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Jason and the Astronauts

dark brown and full. His lips were relaxed and the subtle squint of his brown eyes
suggested a hint of sarcasm behind his relaxed manner.
Officially, Bruce was an instructor at the college. His biology labs were popular with
students, and his sense of adventure had stretched the chancellor’s permissiveness. In
fact, his relationship with Throckmorten was strained, and it was only through Nick’s
insistence that Bruce was included. To travel with his friend, and perhaps help him make
a significant discovery would be reward enough. To spend nine magical days in the
paradise of a diverse Brazilian rain forest had been a lifelong dream.
Something violent happened on the plateau north of Manaus, the capital city of Amazonia
and the world’s former rubber Mecca. The region did not lie on that part of the so-called
Ring of Fire, known as the Pacific Rim, where the Nazca and South American plates
meet along the west coast of South America. An earthquake was unlikely. Besides, the
Survey’s seismographic recording showed neither P nor S waves characteristic of quakes.
Instead, the record suggested a surface shock as the initial disturbance, with ripples
followed by blips, indicating fallout. Whatever it was, it had set off the sensors that
comprise the Geological Network in South and Central America. Bruce impishly
remarked it might have been Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier for the Brazilian
Air Force. He saved that for Nick, after finishing his interview with Throckmorten. Nick
appreciated it was impossible to examine in detail the records of every geologic event
around the globe, particularly in remote spots. The oceans swallow up most
extraterrestrial matter. His own interests were tuned both to the radio universe and to
highlighted data garnered from the U.S. Geological Survey.
What riveted Nick’s attention most was a report from the huge radio telescope at
Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The Garden State Observatory and its Center devoted to the search
for extraterrestrial intelligence was located on the Jersey side of the Delaware River
watershed in the mountains. The Center possessed a twenty-inch optical refractor and a
small radio dish with which it participated in the all-sky survey known as the Argos
Project. The Center also had access to data from the SETI Institute in California.
The institute provided data from three radio observatories: the Very Large Array in New
Mexico, Arecibo’s huge stationary dish in Puerto Rico, and the 2.3-acre moveable
Greenbank dish in the mountains of West Virginia.
The mysterious finding that evening in March was a fleeting signal picked up at Arecibo.
Its Doppler analysis showed a “blue shift,” indicating the source was moving toward the
earth at a velocity of around Mach 3. The 10-kilohertz signal was picked up virtually at
the same time as the shockwave in the Brazilian forest was recorded. Were the two
observations connected? Were they coincidental? Was one an artifact? Were they both
artifacts? Double skepticism was wagered against the miniscule chance of a historic
Nick’s fascination with Roswell had inspired his interest in the U.S. Geological Survey
and earth surface events. He felt he wouldn’t have much competition for this hunt, since
most scientists scoffed at the idea of alien visits to earth. They made the argument of
distance, and it was compelling. The universe was thought to have a radius of 10 billion
light-years. Over two hundred planets had been discovered, orbiting stars fifty to two
hundred light-years away, suggesting there were millions more. The star 61 Cygni was