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U.F.O.s

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An unidentified flying object, or UFO, is any object in the air or upper atmosphere that cannot be identified. Some definitions, such as that which is used by the USAF, define a UFO as an object unable to be identified after scrutiny, while other definitions define an object as being a UFO from the time it is first reported as being unidentified, even though most subsequently become IFOs, Identified Flying Objects.

Reports of unusual aerial phenomena date back to ancient times, but modern reports and the first official investigations began during World War II with sightings of so-called foo fighters by Allied airplane crews, and in 1946 with widespread sightings of European "ghost rockets". UFO reports became even more common after the first widely publicized United States UFO sighting, by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in mid 1947. Tens of thousands of UFO reports have since been made worldwide.

Since its introduction the term has become heavily associated with flying saucers and alien spacecraft, though an object may be classified as a UFO independently of opinion as to its origins. Most military and civilian UFO investigations concluded that the majority of objects can be identified either directly, or by applying Occam's Razor .[1]

On April 14, 1561 the skies over Nuremberg, Germany were reportedly filled with a multitude of objects.  Woodcut  from 1566 by Hans Glaser.
On April 14, 1561 the skies over Nuremberg, Germany were reportedly filled with a multitude of objects. Woodcut from 1566 by Hans Glaser.

Unusual aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly astronomical in nature: comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets which can be seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, or atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds. An example is Halley's Comet, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 B.C. and possibly as early as 467 B.C.

"The Baptism of Christ", 1710, by Aert de Gelder. Proponents say this painting depicts UFOs.

Other historical reports seem to defy prosaic explanation, but assessing such accounts is difficult, because the information in a historical document may be insufficient, inaccurate, or embellished enough to make an informed evaluation difficult.

For example, in the Old Testament of the Bible, Ezekiel apparently had a first-hand encounter with something that might now be described as an Unidentified Flying Object, but which the Bible describes as a fiery chariot.

Whatever their actual cause, such sightings throughout history were often treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens. Art historian Daniela Giordano cites many Medieval-era paintings, frescoes, tapestries and other items that depict unusual aerial objects; she acknowledges many of these paintings are difficult to interpret, but cites some that depict airborne saucers and domed-saucer shapes that are often strikingly similar to UFO reports from later centuries.[2] (See List of UFO sightings)

Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a Song Chinese government scholar-official and prolific polymath inventor and scholar, wrote a vivid passage in his Dream Pool Essays (1088) about an unidentified flying object. He recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses in 11th century Anhui and Jiangsu (especially in the city of Yangzhou), who stated that a flying object with opening doors would emit a blinding light from its interior (from an object shaped like a pearl) that would cast shadows from trees for ten miles in radius, and was able to take off at tremendous speeds.[3]

[edit] Pre-modern reports

Main articles: List of UFO sightings and List of major UFO sightings
Photo of an unidentified object New Hampshire in 1870; known as the mystery airship.
Photo of an unidentified object New Hampshire in 1870; known as the mystery airship.

Before the terms "flying saucer" and "UFO" were coined in the late 1940s, there were a number of reports of unidentified aerial phenomena in the West. These reports date from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. They include:

  • On January 25, 1878, The Denison Daily News wrote that local farmer John Martin had reported seeing a large, dark, circular flying object resembling a balloon flying “at wonderful speed.”[4]
  • On November 17, 1882, a UFO was observed by astronomer Edward Walter Maunder of the Greenwich Royal Observatory and some other European astronomers. Maunder in The Observatory reported “a strange celestial visitor” that was "disc-shaped", "torpedo-shaped", "spindle-shaped", or "just like a Zeppelin" dirigible (as he described it in 1916).
  • On February 28, 1904, there was a sighting by three crew members on the USS Supply 300 miles west of San Francisco, reported by Lt. Frank Schofield, later to become Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Battle Fleet. Schofield wrote of three bright red egg-shaped and circular objects flying in echelon formation that approached beneath the cloud layer, then changed course and “soared” above the clouds, departing directly away from the earth after two to three minutes. The largest had an apparent size of about six suns.
Drawing of E. W. Maunder's Nov. 17, 1882, "auroral beam" by astronomer Rand Capron, Guildown Observatory, Surrey, UK, who also observed it.
Drawing of E. W. Maunder's Nov. 17, 1882, "auroral beam" by astronomer Rand Capron, Guildown Observatory, Surrey, UK, who also observed it.
  • 1916 and 1926: the three oldest known pilot UFO sightings, of 1305 catalogued by NARCAP. On January 31, 1916, a UK pilot near Rochford reported a row of lights, like lighted windows on a railway carriage, that rose and disappeared. In January 1926, a pilot reported six "flying manhole covers" between Wichita, Kansas and Colorado Springs, Colorado. In late September 1926, an airmail pilot over Nevada was forced to land by a huge, wingless cylindrical object.
  • On 5 August 1926, while traveling in the Humboldt Mountains of Tibet's Kokonor region, Nicholas Roerich reported that members of his expedition saw "something big and shiny reflecting sun, like a huge oval moving at great speed".
  • In both the European and Japanese aerial theatres during World War II, “Foo-fighters” (balls of light and other shapes that followed aircraft) were reported by both Allied and Axis pilots.[5]
  • On February 25, 1942, the U.S. Army detected unidentified aircraft both visually and on radar over the Los Angeles, California region. No readily-apparent explanation was offered. The incident later became known as the Battle of Los Angeles, or the West coast air raid.
  • In 1946, there were over 2000 reports of unidentified aircraft in the Scandinavian nations, along with isolated reports from France, Portugal, Italy and Greece, then referred to as "Russian hail", and later as "ghost rockets", because it was thought that these mysterious objects were Russian tests of captured German V1 or V2 rockets. Over 200 were tracked on radar and deemed to be “real physical objects” by the Swedish military.

[edit] The Kenneth Arnold sighting

Main article: Kenneth_Arnold#June_24.2C_1947_UFO_sighting
This shows the report Kenneth Arnold filed in 1947 about his UFO sighting.
This shows the report Kenneth Arnold filed in 1947 about his UFO sighting.

The post World War II UFO phase in the United States began with a reported sighting by American businessman Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington. He reported seeing nine brilliantly bright objects flying across the face of Rainier towards nearby Mount Adams at “an incredible speed”, which he "calculated" as at least 1200 miles per hour by timing their travel between Rainier and Adams.

This shows Kenneth Arnold holding a picture of a drawing of the crescent shaped UFO he saw in 1947.
This shows Kenneth Arnold holding a picture of a drawing of the crescent shaped UFO he saw in 1947.

His sighting subsequently received significant media and public attention. Arnold would later describe what he say as being "flat like a pie pan" and as flying "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water" and also said they were and "half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex in the rear. ...they looked like a big flat disk." (One, however, he would describe later as being almost crescent-shaped.) Arnold’s reported descriptions was widely reported upon and gave rise to the terms flying saucer and flying disk.[6] Arnold’s sighting was followed in the next few weeks by hundreds of other reported sightings, mostly in the U.S., but in other countries as well.

After reports of the Arnold sighting hit the media, other cases began to be reported in increasing numbers. In one instance a United Airlines crew sighting of nine more disc-like objects over Idaho on the evening of July 4. At the time, this sighting was even more widely reported than Arnold’s and lent considerable credence to Arnold’s report.

American UFO researcher Ted Bloecher, in his comprehensive review of newspaper reports, found a sudden surge upwards in sightings on July 4, peaking on July 6–8. Bloecher noted that for the next few days most American newspapers were filled with front-page stories of the new "flying saucers" or "flying discs". Reports began to tail off after July 8, when officials began issuing press statements on the now infamous Roswell UFO incident,[citation needed] in which they explained the debris as being that of a weather balloon.

Over several years in the 1960s, Bloecher (aided by physicist James E. McDonald) discovered 853 flying disc sightings that year from 140 newspapers from Canada, Washington D.C, and every U.S. state save Montana.

[edit] Ufology

Main article: Ufology

Ufology is a neologism coined to describe the collective efforts of those who study UFO reports and associated evidence. While not all ufo researchers necessarily believe that all UFOs are necessarily extraterrestrial spacecraft, they do believe that the area is worthy of research and that the idea that they could possibly be extraterrestrial spacecraft should be taken seriously.

[edit] Battelle Memorial Institute

An Air Force study by Battelle Memorial Institute scientists from 1952–1955 of 3200 USAF cases found 22% were unknowns, and with the best cases, 33% remained unsolved.[citation needed] Similarly about 30% of the UFO cases studied by the 1969 USAF Condon Committee were deemed unsolved when reviewed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).[citation needed] The official French government UFO scientific study (GEIPAN) from 1976 to 2004 listed about 13% of 5800 cases as detailed yet inexplicable (with 46% deemed to have definite or probable explanations and 41% having inadequate information).[7]

[edit] UFO hypotheses

There are different opinions about the UFO phenomenon. To account for unsolved UFO cases, several hypotheses have been proposed by both proponents and skeptics; a few examples are given below:

Among proponents, some of the more common explanations for UFOs are:

  • The Extraterrestrial Visitation Hypothesis(ETH): That UFOs are alien spacecraft
  • The Interdimensional Hypothesis: That UFOs are the results of objects crossing over from other dimensions
  • The Paranormal/Occult Hypothesis
  • The hypothesis that they are time machines or vehicles built in a future time.
  • The Extraterrestrial energyzoa theory: That UFOs represent as yet uncatalogued living beings
  • The man-made craft hypothesis: That UFOs are top secret Russian or American aircraft

Similarly, skeptics usually propose one of the following explanations:

  • The Psychological-Social Hypothesis
  • The unknown natural phenomena hypothesis, e.g. ball lightning, sprites
  • The Meteorological hypothesis—Peter F Coleman advanced a meteorological theory that many UFOs or unexplained lights are actually instances of visible combustion of a fuel (e.g., natural gas) inside an atmospheric vortex. He has argued his case in his book, Great Balls of Fire–a unified theory. [8] This vortex fireball theory was first published in Weather[9] and later in the Journal of Scientific Exploration[10]
  • The Earthquake lights/Tectonic Strain hypothesis
  • The Autokinetic effect hypothesis.
  • The "shiny-bodied insects" hypothesis.[citation needed]
  • hoaxes

Other skeptical arguments against UFOs include:

Most UFO sightings are transitory events and there is usually no opportunity for the repeat testing called for by the scientific method.[citation needed]

  • Occam's razor of hypothesis testing, since it is considered less incredible for the explanations to be the result of known scientifically verified phenomena rather than resulting from novel mechanisms (e.g. the extraterrestrial hypothesis).

[edit] UFO researchers

Main article: List of Ufologists

[edit] UFO organizations

Main article: UFO organizations

[edit] Physical evidence

Besides visual sightings, cases sometimes have indirect physical evidence, including many cases studied by the military and various government agencies of different countries. Indirect physical evidence would be data obtained from afar, such as radar contact and photographs. More direct physical evidence involves physical interactions with the environment at close range—Hynek's "close encounter" or Vallee's "Type-I" cases—which include "landing traces," electromagnetic interference, and physiological/biological effects.

  • Radar contact and tracking, sometimes from multiple sites. These are often considered among the best cases since they usually involve trained military personnel and control tower operators, simultaneous visual sightings, and aircraft intercepts. One such recent example were the mass sightings of large, silent, low-flying black triangles in 1989 and 1990 over Belgium, tracked by multiple NATO radar and jet interceptors, and investigated by Belgium's military (included photographic evidence). Another famous case from 1986 was the JAL 1628 case over Alaska investigated by the FAA.
  • Photographic evidence, including still photos, movie film, and video, including some in the infrared spectrum (rare).
  • Recorded visual spectrograms — (see Spectrometer)
  • Recorded gravimetric (example) and magnetic disturbances (extremely rare)
  • Landing physical trace evidence, including ground impressions, burned and/or desiccated soil, burned and broken foliage, magnetic anomalies, increased radiation levels, and metallic traces. See, e.g. Height 611 UFO Incident or the 1964 Lonnie Zamora's Socorro, New Mexico encounter, considered one of the most inexplicable of the USAF Project Blue Book cases). A well-known example from December 1980 was the USAF Rendlesham Forest Incident in England. Another less than two weeks later, in January 1981, occurred in Trans-en-Provence and was investigated by GEPAN, then France's official government UFO-investigation agency. Project Blue Book head Edward J. Ruppelt described a classic 1952 CE2 case involving a patch of charred grass roots. Catalogs of several thousand such cases have been compiled, particularly by researcher Ted Phillips.
  • Physiological effects on people and animals including temporary paralysis, skin burns and rashes, corneal burns, and symptoms superficially resembling radiation poisoning, such as the Cash-Landrum incident in 1980. One such case dates back to 1886, a Venezuelan incident reported in Scientific American magazine.
  • So-called animal/cattle mutilation cases, that some feel are also part of the UFO phenomenon. Such cases can and have been analyzed using forensic science techniques.
  • Biological effects on plants such as increased or decreased growth, germination effects on seeds, and blown-out stem nodes (usually associated with physical trace cases or crop circles)
  • Electromagnetic interference (EM) effects, including stalled cars, power black-outs, radio/TV interference, magnetic compass deflections, and aircraft navigation, communication, and engine disruption. A list of over 30 such aircraft EM incidents was compiled by NASA scientist Dr. Richard F. Haines. A famous 1976 military case over Tehran, recorded in CIA and DIA classified documents, resulted in communication losses in multiple aircraft and weapons system failure in an F-4 Phantom II jet interceptor as it was about to fire a missile on one of the UFOs. This was also a radar/visual case.[11]
  • Remote radiation detection, some noted in FBI and CIA documents occurring over government nuclear installations at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1950, also reported by Project Blue Book director Ed Ruppelt in his book.
  • Actual hard physical evidence cases, such as 1957, Ubatuba, Brazil, magnesium fragments analyzed by the Brazilian government and in the Condon Report and by others. The 1964 Socorro/Lonnie Zamora incident also left metal traces, analyzed by NASA.
  • Misc: Recorded electromagnetic emissions, such as microwaves detected in the well-known 1957 RB-47 surveillance aircraft case, which was also a visual and radar case; polarization rings observed around a UFO by a scientist, explained by Dr. James Harder as intense magnetic fields from the UFO causing the Faraday effect.

These various reported physical evidence cases have been studied by various scientist and engineers, both privately and in official governmental studies (such as Project Blue Book, the Condon Committee, and the French GEPAN/SEPRA). A comprehensive scientific review of physical evidence cases was carried out by the 1998 Sturrock UFO panel.

[edit] Reverse engineering

Attempts have been made to reverse engineer the possible physics behind UFOs through analysis of both eyewitness reports and the physical evidence. Examples are former NASA and nuclear engineer James McCampbell in his book Ufology,[12] NACA/NASA engineer Paul R. Hill in his book Unconventional Flying Objects, and German rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth. Among subjects tackled by McCampbell, Hill, and Oberth was the question of how UFOs can fly at supersonic speeds without creating a sonic boom. McCampbell's proposed solution of a microwave plasma parting the air in front of the craft is currently being researched by Dr. Leik Myrabo, Professor of Engineering Physics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a possible advance in hypersonic flight.[13] In contrast, Hill and Oberth believed UFOs utilize an as yet unknown anti-gravity field to accomplish the same thing as well as provide propulsion and protection of occupants from the effects of high acceleration.

[edit] Controversial cases

Among the many people who have reported UFO sightings, some have been exposed as hoaxers.[citation needed] Not all alleged hoax exposures are certain, however, and many claimants have stuck by their stories, leaving the determination of specific cases as hoaxes contentious. Some of the controversial subjects include these:

  • Bob White (UFO hunter) claims to have an alleged UFO artifact.[citation needed]
  • The Maury Island Incident
  • The Ummo affair, a decades-long series of detailed letters and documents allegedly from extraterrestrials. The total length of the documents is at least 1000 pages, and some estimate that further undiscovered documents may total nearly 4000 pages. A Jose Luis Jordan Pena came forward in the early nineties claiming responsibility for the phenomenon, and most consider there to be little reason to challenge his claims.[citation needed]

[edit] Hoaxes

  • George Adamski over the space of two decades made various claims about his meetings with telepathic aliens from nearby planets. He claimed that photographs of the far side of the moon taken by a Soviet orbital probe in 1959 were fake, and that there were cities, trees and snow-capped mountains on the far side of the moon.
  • In 1987 Ed Walters perpetrated a hoax in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Walters claimed at first having seen a small UFO flying near his home, and then in a second incident seeing the same UFO and a small alien being standing by his back door after being alerted by his dog. Several photographs were taken of the craft, but none of the being. Three years later, in 1990, after the Walters family had moved, the new residents discovered a model of a UFO poorly hidden in the attic that bore an undeniable resemblance to the craft in Walters' photographs. Various witnesses and detractors came forward after the local Pensacola newspaper printed a story about the discovered model, and some investigators now consider the sightings to be a hoax. In addition, a six-figure television miniseries and book deal were nearly struck with Walters.
  • Warren William (Billy) Smith, A popular writer and confessed hoaxster.[14]

[edit] Investigation/Responses

Some studies show that after investigation, the majority of UFOs are usually identified (see identified flying object). For example, a 1979 study by Allan Hendry, a UFO researcher dedicated to find evidence for extraterrestrial life, found that up to 91.4% of the reports he investigated were either identifiable (91.4%) or could possibly be attributable (7.1%)[citation needed] to known artificial objects and natural phenomena.[15] Hendry's figure for unidentified cases is considerably lower than many official UFO studies such as Project Blue Book or the Condon Report which found unidentified cases made up 6% and 30% of reports respectively.

UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years, varying widely in scope and scientific rigor. Governments or independent academics in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the Soviet Union are known to have investigated UFO reports at various times.

Among the best known government studies are Project Blue Book, previously Project Sign and Project Grudge, conducted by the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1969, the secret U.S. Army/Air Force Project Twinkle investigation into green fireballs (1948–1951), and Brazilian Air Force Operation Saucer (1977). Major civilian UFO groups in the U.S that have conducted extensive investigations were/are NICAP, APRO, MUFON, and CUFOS.

[edit] American investigations

Starting July 9, Army Air Force (AAF) intelligence, in cooperation with the FBI, began a formal investigation into selected sightings with characteristics that could not be immediately rationalized, which included Arnold’s and the United crew’s. The AAF used "all of its scientists" to determine whether or not "such a phenomenon could, in fact, occur"[who?]. The research was “being conducted with the thought that the flying objects might be a celestial phenomenon,” or that “they might be a foreign body mechanically devised and controlled.”[16] Three weeks later in a preliminary defense estimate, the air force investigation decided that, “This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomenon. Something is really flying around.”[17]

A further review by the intelligence and technical divisions of the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field reached the same conclusion, that “the phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious,” that there were objects in the shape of a disc, metallic in appearance, and as big as man-made aircraft. They were characterized by “extreme rates of climb [and] maneuverability,” general lack of noise, absence of trail, occasional formation flying, and “evasive” behavior “when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar,” suggesting a controlled craft. It was thus recommended in late September 1947 that an official Air Force investigation be set up to investigate the phenomenon.

This led to the creation of the Air Force’s Project Sign: One of the earliest government studies to come to a secret ETH conclusion, at the end of 1947, which became Project Grudge at the end of 1948, and then Project Blue Book In 1952. In 1948, they wrote a top-secret intelligence estimate to that effect. The Air Force Chief of Staff ordered it destroyed. The existence of this suppressed report was revealed by several insiders who had read it, such as astronomer and USAF consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Edward J. Ruppelt, the first head of the USAF's Project Blue Book. (Ruppelt, Chapt. 3)

Blue Book closed down in 1970, ending the official Air Force UFO investigations. However, a 1969 USAF document, known as the Bolender memo, plus later government documents revealed that nonpublic U.S. government UFO investigations continued after 1970. The Bollender memo first stated that "reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security... are not part of the Blue Book system," indicating that more serious UFO incidents were already handled outside of the public Blue Book investigation. The memo then added, "reports of UFOs which could affect national security would continue to be handled through the standard Air Force procedures designed for this purpose."

An early U.S. Army study, of which little is known, was called the Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU). In 1987, British UFO researcher Timothy Good received a letter confirming the existence of the IPU from the Army Director of Counter-intelligence, in which it was stated, "...the aforementioned Army unit was disestablished during the late 1950s and never reactivated. All records pertaining to this unit were surrendered to the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in conjunction with operation BLUEBOOK." The IPU records have never been released.[18]

November 1948 USAF Top Secret document citing extraterrestrial opinion
November 1948 USAF Top Secret document citing extraterrestrial opinion

Use of UFO instead of flying saucer was first suggested in 1952 by Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, the first director of Project Blue Book, who felt that flying saucer did not reflect the diversity of the sightings. Ruppelt suggested that UFO should be pronounced as a word — you-foe. However it is generally pronounced by forming each letter: U.F.O. His term was quickly adopted by the Air Force, which also briefly used “UFOB” circa 1954, for Unidentified Flying Object. Ruppelt recounted his experiences with Project Blue Book in his memoir, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects (1956), also the first book to use the term.[19]

Air Force Regulation 200-2[20], issued in 1954, defined an Unidentified Flying Object (UFOB) as “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.” The regulation also said UFOBs were to be investigated as a “possible threat to the security of the United States” and “to determine technical aspects involved.” As with any then-ongoing investigation, Air Force personnel did not discuss the investigation with the press.[21][22]

Well known American investigations include:

  • Project Blue Book, previously Project Sign and Project Grudge, conducted by the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1969

The secret U.S. Army/Air Force Project Twinkle investigation into