We Are Not Alone!

Avi Loeb
5 min readFeb 10, 2024


Lotem Loeb (left) — a 1st year student at Harvard College next to her dad, Avi Loeb — a 31st year professor at the Harvard Astronomy department, during a sold-out book event with 300 fans at Harvard’s Science Center on February 8, 2024 (Behind the camera: Klil Loeb — a recent graduate of UMass Amherst College).

We live for a short time, but does it make sense to pay millions of dollars for merely tens of seconds of visibility? The Super Bowl is coming up tomorrow and advertisers are willing to pay an average of 7 million dollars for a 30 seconds ad spot in front of television viewers of the event. Since many popular shows shifted to streaming platforms, live events like the 2024 Super Bowl LVIII offer a unique opportunity for advertisers to draw the attention of a large crowd, typically more than 100 million people in 190 countries and 25 languages, towards commercial products. Given their high cost, Super Bowl ads often reflect viral trends within society.

With that perspective, is there any hope that science might be featured in a Super Bowl ad? Thirty seconds of a Super Bowl ad cost more than our next expedition to the Pacific Ocean to retrieve large fragments of the 2014 interstellar meteor, IM1. Our Galileo Project’s research team just completed a few new papers (with the first two published here and here and an extended paper on which I worked day and night last week) describing results from the six-month-long analysis of 850 spherules recovered from our first expedition to the IM1 meteor site on June 14–28, 2023. Our finding of millimeter-size spherules with a unique extrasolar composition, never reported before in solar systems samples, motivates our plan for the next expedition. Finding centimeter-scale fragments of IM1 that did not lose volatile elements, would allow us to infer the nature of the parent body. Aside from revealing the full material composition and structure of IM1, these fragments - which are thousands of times more massive than the spherules we found in the first expedition, would contain enough material to allow dating the age of IM1.

The isotope Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years — similar to the age of the solar system, and the isotope Thorium-232 has a half-life of 14 billion — similar to the age of the Universe. Most stars in the Universe formed in the interval between these two timescales ago. While jogging at sunrise one morning on the expedition ship “Silver Star”, I realized that dating interstellar objects would allow us to find where they came from. Knowing their velocity near Earth implies that we can integrate their trajectory back in time and figure out their point of origin among the stars.

To discover centimeter-scale pieces of IM1, the expedition team would need to employ a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and a video feed in real time down to the ocean floor. Finding large fragments would allow us to infer whether IM1 was an interstellar rock from the tidal disruption of a planet near a common star, as argued in a recent paper I wrote with my postdoc Morgan MacLeod, or perhaps a Voyager-like meteor launched by another civilization.

Centimeter-scale fragments were recovered recently from the meteor 2024 BX1 that exploded on January 21, 2024 over Berlin, Germany. BX1 was of similar diameter as IM1, and so it gives hope that we might be able to recover fragments of similar sizes from IM1. Finding centimeter-scale fragments at an ocean depth of a mile requires expensive tools that would cost as much as a 20 second commercial in the 2024 Super Bowl.

This brings me to the surprise I had when seeing the new Super Bowl ad directed by Martin Scorsese under the title: “Hello Down There”. In one minute of video, worth 14 million dollars at prime time, the ad features a visit by extraterrestrials being ignored by earthlings who are preoccupied with their daily routines. When asked by a reporter about this ad yesterday, I noted that it resonates with my view that new knowledge requires seeking new data with a beginner’s mind. This is what our next ocean expedition is all about.

That a depiction of a visit by extraterrestrials appeals to more than a hundred million viewers of the 2024 Super Bowl means that I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

I highlighted this insight to hundreds of fans in a sold-out book event at Harvard’s Science Center a couple of days ago. Within a week, I am scheduled to speak in front of heads of state and other high-level politicians at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Politicians seek popularity. To demonstrate that science appeals to the public, my host Rolf Dobelli suggested that we feature Scorsese’s video as an opening for my presentation. A day later, I am heading to Torun, Poland, where the Polish government will celebrate 550 years since the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473) who discovered that we are not at the physical center of the Universe. Coincidentally, my birthday is a week later, on February 26. My hour-long keynote lecture is titled “The Next Copernican Revolution.” Scorsese could probably summarize my message in 30 seconds for the 2025 Super Bowl.


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 chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and 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".