Visitors from Outer Space.
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on Septemper 24, 1998. The title above was not the title used by the paper.)

In Frank Leeland's column on foreign relations (Review, Sept. 7, 1998), he wrote, "I am not sure why visitors from outer space have apparently visited here in the first place in their 'flying saucers'. I did not have the chance to meet and talk with them as some people have, but I sure know why they cut their visits short and left without even saying goodbye."

Our universe consists of billions of galaxies each with trillions of stars: a small percentage with planets, a small percentage of which may be habitable, a small percentage of which may hold intelligent life, a small percentage of which may have developed space travel.

The Sun's nearest star is 4.2 light-years away. Traveling at very near light speed, a one way trip would require just over 4.2 years as measured by ground based clocks. Traveling at a paltry million miles per hour, the trip would require 2,812 years -- to visit the NEAREST star. Within 20 light-years, there are only a few dozen more. Others are much farther away.

Our own galaxy spans 100,000 light-years; nearby galaxies are on the order of millions of light-years away. To span these enormous distances within a civilization's lifetime would require technologies vastly superior to ours. However, because we currently can't, doesn't mean that it is forever impossible or that it already hasn't been accomplished. After all, the universe is estimated to be 13 billion years old, give or take a few billion years.

Despite these technological hurdles, Leeland assumes that we already have been visited. But based on what –UFO sightings, crop circles, Roswell, "alien autopsies", rumor, claims in tabloids?

There is no valid evidence – none – that we have been visited by extraterrestrials. UFO sightings are exactly that – unidentified flying objects. No valid evidence has even been presented that a UFO is of extraterrestrial origin. Crop circles have been firmly established as clever hoaxes. Roswell hysteria is perpetuated by local townspeople who have found the "phenomena" very profitable. "Alien autopsies" was done with really bad special effects. All rumors and claims remain unsubstantiated. No extraordinary evidence has been presented to defend the extraordinary claims.

As I mentioned earlier, the topic of Leeland's column was foreign relations. His quote about flying saucers may have been in jest. But based on his previous writings, I think he was serious.

John L. Ferri

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