Andrea JuberaMay 8, 2000
The mysterious phenomenon of UFO sightings seems worthy of serious scientific research. This is due to theories found within the field of ufology, past reported sightings, and credible information given out by the government. Ufologists should also be aware of past examples that have been successful from the astronomical community.
Bernard Haisch is an astrophysicist, scientific editor of the Astrophysical Journal, and editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. The Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE), which Bernard edits, is a peer reviewed research journal in which scholarly investigations on phenomena not part of the currently accepted scientific paradigms may be published. UFO’s fall in this category, or more to the point, UFO’s certainly settle outside the realm of mainstream science (William Dudley).
Bernard himself is not a UFO researcher, but, as an editor of an unconventional journal, he has been exposed to enough data and met enough serious investigators to become supportive of the need to carefully study whatever this phenomenon, or perhaps phenomena, may be. His profession is that of an astronomer and by most criteria, apart from editing JSE, he is an insider in the scientific mainstream: author of research papers, principal investigator on NASA projects, associate editor of a leading journal in astrophysics (William Dudley).
The field of astronomy is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in government research funding every year, billions if one keeps track of such major missions as the Hubble Space Telescope. For the January 1996 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Antonio, the head of NASA, Daniel Goldin, flew down from Washington just to address the astronomers.
Goldin made it clear that NASA’s job is not to support astronomers. Nor is NASA’s job to employ engineers and astronauts to keep the shuttle flying. NASA’s job, said Goldin, is to serve the American people. He mentioned a talk he had given in Bozeman, Montana and the excitement that the Hubble pictures elicited there among the ordinary men and women of Montana, far removed from NASA centers. The fact that the announcement at the same astronomical society meeting of the discovery of two new planets orbiting the stars 70 Virginis and 47 Ursae Majoris made the front pages of major newspapers underscores this point. People want to know about the universe. And people especially want to know whether there are other worlds capable of sustaining life.
The search for the origins of life and for other planetary systems is now a cornerstone objective for NASA. Goldin discussed visionary plans to image other solar systems using huge space-based interferometers in the new millenium (Dudley). He challenged the astronomers to find ways to photograph clouds and mountains on earth-like planets in other solar systems, which must be one of the most scientifically ambitious statements ever made by a head of NASA. This, in his view, is what the American people want from NASA; and Bernard has no doubt that he is correct is his assessment.
Bernard now models a good lesson for ufology. If various public opinion polls are to be believed, there may be more Americans who believe there is something going on having to do with UFO’s than not. It even seems probable, though Bernard does not know this to be the case, that there are more people who “believe in” UFO’s than have heard about the Hubble. If that is the case, Goldin’s lesson for NASA would apply here too. If the American people truly want the UFO problem officially investigated, the government should do that by and by. That does not automatically mean NASA of course. Despite many appearances to the contrary, UFO’s may have nothing to do with our outer space as astronomers view the universe (William Dudley).
So how would one bring about government-sponsored research analogous to that of astronomy or the other sciences? As Goldin urged us to do on behalf of NASA’s research: write, call, visit your representatives and senators. NASA funds astronomical research because the American people want this; even if most of it is too private for public consumption, the highlights such as Hubble images and first extra-solar planets do make the newspapers and people read with interest about what their tax dollars are paying for.