When the aliens were first perceived, astrophysicists mistook their ship for a newly discovered planet. Radio telescopes had returned information that was indistinguishable from other planets in far constellations. SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, had seriously dropped the ball by looking for cohesive radio emissions. At the long distances involved, the radio spectrum signals had weakened and mingled with those that make up the background noise of the universe to arrive as a blend of varying intensities and frequencies. Think of a flashlight used to signal a distant receiver in the middle of a bright and sunny day. It was only realized that there was something very different about this planet when astronomers determined by Doppler shift that whatever it was, it was headed in our direction and it was moving with awesome velocity.
The planet was reclassified as a ship only after a full year of observation. They now had its direction and velocity plotted and were able to say with confidence that it would enter our solar system in a matter of a mere twenty-seven months. On this announcement, people sat up and took notice. According to the scientists, the object was spherical in shape and they also determined that the sphere was the same general size of the planet Jupiter, perhaps slightly larger It was immense. But with only reflected light to illuminate the object, no actual view of it was available, and wouldn’t be until it got much nearer to Earth’s instruments of exploration and measurement.
People on Earth reacted predictably. Average people on the street would speak with hubris, saying the aliens should ‘bring it on.’ When they arrived they’d be taken right to school. Others were less confident and predicted the end of humanity. In the spectrum between, others were anticipatory, anxious, curious and apathetic. But the language of astronomy was wound into all languages and localized jargon as telescope manufacturers had a field day. Almost every household had a telescope with which they searched the night sky and invariably misidentified heavenly bodies as the aliens.
Religion also surged. The major beliefs experienced revitalization as did smaller, fringe beliefs. Some people began to stock up on supplies and built shelters while others committed suicide, some after euthanizing friends and loved ones in misguided acts of kindness. At the same time, long held feuds and conflicts evaporated as people looked past differences that had so long been of paramount importance.
Governments tried to invoke national martial law in a futile attempt to maintain order. They enjoyed some success in the major cities, but found it impossible to exert their wills on rural areas. In the cities they could concentrate their forces on thick populations, but merely patrol the the open and forested areas of land.
In short order, civilization on the planet experienced major and radical change. Ideas of democracy gave way to paternalistic governance, tremendously conservative in nature. Militarism prevailed as the people of Earth prepared to defend themselves from conquest as still the aliens approached, closer all the time.
Attempts to contact the aliens, to determine their intentions flew from the planet with greater and greater frequency as more and more was learned about the huge body hurtling ever inward. But a relative silence was the only response. When their arrival was only weeks away, weapons that had formerly been trained on neighbors were now focused outward. Operating consoles were manned twenty-four hours a day.
As the gigantic vessel entered the far reaches of the solar system, our orbiting observation platforms got their first good look at the behemoth, but absolute clarity was impossible because of its high velocity. However, the brilliant flashes of collisions with debris were impressive in both because of the energy released by the impacts and the seeming indifference to the events displayed by the alien craft.
Still it’s rate wasn’t diminished, and the world sat stunned as the great object completely ignored planet Earth and flashed past without any indication its inhabitants took the smallest interest in it. In a few hours it was departing the solar system on the side opposite its approach, and planetary telescopes watched it as it disappeared eventually, its destination a secret denied an answer.
In spite of the views of the behemoth that demonstrated without doubt that the great object was not a natural object, but the creation of an intelligent race, the great minds of planet Earth declared it an uninhabited rogue. There was no possibility that an intelligent race might not consider us and those things to which we apply the greatest value as unimportant and unworthy of homage. But it did not go without notice to many that the huge object exerted no gravitational or other forces that gave affect to the bodies of the solar system, all of which ignored its passing with mutual indifference.