Discussing Extraterrestrials on Capitol Hill in Washington DC

Avi Loeb
5 min readJun 14, 2024


Avi Loeb in a Q&A session. (Image credit: Adrian Chmielewski, 2024)

Last night I attended a special event on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. It was coordinated by the brilliant Miles Taylor and was candidly titled: “We Will Find Aliens (in the Next Decade).” The invitation letter read: “Please join us for an invite-only VIP happy hour in Washington, D.C. with New York Times best-selling author Dr. Avi Loeb — Harvard’s renowned astrophysicist, head of The Galileo Project, and one of the leading scientific figures in the search for extraterrestrial life.”

As soon as I arrived onsite, the filming crew of a Netflix documentary about my research placed a microphone behind my tie just before 75 people from government, the private sector and news media filled up the meeting room up to its full capacity.

I started my presentation with a call for action: “Thank you all for coming here to discuss the most romantic question in science: Do we have an intelligent cosmic partner? My plea to the U.S. Government officials in the audience is simple: if you know of information that provides an answer to this question, please let me know right away. This would save me plenty of time on blind dates, as I search the sky and oceans for evidence. Your day job is national security. My day job is what lies outside the solar system. If any of us sees something that the other is looking for, let’s talk about it. It is not good practice to hide scientific knowledge. If we believed today that Mars orbits the Earth, as the church suggested before Nicolaus Copernicus — one of its priests, then our rockets would have not reached Mars. From afar, rockets flying out of Earth by technological design is a sign of our intelligence. In reciprocity, if we discover extraterrestrial rockets, they would be a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence. In other words, if we find a tennis ball in our backyard, we would know that our neighbor plays tennis.”

Frankly, in my most optimistic dream I had hoped that one of the participants would pull me aside and whisper in my ear: “Avi, we have what you are looking for. We would love you to help us figure out what it all means. Here is a Non-Disclosure Agreement for you to sign.” But this opportunity never materialized. Perhaps the government has no such information and past whistleblowers are counter intelligence operatives. As a scientist, I only respond to evidence. As of now I have no evidence that the government knows something that I do not know.

And so, I went on to discuss in my talk the new frontier of interstellar objects and the findings of materials from an unknown origin in the Pacific Ocean site of the interstellar meteor, IM1. In addition, the Galileo Project Observatory at Harvard University monitored half a million objects in the sky and found none to be anomalous so far. My research team will keep searching for technological space trash in the form of interstellar meteors or functional devices of extraterrestrial origin in the data pipeline from two additional Galileo Project Observatories in Colorado and Pennsylvania, the Webb telescope and the upcoming Rubin Observatory.

My presentation was followed by a Q&A session with the audience, moderated by Miles Taylor. I was asked whether we should believe eyewitness testimonies on anomalous objects and responded that we should follow FIFA in using cameras rather than people as reliable detectors. I was also asked whether we should search for biological or technological signatures of extraterrestrial life and responded that we should hedge our bets and invest equally in both because one technological civilization could have filled up the Milky-Way with self-replicating probes by now.

At the end of the Q&A, I had mentioned to some attendees that I am currently writing two new books — one for children and the other for adults. This was a proper transition to a book signing session, where I autographed 75 hardcopies of my books “Extraterrestrial” and “Interstellar” for all attendees.

During dinner, some attendees expressed interest in raising funds for the next interstellar expedition. It was rewarding to witness the excitement all around regarding the scientific mission of studying interstellar meteors.

After dinner, the Netflix team interviewed me again on a rooftop with the view of Capitol Hill. The director, Jason Kohn asked: “What is your ultimate wish?” I responded: “Finding a higher intelligence and reaching them thanks to immortality.” He then noted: “Isn’t that arrogant?” and I explained: “Exactly the opposite. It reflects my hope to learn as much as possible about the world. The more I learn, the humbler I get because of the grander perspective on what lies beyond me. If the Rubin Observatory will discover that `Oumuamua-like objects constitute technological space trash, like plastics in the ocean, then chasing them through interstellar space could lead us to their origin. The long travel time would benefit from immortality.” Jason asked: “But isn’t it better to admit our biological limitations and stay on Earth?” to which I replied: “Not at all. Our life would be more fulfilling if we create a future that supersedes our past limitations. It is uplifting not to surrender to circumstances but seek more accomplished members of our class of technological civilizations. After the filming ended, I told Jason that it would be tragic if we fell into the trap of Romeo and Juliet who never fulfilled a life together just because of traditional restrictions set by the “adults in the room.”

I concluded: “Science is better than politics.” Stating that just before midnight in Washington DC felt very satisfying.


(Image credit: Chris Michel, October 2023)

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, was published in August 2023.



Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb is the Baird Professor of Science and Institute director at Harvard University and the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial” and "Interstellar".