s scientific discoveries of today continually drive impactful research for tomorrow that goes far beyond the initial observations."

But he also made clear that Nasa hadn't "found definitive signs of life elsewhere just yet", even though the search is "making remarkable progress and astrobiology is a focus of a growing number of NASA missions".

He detailed a range of those, which also appear in the Anonymous video. Those include the recent revelation that a nearby star called Trappist-1 has a whole solar system of Earth-sized planets around it, alongside discoveries on Enceladus that could indicate our own solar system has aliens in it.

Dr Zurbruchen also pointed to work that is still ongoing. That includes technology like the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched next year and will be able to explore the atmosphere of planets that are a long way from our own.

He concluded by discussing the work that would need to happen before proof of aliens could be found. "For astrobiology, the key thing to remember is that answering the fundamental question of 'is there life out there?' will require scientific breakthroughs from many different science fields, including ones that are not currently engaged in this exciting endeavor," he said.

That closing comment gestures at what Dr Zurbruchen was aiming to discuss with his speech – as well as promising future discoveries, his testimony was intended to show how Nasa was working together to look for life elsewhere, and to justify that work to US politicians. As such, Nasa and Anonymous are likely to be right that we are on "the verge" of discovering alien life – but it's not clear quite how long, or just how much work, it will take us to actually get there.

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