Elite Dangerous' mysterious aliens have just declared war

The Thargoids did not come in peace. For nearly a year, players have been hunting for signs of extraterrestrial life in the virtual galaxy of Elite. Then, several months ago, one pilot made first contact with an assumed Thargoid vessel. At the time, the alien vessel appeared to scan him before warping off. Now, hours after the launch of update 2.4 which Frontier Developments ominously named The Return, player reports have begun flowing in that the mysterious Thargoids are on the offensive—and they're packing some powerful weaponry to boot.

Commander Relient Owl appears to be one of the first players to engage the vessel. As he details in his Reddit thread, "it shredded my shields apart and was so fast! It scanned me, turned to face a wreck of Imperial ships and then turned back [glowing] red and fired off its drones and started zapping me with the eye."

Fortunately, Relient Owl recorded the initial confrontation and has shared it on Youtube.

In the video, the Thargoid vessel is found amidst the wreckage of a fleet of NPC ships. After a moment, its yellow glow turns red and it begins launching waves of drones and opening fire on Relient Owl. Other reports are spilling in detailing a similar outcome. Despite the size of the alien ship, it moves extremely fast.

No one appears to have found a way to outright destroy a Thargoid ship, but 'jcollasius' on Reddit has posted a video of him returning fire and managing to break off a piece of the hull and scoop it into his cargohold. The wreckage is identified as "Thargoid Cyclops Tissue Sample," indicating that the alien ships are actually organic in nature (which makes sense considering their flowery appearance). The tissue sample is corrosive, and as soon as jcollasius scoops it up it begins eating away at his ship's internal systems.

The community is rapidly trying to make sense of the chaos. Commander Balladoc has shared step by step instructions on how to encounter a Thargoid vessel. Most encounters appear to be happening in the Pleiades Sector.

If you watch the above videos, also notice that the screen in the lower left of their cockpits begins displaying a series of numbers when they try to scan the vessel. Players have a megathread where they are compiling lists of these codes, hoping that they might provide a clue for dealing with the alien threat.

Disturbingly enough, jcollasius has also discovered that they can "feed" the Thargoids escape pods occupied by NPC humans, which they appear to enjoy. Here's a video:

For those following Elite Dangerous, the Thargoids being hostile shouldn't come as a surprise. Frontier Developments has told us that update 2.4 would lead to potential conflict with the aliens for several months now. But what's still unclear is how large the conflict will become, and what that will mean for the future of human life in Elite.

I've reached out to the commanders involved and hope to have more details on the conflict as it emerges. But if you're planning on venturing out to the Pleiades Sector, it might be smart to bring some firepower (or a really fast ship).