GEO: Professor Frank, for most of your scientific career you have been researching how stars form. Then, a few years ago, you changed course and have been looking for life in space ever since. Why? The question of whether there is life in the universe other than on Earth fascinated me even as a child. However, when I was studying in the mid-1980s, research on this was unused. Above all, there was a lack of financing, also because there were major reservations. Not a great prospect for a young astronomer like me.

Where did these reservations come from? At about the same time that astronomy had the technical means to seriously investigate the question of life in space, UFOs arrived: unidentified flying objects. There have been supposed sightings, like in Roswell in 1947. Above all, pop culture discovered the topic and produced films about alien invasions and flying saucers. The scientific search for life in space has been associated with this UFO culture from the beginning.

Not the most serious environment for researchers. Not at all. This was primarily due to the lack of standards by which UFO sightings were considered relevant. Everything in the scene was considered evidence of a sighting. And, worse, she immediately interpreted every event as a visit from aliens. It was enough for someone to claim that they had spotted a glow in the sky that was moving unnaturally fast. This terribly holey evidence stretches from the first major alleged sightings in the 1940s and 1950s to the most recent Navy videos.

They are referring to the videos from the cockpits of US fighter jets that show mysterious objects over the east coast of North America. The New York Times reported on this in 2017, and the US Department of Defense has now released the videos to the public.

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