dark forest with mysterious eyes

As the first asteroid confirmed to have originated outside the Solar System whizzed by at roughly 85,000 mph, scientists scrambled unsuccessfully to figure out some way to catch up to it. Was it different from the asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter? Was it even an asteroid? What if it was some kind of technology designed by an alien race?

The Breakthrough Initiatives program observed and gathered data from the asteroid, but found no evidence of life or signals indicative of technology. For all we’ve learned about space, the more we realize we don’t know, especially when it comes to aliens. More… “Should We Stop Looking for Intelligent Life?”

Joelle Renstrom‘s collection of essays, Closing the Book: Travels in Life, Loss, and Literature, was published in 2015. She’s the robot columnist for the Daily Beast and a staff writer for Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel. Her essays have appeared in SlateAeonThe Guardian, and others. She teaches writing and research at Boston University with a focus on space exploration and artificial intelligence.


Do poets believe in extraterrestrials?  Do you think they have tried to contact us?

— Mike, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Unless the idea of life on other planets violates any theological beliefs, I think most poets living today believe the universe is too immense for them to conclude that humans are alone. Former poet laureate Stanly Kunitz wrote “The Abduction” which ends:

That was a long time ago,

almost another age, but even now,

when I hold you in my arms,

I wonder where you are.

Sometimes I wake to hear

the engines of the night thrumming

outside the east bay window

on the lawn spreading to the rose garden.

You lie beside me in elegant repose,

a hint of transport hovering on your lips,

indifferent to the harsh green flares

that swivel through the room,

searchlights controlled by unseen hands.

Out there is a childhood country,

bleached… More…