The Promise of the Spring Equinox

Avi Loeb
4 min readMar 18, 2024


Image of the spring equinox on Earth, taken by NOAA’s GOES satellite. (Credit: NOAA)

During the 1948 presidential campaign, Harry Truman gave a speech in Bremerton, Washington, where a supporter shouted in reference to Truman’s political opponents: “Give `em Hell, Harry!”, to which Truman replied: “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s hell.”

I was reminded of this insight by critics of the scientific method who have issues with new evidence. The most vocal among them invest day and night in disputing evidence collected by the U.S. Government and reported by NASA. Why do they find their life so exhausting? Because they think it’s hell to revise models for solar system rocks to describe data derived from sensors on U.S. Government satellites about the interstellar meteor IM1, and so they search for all possible ways to dismiss the data. First, they published a paper arguing that the velocity measurement of the meteor, which was double-checked and officially certified by the U.S. Space Command, is overestimated by a factor of three. Then they argued publicly that the ocean expedition to the fireball site will not find anything because the explosion must have vaporized all trace materials. Then they published a paper arguing that what the expedition found was coal ash. But this is not enough. Most recently, they posted a paper that the U.S. Government localization should be dismissed and the meteor landed somewhere else. If you thought that science is always better than Truman’s politics, think twice.

Why do these critics dedicate so much time to dismiss evidence about IM1? Because its existence constitutes the first time that scientists analyzed materials from a large object that came from outside the solar system. The evidence for an interstellar origin includes the object’s velocity, as measured on January 8, 2014 by sensors aboard U.S. Government satellites, and the unique “BeLaU”-type composition of the spherules recovered by an expedition which surveyed the fireball’s “peak-brightness” site.

Interstellar objects could include unusual rocks from planets that are different from those found in the solar system, and also space trash from extraterrestrial civilizations. The great benefits for humanity in knowing its cosmic neighborhood and cosmic partners, motivates my research on interstellar objects. The barricades placed by those who resist new knowledge, come with the territory. There is no reason to fear from these barricades. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov reasoned: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid at all.”

I get my strength from supporters who are inspired by this research. If you wait long enough, darkness changes to light. The relative duration of light and darkness varies during the year. But there is this precious moment, called the “spring equinox”, when the durations of day and night are equal, giving me hope for a better future of a blossoming spring season when light would prevail.

Every spring equinox, around this time of the year, a cluster of colorful flowers buds in my backyard. I showed it to my daughter yesterday. The solar equinox happens when the Earth’s rotation axis is exactly perpendicular to the Earth-Sun line. At that time, the duration of the day and night are equal.

We must keep in mind that darkness fills most of space but the joys of life stem from supporters, like the Sun, lighting-up our life. My research focuses on the search for cosmic partners in interstellar space. Why would such a search be controversial? Why would any positive-minded scientist be upset by this mission?

Ludwig van Beethoven said it correctly: “Only art and science make us suspect the existence of life to a higher level, and maybe also instill hope thereof.” In art, this higher level is inspired by the familiar occurrences on Earth. But in the scientific study of interstellar objects, the higher level is inspired by the grander promise from what we might discover in the cosmos at large.


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".