One of the most efficient ways to test the boundaries of our astrophysical knowledge is through the search for anomalous objects. Many of the well-studied objects today, such as quasars or pulsars, were considered anomalies at first sight – until we understood them. The ”Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations” (VASCO) project focuses on searching for anomalous events that took place on the sky in the last 70 years, by comparing the sky as it looked in the 1950s to the sky as it looks today. The hope is to find a physically ”impossible” object or event, for example a vanishing star, as this could be indicative of the large-scale engineering of an extra-terrestrial civilization. The VASCO project uses traditional automated methods in combination with citizen science (http://ml-blink.org) to search for these anomalous objects.
In this SSE Community Discussion Hour, Dr. Beatriz Villarroel presented the VASCO project and introduced the mysterious case of the ”nine simultaneous transients” (Villarroel et al. 2021), which shows how nine objects appeared and disappeared within half an hour in a small region on a red-sensitive photographic plate on the 12th of April 1950. She discusses various possibilities for this finding that cannot be explained with any well-known astrophysical phenomena. Dr. Villarroel first discusses the possibility of plate contamination (from e.g. nuclear fallout), but later opens up a possible interpretation of the nine transients in terms of solar reflections from metal debris in orbits around Earth – seven years before the first human satellite was launched.
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Published on December 16, 2021