First Year of the Galileo Project

Figure 1: All-sky Galileo Observatory for UAP on the roof of the Harvard College Observatory (Cambridge, MA).


The Galileo Project (Loeb 2021a) is a scientific search program for extraterrestrial objects near Earth. I co- founded the Project in collaboration with Frank Laukien in July 2021. The Project’s name was inspired by Galileo Galilei’s legacy of finding answers to fundamental questions by looking through new telescopes. The search is agnostic to the outcome. It represents a fishing expedition that could result in a mixed bag containing primarily (after the elimination of instrumental artifacts):


Extraterrestrial equipment could arrive in two forms: defunct ‘space trash’, similar to the way our own spacecraft will appear in a billion years, or functional equipment, such as an autonomous craft equipped by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The latter would be a natural choice for crossing the tens of thousands of light years that span the scale of the Milky Way galaxy and could exist even if the senders are not alive to transmit any detectable signals at this time. Hence, space archaeology for extraterrestrial equipment is a new observational frontier, not represented in the past history of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) which focused on electromagnetic signals and not physical objects (Lingam & Loeb 2021).

Figure 2: Space mission to rendezvous with the next ‘Oumuamua.


The chance of finding a civilization at exactly our technological phase is small, roughly one part in a hundred million— the ratio between the age of modern science and the age of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. Most likely, we would encounter civilizations that are either way behind or way ahead of our scientific knowledge. To find the former class, we will need to visit the jungles of exo-planets, natural environments similar to those occupied by primitive human cultures over most of the past million years. This task would require a huge amount of effort and time given our current propulsion technologies. Chemical rockets take at least forty thousand years to reach the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, which is four light years away. Their speed is ten thousand times slower than the speed of light, implying a travel time of half a billion years across the Milky Way disk.

Figure 3: Location of CNEOS 2014–01–08 for the first Galileo Project expedition.


The Galileo Project represents a new research initiative in astronomy. Existing astronomical observatories target objects at great distances and have a limited field of view of the sky, whereas the Galileo Project aims to monitor the entire sky continuously and study fast-moving objects in the vicinity of Earth. It is an astronomy project since it analyzes data obtained by telescopes and searches for objects that could have originated outside the Solar system. The Project’s novel observing strategy employs state-of-the-art cameras and computers that monitor the entire sky in the optical, infrared and radio bands, as well as in audio, magnetic field and energetic particle signals.


The Galileo Project has three branches of activity (Loeb 2021):

  1. The Galileo Project is only interested in openly available scientific data and a transparent analysis of it. Thus, classified (government-owned) information, which cannot be shared with all scientists, cannot be used. Such information would compromise the scope of the scientific research program of the Project, which is designed to acquire verifiable scientific data and provide transparent (open to peer review) analysis of this data. Like most physics experiments, the Galileo Project will work only with new data, collected from its own telescope systems, which are under the full and exclusive control of Galileo research team members.


Extraterrestrial space archaeology (Loeb 2019) is engaged with the search for relics of other technological civiliza- tions (Lingam & Loeb 2021). As argued by John von Neumann, the number of such objects could be extremely large if they are self-replicating (Freitas 1980), a concept enabled by 3D printing and AI technologies. Physical artifacts might also carry messages, as envisioned by Ronald Bracewell (Bracewell 1960; Freitas & Valdes 1985).


Managing a project with more than a hundred members is not trivial. I never served as a marriage counselor, but the best advice I can imagine giving couples is simple: focus on what you agree on and avoid getting distracted by peripheral disputes. For the Galileo Project, this translates to the advice basketball coaches often give their team members: “Keep your eyes on the ball and ignore the audience.” There are historic precedents of communities that were destroyed by not adhering to this simple principle, like the story of the Tower of Babel, for which construction was supposedly never completed because the city members lost a common language. The fundamental task of good leadership is to maintain the unifying thread within its community.


2022, Drake equation, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.



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

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Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb

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