Astronomers are adept with vast scales of distance, matter and time, and can draw on extraterrestrial intelligence as a potential explanation for celestial phenomena that are either novel or not immediately understandable. Likely anyone that visits oklo.org knows about LGM-1 and 6EQUJ5. An electrifying recent example of an extraterrestrial-intelligence hypothesis that rose to prominence in the public eye was the peer-reviewed article suggesting that the star KIC 8462852 is an outstanding SETI target because its light curve is consistent with a swarm of megastructures.
Easing the hypothesis of intelligently directed agency into consideration is an effective pathway to attention, especially in the scientific and popular media. Astronomers are more adept than other scientists at operationalizing this strategy, and a well-calibrated approach, “it’s important to consider all the possibilities, even the unlikely ones,” can responsibly deflect criticism in the unfortunate event that the media blows a sober scientifically-grounded suggestion out of proportion and things start get out of hand. Indeed, appeals to the deus ex machina are not frequently seen in terrestrial fields such as meteorology or solid-state physics.
In the late 1950s, orbital measurements of the Martian moon Phobos were interpreted to suggest that the satellite’s orbit was ...