Editors' review

June 12, 2017

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Nasa isn't about to announce it has made contact with aliens, despite a hugely viral video, the agency has confirmed.

The video – posted on an account associated with the hacking collective Anonymous – had claimed that Nasa was "on the verge" of making a new announcement on the discovery of alien life. The long and sometimes rambling footage used a range of evidence to suggest that the agency had discovered something that it would be making public soon.

But Nasa has now confirmed that, as thought, there's no new evidence of alien life. At least according to senior scientist Thomas Zurbuchen, upon whose comments much of the video was based.

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"Contrary to some reports, there’s no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life," Dr Zurbuchen wrote on Twitter.

"Are we alone in the universe? While we do not know yet, we have missions moving forward that may help answer that fundamental question."

It was actually those missions that the quotes used in the video from Dr Zurbruchen, who is associate administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, were referencing. They came from a testimony he gave in April to the US science and technology committee.

In the speech he summarised Nasa's work on astrobiology, including recent and future missions. All of those added up to make him believe that Nasa could soon find something more significant than perhaps anything before, he said.

"With all of this activity related to the search for life, in so many different areas, we are on the verge of one of the most profound discoveries, ever," he said. "And as we know from experience, NASA’s scientific discoveries of today continually drive impactful research for tomorrow that goes far beyond the initial observations."

But his comment about being on the verge of a new discovery was set in a different context than the video may make it seem. Even in the same speech he made clear that Nasa hadn't "found definitive signs of life elsewhere just yet".

Instead, his comment was in the context of ongoing work to find those signs, and an expression of the fact that he believed such work could soon yield results.

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