And Yet it Deviated: Extraterrestrial Technology Among Us
by Aleco Julius
Let us begin by putting ourselves in the proper state of mind. We exist in a vast
universe. The great Carl Sagan once said that our planet is merely “a mote of dust suspended in
a sunbeam.” That is a poetic way of putting it, but using a scale model is just as astounding. If
our sun were a grain of sand, for example, the nearest grain of sand would be four miles away.
There are billions of grains in our galaxy alone, stars so far apart from each other that light
takes thousands of years to travel between them. Now consider that there are over 100 billion
observable galaxies, each with billions of stars like grains of sand spread across
incomprehensible gulfs. Recent studies estimate that there are probably trillions of galaxies,
adding to the definitive assurance of our astronomically miniscule existence.
In July of 2022, the NASA James Webb telescope released its first spectacular images of
deep space. Reactions of wonder have abounded in the spheres of popular media, with many
mesmerized by infrared shots of elegant swirling galaxies and majestic cosmic dust. The high-
tech precision and sharp vibrancy of the Webb pictures have ignited awe in deep space
enthusiasts and casual news-readers alike. An article in The Wall Street Journal asserts that the
Webb telescope “signals the start of a new era of space-borne astronomical observation.” The
article goes on to explain how robotic technologies continue to improve human understanding
of the universe in ways that astronauts cannot.
Machines, therefore, are the future of exploration. They will serve as extensions of the
human mind-body construct. Since they are able to capture light that the limited perceptions of
the naked eye cannot perceive, the reliance on mechanized receptors will continue to develop.
It is only natural that space exploration be the realm of machines. As Eric G. Wilson states in his
book The Melancholy Android: “We require our computers to survive; they are extensions of
our consciousness.” This 21 st century reality, he argues, has significantly augmented the
subconscious anxieties of our time. The stunning images of deep space at once remind us of our
frail aloneness as well as the persistent progress of technological communion. Wilson observes
that the “ubiquitous blurring between human and machine has produced unprecedented
emotional and epistemological confusions.”
Along with the knowledge of the universe’s size, it is important to keep in mind that the
images from the Webb telescope are over 13 billion years old. This perspective brings to mind
the potential for nonhuman intelligent life in the vast cosmos, and especially one particular
aspect of the Fermi Paradox. The basic question of the paradox is, if aliens are out there, where
are they? One of the possible solutions to this question is that alien civilizations may have long
since developed and collapsed, considering the immense duration of time involved. According
to a 2021 Space.com article, one view is that “the odds that we overlap in time and space with
a detectable alien civilization don’t seem great.”
Recent data from the Hubble and Kepler space telescopes suggest that Earth is actually
an early bloomer, relatively speaking. So, it is possible that not enough time has passed for
intelligent life on other planets to have evolved enough to produce sufficiently advanced
detectable technology. Even so, the current NASA Exoplanet Archive report lists a total of over
5,000 known exoplanets, many of which are in the habitable zone, a region that astrobiologists
maintain could potentially breed life. NASA estimates that about half of all observable solar
systems contain at least one planet in the habitable zone.
Space telescopes are the extension of humanity’s eyes, while machines such as the six
Mars rovers play the role of humanity’s physical extremities. However, to actually travel beyond
the solar system and into deeper space will require the types of innovation that physicist
Michio Kaku discusses in his book The Future of Humanity. Specifically, he writes,
“nanotechnology and artificial intelligence may drastically change the rules of the game” when
it comes to developing a presence in outer space. In 2016, Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner
announced the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative, a project which endeavors to “develop
‘nanoships,’ sophisticated chips placed on sails energized by a huge bank of powerful laser
beams on Earth.” The mission is that by the year 2050, the diminutive machines would be
launched from Earth towards a flyby of the Alpha Centauri star system 4.37 light years away, a
destination to which it would take 20 years to arrive.
The extant distances of the cosmos boggle the mind but also ignite the imagination.
What if prospective alien civilizations are indeed out there, and have traversed a similar path of
technological advancement as our own? Keeping in line with that path of logic, what if they
have not visited us, but their small-scale machines have? It is unlikely that we would even
notice their presence. In the same way that some of our own future technology is unimaginable
in the present, it is probable that some of their technology would be unimaginable to us.
Whether their space travel machines would be nanotechnology, or the flying saucers and
spaceships that endure in the popular imagination, it would be a historic event to prove their
existence. According to one leading astrophysicist, there actually does exist evidence of
“And yet it deviated.” This is the key four-word sentence in astrophysicist Avi Loeb’s
book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. The book, published in
2021, argues that an object that passed through our solar system in 2017 was in actuality the
first observation of intelligent alien design. Although dismissed as a highly unusual asteroid by
some observers, Loeb, the long-serving chair of the astronomy department at Harvard
University, strongly disagrees with that theory. The object entered the solar system, sped
around the sun within the ellipse of Mercury, and continued its journey outward. Observed for
several days by astronomers, the body of data shows that the object did not at all behave as
expected. This is true despite the fact that “universal laws of physics allow us to predict with
certainty what a given object’s trajectory should be.” And yet it deviated.
The Spitzer Space Telescope, which makes highly detailed celestial observations, did not
detect the usual gas and heat that should have been emitted by the object. In addition to its
thin cigar shape being an extreme figure in comparison to usual space objects, its physical
composition proved challenging to validate. Interestingly, the object was at first classified as a
comet, then reclassified as an asteroid. Finally, however, because of its ambiguity, a new
designation had to be created, one that was neither comet nor asteroid: interstellar object. This
is because the object is not bound to our sun’s gravity, but rather comes from deep space.
The object’s suggested original name was Rama, after the extraterrestrial spaceship in
Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel Rendezvous with Rama. Nevertheless, since it was
discovered by a Hawaiian observatory, it was named ‘Oumuamua in the native Hawaiian
language, which translates to first distant messenger. Clearly, the object’s name, along with the
puzzling aspects of its observation, are evocative of the alien machine prospect. The
astronomers who observed the object for 30 hours and analyzed the data concluded their
report’s abstract with the following statement: “Our results extend the mystery of
‘Oumuamua’s origins and evolution.”
The layered anomalous characteristics of ‘Oumuamua, according to Loeb, would classify
it as a one-in-a-million object, a figure mathematically drawn from the historical catalog of
space objects. In his assessment, the data and analysis “clearly defy the understandable.” In an
interview with Space Explored, Loeb declares that “some people do not want to discuss the
possibility that there are other civilizations out there. They believe we are special and unique. I
think it’s a prejudice that should be abandoned.” In his book, he discusses at length his view
that the traditional stigma surrounding extraterrestrial inquiry is bizarre, and that his academic
field’s general closed-mindedness is frustrating and unfortunate.
This skeptical mindset of much of academia notwithstanding, the stigma surrounding
the topic of extraterrestrial study has diminished in recent years. A significant initiative called
The Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary
Experiences, named after the NASA astronaut who took part in the project, conducted a
rigorous scientific investigation that culminated in a 2018 publication called Beyond UFOs. This
hefty report thoroughly collects contact experiences and witness testimony, along with
academic articles from esteemed physicists, psychologists, and more. Its treatment of the
nonhuman intelligence experience phenomenon is methodical and objective. Rudy Schild,
astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, writes in the report that “We
live in an exciting world where advances in space exploration and astrophysics are matched by
the wonder of UAP sightings.”
A 2021 article in The New Yorker titled “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s
Seriously” chronicles the recent history of unidentified aerial phenomena, from the famous
1947 Roswell incident through the U.S.S. Nimitz encounter of 2004 off the coast of California.
Audiovisual documentation of the latter was released to the public by the Pentagon in 2020,
and appears to show technology far beyond that of human capability. In the 2020 documentary
film The Phenomenon, Commander David Fravor, one of the first of forty aviators who
witnessed the astonishing abilities of the unknown vehicles during the Nimitz encounter,
narrates his experience. He recognizes that it is highly unlikely that the objects he saw are of
human origin. Commander Fravor’s detailed description of his encounter is one of several
recent examples of similar accounts by U.S. military personnel. In the film, Christopher Mellon,
former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, states that the main idea the public should
know about unidentified aerial phenomena is that “these things are real, they’re here, this is
Like the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua, the strange vehicles recently witnessed by so
many dependable sources, deviated from what is possible with current human technology. The
extraterrestrial life debate goes back to antiquity, as is revealed by the written texts of
philosophers, theologians, and astronomers throughout history. Michael J. Crowe, historian of
extraterrestrial studies, believes that a contact with nonhuman intelligence is quite conceivably
imminent. He wrote in the 1990s that “the detection of an extraterrestrial civilization” would
certainly be “one of the most important discoveries that scientists ever sought.”
Avi Loeb is certainly convinced that we already have undeniable evidence, and more and
more people seem to be opening their minds to that possibility in the wake of mounting signs
that are increasingly difficult to ignore. Human technological capacity for observation and
documentation is rapidly growing as an extension of our perception, from the ubiquity of
sophisticated cell phone cameras to the advanced new space telescopes. If alien technologies
are indeed here, it will be progressively harder for them to elude observation. It may very well
be that we are now on the cusp of otherworldly discovery, of real revelation.
Crowe, Michael J. The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900. Dover, 1999.
Loeb, Avi. Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Houghton Mifflin
“Harvard Science Professor Believes Interstellar Object Oumuamua Was Alien Tech, Not Rogue
Comet.” Space Explored, 4 January 2021, https://spaceexplored.com/2021/01/04/harvard-
Hernandez, Rey, John Klimo and Rudy Schild, editors. Beyond UFOs. Free, 2018.
Howell, Elizabeth. “Fermi Paradox: Where are the aliens?” Space.com, 17 December 2021,
Kaku, Michio. The Future of Humanity. Anchor Books, 2018.
Lewis-Kraus, Gideon. “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously.” The New Yorker, 30
April 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/05/10/how-the-pentagon-started-
O’Meara, Thomas F. Vast Universe. Liturgical Press, 2012.
Phenomenon, The. Directed by James Fox. Farah Films, 2020.
Rees, Martin and Donald Goldsmith. “The Webb Telescope Shows We Don’t Need Astronauts to
Explore the Cosmos.” The Wall Street Journal, 21 July 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-
Wilson, Eric G. The Melancholy Android. State University of New York Press, 2006.
Aleco Julius is a literature teacher and essayist. His work appears in Anathema Publishing’s esoteric books Seeds of Ares and A Wayfarer’s Hearth, as well as the folk horror & occult zines Hellebore and Fantomes. He is also a contributor to Holland Files, a Swamp Thing zine. His forthcoming horror essay will be published in the journal Vastarien, from Grimscribe Press. He’s on Twitter @DaggerMind and Instagram @dagger_of_the_mind. He lives in Chicago with his lovely wife and two wonderful daughters.