A clip from The Tonight Demonstrate with Johnny Carson in 1978 produced the social media rounds in mid-July. The guest that episode—astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan—offered astute criticisms of the then recently introduced Star Wars film for its myopic (and whitewashed) imagining of how organisms from other galaxies could glance. In this collection, reporter Leonard David examines the federal government report printed in June that surveys our proof for extraterrestrial life so far (see “Experts Weigh in on Pentagon UFO Report”), and two of our impression writers contemplate some specific situations for alien contact.

But Sagan’s prescient observations remind me that our research for other lifestyle in the universe will generally be a strictly human endeavor: how we imagine aliens may well seem, assume or operate and how we look for them or detect their existence— all these elements are primarily based on the human framework of perception. This sort of restrictions will only be problematic if we ignore them and fail to somehow soar outside of the bounds of our minds.