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The UFO Phenomenon

Unidentified Flying Object

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An artist's impression of a typical disc-shaped UFO. Image Credit: Pixabay / christianplass
FACTUAL ANALYSIS: While many UFO sightings have conventional explanations, others - including objects witnessed and recorded by military personnel - continue to remain unexplained.
Unidentified Flying Object (most commonly abbreviated to UFO) is a general term used to describe a wide range of aerial objects and phenomena that defy explanation.

In recent years, the term Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (abbreviated to UAP) is also used.

While the term UFO tends to be automatically associated with the idea of extraterrestrial visitation, in reality, it can apply to all manner of mystery objects, most of which being terrestrial in nature.

While UFOs are still very relevant in the present day, they are by no means an exclusively modern phenomenon - sightings of strange objects in the sky (some alleged to contain visitors from other realms or worlds) have been documented in writings dating back thousands of years.

History of modern sightings

Some of the earliest reported sightings of UFOs came courtesy of World War II fighter pilots who encountered objects that they could not explain over the battlefields of Europe and beyond.

Nicknamed foo fighters, these objects - which were witnessed by Allied and German pilots alike - spawned reports of secretive weapons being developed by the opposing side.

In 1947, UFOs gained a lot of media attention after the experience of pilot Kenneth Arnold.

Arnold had been flying his plane (a CallAir A-2) from Chehalis, Washington to Yakima, Washington on June 24th of that year when he decided to make a quick detour in an attempt to track down the wreckage of a missing military plane that had crashed somewhere near Mount Rainier.

Failing to locate it, he had resumed his flight eastward when he witnessed what appeared to be a formation of nine highly reflective objects flying in the sky.

The mysterious aircraft were stretched out across an area of around five miles in what he described as "a diagonally stepped-down, echelon formation".

He quickly realized that he was not looking at any conventional aircraft. Assuming them to be some type of prototypes being tested by the military, Arnold estimated that they were traveling at speeds of up to 1,700mph, far faster than any known aircraft of the time.

Upon landing, he told some of his pilot friends about what he had seen and by the next day he was being interviewed by reporters.

His description of the objects would lead to the coining of the term flying saucer.
Official investigations

While government and military officials around the world tended to cover up evidence and play down reports of UFOs, many of them conducted their own secretive investigations into the phenomenon.

Perhaps the most significant of these (at least that we now know of) was Project Blue Book.

Carried out by the US Air Force between 1952 and 1969, Project Blue Book was an in-depth study of unidentified flying objects - the largest of its kind ever undertaken.

It had two main goals - to determine if UFOs were a threat and to scientifically analyze the data.

By the time the project had ended, it had collected an archive of some 12,618 UFO reports. While most of these were deemed to have conventional explanations, a small percentage of the sightings remained 'unexplained' even after being subjected to stringent analysis.

Officially, it was concluded that none of the UFO sightings investigated by the Air Force posed a risk to the United States and nor did they represent evidence of alien visitors or advanced technology.

Formal investigations into the phenomenon continue even to this day with the most recent investigative body being the Pentagon's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).

UFO crashes

Over the years there have been multiple reports of alleged UFO crashes, leading to numerous conspiracy theories accusing government agencies of retrieving, storing and even reverse-engineering captured alien technology to develop advanced vehicles at places like Area 51 in Nevada.

The most famous such case was the Roswell incident which saw an alleged UFO and its extraterrestrial occupants crash on a ranch around 30 miles north of Roswell in 1947, just a few weeks after Kenneth Arnold's sighting.

Exactly what was found and confiscated by the military continues to remain a controversial topic, with some believing that it was a crashed alien spacecraft, some subscribing to the official 'weather balloon' story and others again believing that it was some sort of secretive government project that went awry and had to be covered up.

Footage of one of the Roswell UFO's alleged alien occupants being autopsied appeared many years later, but this ended up being exposed as a hoax.
Types of UFOs

Objects categorized as UFOs come in many different shapes and sizes. These include:
  • Traditional metallic saucer or disc-shaped objects
  • Black triangular-shaped objects, often with three or more lights on the underside
  • Cigar-shaped, cylindrical objects with no discernible features
  • Small, fast-moving spheres
  • Single or multiple points of light with no discernible shape
  • Enormous objects estimated to be several miles in diameter
Some reports describe silent, hovering objects, while others talk of objects that are capable of making quick, seemingly impossible maneuvers beyond the capabilities of any known aircraft.

Some witnesses have even observed UFOs landing on the ground and taking off again, while others again have seen an object either descending into or emerging from large bodies of water.


While many (if not most) UFO sightings have conventional explanations, many remain unexplained.

Some common things mistaken for UFOs include:
  • Drones
  • Chinese lanterns
  • Satellites or rocket launches
  • Conventional aircraft
  • Blimps and balloons
  • Planets or stars
As things stand, even the US government openly admits that some of the objects witnessed and recorded by military personnel remain unidentified.

Exactly what they are, where they are from and who is controlling them continues to remain a mystery.

Related content:

Encyclopedia (Beta)

  Related Entries:
  • Area 51, a secretive US Air Force base in Nevada.
  • Extraterrestrial, an object or entity that originates from outside of the Earth.
  • Roswell Incident, an alleged UFO crash that took place near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.
  • Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist who became a celebrated UFO researcher and author.
  • Storm Area 51, a social media event and music festival.

(Note: This feature is a work in progress with more entries being added on a regular basis.)

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