Not everyone is fully up on where Elite:Dangerous is now with its ongoing saga of hunting for alien life, or the rich history behind it.
Back in 1984 when Elite hit the BBC Micro, the “bad guys” were an alien race known as the Thargoids. Beyond that, very little was known. They flew octagonal saucer ships and would drag unsuspecting commanders out of the hyperspace tunnel (also called “witchspace”) and attack the commander in the deep black gulf of space between stars, where no help was available. Unless you were quick to fight or flee, it was certain death for most ships. The sight of their saucers was feared across the galaxy!
A decade or so later, in Frontier and Frontier 2 the lore of this race expanded and we found out that the Thargoids were an insectoid race with six limbs, resembling a praying mantis.
Since the release of Elite: Dangerous, and even before going right back to the 2012 KickStarter, the community has been speculating how and when the Thargoids might appear in the game.
In March 2015, with the release of 1.2, Unknown Artefacts began to appear. These were being carried by Type-9 ships in a convoy in Strong Signal Sources. The NPC chatter was all about the "strange cargo" they carried. We also began to see them floating in space and they made a peculiar noise. You could pick them up in your ship's cargo scoop, but commanders found that their ship became rapidly damaged by holding one of these objects.
What did the noise mean?
There were two signals the UAs made. One was Morse code, which spelled out the system they were located. The other was a mystery until CMDR Mike Juliet Kilo realised the signal was co-ordinates and when plotted, drew his ship - a Vulture!
Throughout 1.3 the UAs kept making these same noises, but began to be found in space always pointing towards the Merope system...
In January 2016, after the 2.0 release of the Horizons expansion, explorers found alien structures on the planet Merope 5C. These objects resembled barnacles or some kind of ocean shell, with crystalline spikes appearing to grow out of the ground around them. The spikes could be blasted into fragments with the SRV turret and one spike would yield a large emerald-like crystal, that when harvested using the SRV cargo scoop was revealed to be a meta material.
Meta materials and UA bombing
Commanders who noticed that the Unknown Artefacts damaged their ship, tried various things to avoid having their ship destroyed while hanging on to the UA they'd discovered. However, the side-effect of their sheltering inside a station, was that the station itself took damage and station services would shut down. Enterprising CMDRs then found that by delivering and selling multiple UAs to a single station could shut it down and thus "UA Bombing" was born. Deliberate sabotage of stations using UAs as a weapon.
Subsequently, it was discovered that the Meta Materials harvested from so-called "Barnacles" could repair UA-Bombed stations.
More and more barnacles have been discovered in the systems around Merope and seem to favour systems inside nebulas.
In May 2016, Horizons 2.1 shipped and explorers began to discover smaller unknown artefacts, which were named Unknown Probes. These objects were active rather than passive, like their predecessors. When scanned with a discovery scanner they would emit an electro-magnetic pulse, disabling nearby ships and then play a data signal.
The signal was decoded in June by CMDR Muetdhiver and CMDR Wace. When fed through a spectrum analyser the audio produced a hazy diagram.
When cleaned up, the signal is clearly some kind of iconography.
General consensus is that the diagram represents some kind of address, but no definitive meaning has yet been found.
UPDATE: The guys on the Canonn Research Thread (#8) have noticed that the Unknown Probes appear to be seeking ammonia based worlds.
During GamesCom in early August, Frontier's live streams were "interrupted" by alien signals, which were overlaid with binary and ASCII messages.
Once again, the guys at Canonn Research put their collective brains to the problem and solved the puzzle and this week - CMDR Nochtrach, CMDR BALALAIKAX3 and CMDR Ihazevich found the clues Frontier gave led to an alien wreck site on the moon of Pleiades Sector AB-W B2-4,
Planet 9A at co-ordinates -26,3772°, 97,6982°.
The wreck is very reminiscent of Ridley Scott/H.R. Gieger's Alien spacecraft. A bio-mechanical craft, laying in the bottom of a valley. The craft was huge – far bigger than any human ship in the game.
CMDR Niamhy has even mocked up what the ship may have looked like before it crashed. Scary.
So, is it Thargoids?
Well truthfully, nobody outside Frontier knows. The ship doesn't resemble the earlier Thargoid ships. Are they friendly or not? Again, we don't yet know. What transpires next is anybody's guess and may be decided by who finds them first and who shoots first (or not).
Be careful out there. We are not alone...