A Harvard professor has been given nearly $1.8 million to study UFOs, NBC News reported Monday.
Avi Loeb, a professor of science, is overseeing the Galileo Project, which will allow him to install a network of small telescopes around the world in the hopes of capturing even a single high-resolution image of something "weird" in the sky.
"It's a win-win proposition because even if we find that these aerial phenomena are rare atmospheric effects that are not expected, we learn something new," Loeb told NBC News. "If there is something out there, we need to find out."
In late June, the U.S. intelligence community released a long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects that have been seen moving through restricted military airspace over the last several decades.
The report concluded the government could explain only one of the 144 encounters with UFOs reported by military pilots.
A few days after the report’s release, Loeb was informed he would be receiving some new research money. He also had a billionaire knock on his door to ask about aliens.
"I've been in academia for about 40 years and been a department chair," Loeb said. "Never have I ever seen a situation where a faculty member gets funding without looking for it and even meeting the donor.
"I was struck by the number of top-level astronomers and instrumentalists who said this was always something they thought about, but never thought they would get funding. I even got emails from directors of centers saying, 'I agree with you, but am afraid to speak about it.'"
Loeb told NBC News that the $1.755 million he’s starting with comes from private sources.
With Pentagon officials, NASA administrator, senators, former CIA directors, and former President Barack Obama acknowledge they've seen things that can’t be easily explained, Loeb told NBC News he feels vindicated.
"You have the cranks saying 'nonsense.' Then you have the scientists saying, 'See, you have all these people saying nonsense, therefore we should not engage,'" Loeb said. "I don't think staying ignorant is a good idea."
Loeb and other advocates have argued that military and intelligence agencies don’t want to investigate UFOs and would not tell the public what they found even if they did.
One of the best-known U.S. astronomers, Loeb wis the longest-serving chairman of the astronomy department at Harvard, and has held prestigious appointments from the White House and top academic societies.
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