Did you know that Russian billionaire Yuri Milner had teamed up with the late world renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in a bid to discover and contact extraterrestrial life? And now: “Repeated signals coming to Earth from another galaxy, scientists say”. That was a very recent headline in The Independent. Researchers have detected eight repeating blasts of energy, or fast radio bursts or FRBs, that have been picked up on Earth by telescopes wrote Andrew Griffin. “The discovery could mark a major breakthrough for researchers as they attempt to discover the source of the mysterious signals.” That source could be surprisingly close. The researchers suggest that one of the bursts could be coming from a galaxy that neighbours our own Milky Way.

The new data comes from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, a telescope that scientists had hoped would shed new light on FRBs. Now it has done so, with the discovery of eight more that have been described in a new paper published on Arxiv. To try and understand their source, scientists have searched for more bursts and looked to understand them in better detail when they come. Repeating bursts are likely to be the key to that, since they can be examined with so much more clarity.

In addition to the two confirmed bursts, other researchers have reported two more that are yet to be published in peer-reviewed journals. The new discovery could lead to much more detailed research on where they are coming from. Obviously, whether ghosts exist or not, whether the paranormal, the supernatural are realities or not, whether other worlds exist or not aren’t the only questions that refuse to die. Whether aliens exist or not is also an enduring question that has been popping up with unfailing regularity, exciting fascinated curiosity all over the world. As with the other questions, this curiosity about aliens is age old.

Some time ago, msn.com presented a most interesting compilation of “16 signs that hinted at the possibility of alien activities”. Amongst them are Egyptian hieroglyphics which showed engravings that suggest alien-like flying machines visited the ancient Nile valley. Napoleon’s amazing microchip is mentioned: “Scientists reportedly found a half-inch long foreign object lodged in the skull of former French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon himself said that he was held prisoner by ‘strange’ men when he disappeared for many days in 1794”.

The compilation focuses too on documented instances reported about commercial plane pilots suggesting a near-collision with a UFO. “One pilot reportedly sighted a ‘delta-shaped’ flying object heading toward his aircraft while flying into Manchester, England. The UFO apparently disappeared before he could react to avoid a collision.” Perhaps the most significant item on the list is the sighting by Apollo 11 astronauts. “When American astronauts landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, they sighted an unidentified flying object close to their location. At first they presumed it was part of the detached SIV-B rocket, which was later confirmed to be 6,000 miles or 9,656 kms from them. It’s a mystery that baffles scientists even today.”

The purported details of aliens and UFO’s—“car of precious metals capable of going anywhere at will”—in the ancient, celebrated Indian epic, the Mahabharata, are no less intriguing. According to ancientvoice.wikidot.com, the world’s 1st Wiki platform with 23790 pages dedicated to Vēda Itihāsa Purānās and created by Jijith Nadumuri, “There are certain narrations in Mahabharata that defy rational explanations. Some examples are…Arjuna’s travels in a flying chariot across the Himalayas, his visit of the Deva territories—ancient alien base-camp in Tibet?, his battle with the Nivata Kavachas—men in space-suits?… the triple space-cities of Asuras that revolved around Earth in three circular orbits that was destroyed by Siva using a single projectile weapon,…” The site goes on to point out that our ancient texts speak of The Fourteen Worlds including the Earth, all of them filled with intelligent life. It also mentions travel of people between these worlds. “Sometimes it is mentioned that the Devas lived in some of these worlds while the Asuras lived in others.”

To switch back to the present, the March 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine surmised that “Life probably exists beyond Earth. So how do we find it? With next-generation telescopes, tiny space probes, and more, scientists aim to search for life beyond our solar system—and make contact.” Would that contact—a confirmation that we are not alone in the universe and that there are other worlds, other beings—be exciting for us humans or a disaster? Would it open up new possibilities for us or would it spell doom? In an interview to the UK Express in 2017, Stephen Hawking warned “aliens could kill humans if we ever try to contact them” as he spoke out about his fears that alien life could conquer Earth.

Sofia Petkar wrote: “Stephen Hawking thinks aliens will not like being contacted by humans. The world’s most famous theoretical physicist warned humans to be hesitant about making contact with our extraterrestrial neighbours. He said while planet Gliese 832c—a hot super-Earth discovered earlier this year – has the potential to support alien life, it is unlikely that any life out there would be pleased to hear from us”. In a documentary entitled Stephen Hawking’s Favourite Places, he said: “One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilisation could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.” He went on to say that alien life could be “rapacious marauders roaming the cosmos in search of resources to plunder, and planets to conquer and colonise”.

But Hawking’s fears, despite his teaming up with the Russian billionaire, have not deterred those intent on finding life on other worlds. As the National Geographic put it, the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, “changed the way we approach one of the great mysteries of existence. The question is no longer, is there life beyond Earth? It’s a pretty sure bet there is. The question now is, how do we find it? The revelation that the galaxy is teeming with planets has reenergized the search for life… the prospect of new targets, new money, and ever increasing computational power has also galvanized the decades-long search for intelligent aliens”. What will happen or is likely to happen when we do find aliens, or aliens from another world find us? Read about in the next column.