In investigations of UFO sightings, there is a lot of confusion over what a UFO really is.
The following Frequently Asked Questions will give you an idea of what we really know:
What is a UFO?
The acronym "UFO" stands for "Unidentified Flying Object."
Note that, when an object is a UFO, we do NOT know what it is. Once the object is
identified, it is no longer a UFO.
Do NOT equate the term UFO with space aliens. No UFO has yet been shown to have been from
outer space. Also, if an object is ever identified as an alien spaceship, it would no longer
be a UFO, because it would be identified.
An object classified as "unidentified" by an investigation must not be assumed to
be an extraterrestrial spacecraft. The process of elimination cannot be used in UFO cases,
because there are many other possible identities that were not thought of by the
What is an IFO?
The acronym "IFO" stands for "Identified Flying Object."
Note that, when an object is an IFO, we DO know what it is.
If an object is ever identified as an alien spaceship, it would be an IFO, because it
would be identified.
What is a flying saucer?
A flying saucer is supposedly a disc-shaped vehicle from outer space. The term is used
much more in the movies than it is in UFO research. One of the first people to sight UFOs
in the USA after World War II, Kenneth Arnold, accidentally coined the term when he said the
UFOs he saw "moved like saucers skipping across water."
Those who believe in the extraterrestrial hypothesis are more likely to use the term
"flying saucer." But laymen are likely to wrongly use UFO to mean an alien spaceship.
What are the meanings of some of the unusual terms found in this document?
Go to the glossary page to find out. This link appears several times in this page.
What were the official US Air Force projects that investigated UFOs?
The official US Air Force UFO projects were:
- Project Sign - Late 1947, 1948 and January 1949. It issued one report in January
- Project Grudge - February 1949 to December 1951. It issued one report in August
- Project Blue Book - January 1952 to January 1970.
- University of Colorado Study - 1966 through 1969. Issued Scientific Study of
Unidentified Flying Objects.
The first three were part of the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) until 1961.
Note that project names in the military usually have nothing to do with the purpose of the
project. They are assigned from a list of proposed project names, usually taken as the next
unused name found on the list. Occasionally a project head chooses a lower name on the list
that he thinks is better.
Who was Captain Edward J Ruppelt?
Edward J Ruppelt (7/17/1923 - 9/15/1960) was the last project head of Project Grudge and
the first project head of Project Blue Book. He wrote the book Report on Unidentified
Who was Major Hector Quintanilla?
Hector Quintanilla (5/7/1923 - 5/18/1998) was the last project head of Project Blue
Who was Doctor J Allen Hynek
Doctor J Allen Hynek (May 1, 1910 - April 27, 1986) was the astronomy advisor for the
first three Air Force projects. After the 1964 Socorro NM UFO case, he changed his views to
become a believer in the ET hypothesis. He wrote several books on UFOs.
What is the Condon Report?
This is the UFOlogist name for Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects,
so named because Dr Edward U. Condon was the director of the study and head author of the
What is a UFOlogist?
A UFOlogist is someone who studies UFOs with the object of proving that UFOs are
extraterrestrial spacecraft. But it is not real science when research is done to try to
prove a desired result.
So what is "real science"?
Real science is scientific investigation done under the following conditions:
- The scientists are disinterested (not biased). No one favors any outcome or has an ax
- The source of funding has no bias for or against any particular outcome.
- The scientists use the standard scientific method.
- No pseudoscience is allowed. Such occult methods as dowsing and psychic abilities are
- The scientists follow the path wherever the data lead them.
- Any results are submitted for disinterested independent verification.
Note that the key word is "disinterested". Nobody with a stake in the outcome of
the research can do unbiased science.
What is the scientific method?
The scientific method is a rigorous procedure for doing scientific research.
Researchers use the following steps to do research, no matter what field of study is
- Problem - State the problem to define exactly what the question is.
- Theory - Form an idea of what science is behind the phenomenon researched.
- Working Hypothesis - Make a testable statement that defines what is to be proved or
- Null Hypothesis - Create a statement saying that the theory is false, that nothing
special in the theory happens.
- Experiment - Design a test that will attempt to prove that the hypothesis is false.
- Collect Data - Perform the experiment and collect the results.
- Analysis - Analyze the data collected to see whether the null hypothesis can be
- Conclusion - Decide whether to reject, or to fail to reject, the null hypothesis.
- Results - Publish the procedure and results so others can try to duplicate the
- Verification - Other independent and disinterested researchers successfully duplicate
How can the scientific method be applied to UFOs?
There are two methods of approaching the problem:
- Experimentally Test a Specific Sighting:
- Problem - In this case, the big question is: What was it? This requires multiple
research with multiple theories.
- Theory - A separate theory must be formed and tested for each possible cause of the
Eliminate the simplest theories first.
- Working Hypothesis - Make a testable hypothesis for each theory.
- Null Hypothesis - Create a statement for each theory saying that it is false.
- Experiment - Design a test that will attempt to prove that the hypothesis is false.
This can include trying to find out if a given object was present in the sky at the time
of the sighting.
- Collect Data - Perform the experiment and collect the results. For physical evidence,
test the evidence as in a crime lab. Use control samples from nearby areas.
Important: look for absence of evidence where it should be present. Look for people
who were looking in the area and did NOT see a UFO.
- Analysis - We need yes-no questions with a small probability of being wrong.
- Conclusion - Do not conclude anything not supported by the evidence.
- Results - Publish the procedure and results so others can try to duplicate the
Eliminating the last theory does not prove anything about the extraterrestrial
- Verification - Let other UFO researchers look at the results.
- Independently Gather Data.
- Problem - Catching a UFO in the act.
- Theory - Form some ideas of what objects are to be expected and how to observe
- Working Hypothesis - Form some ideas on how to test for the kinds of objects expected.
Part of the problem is that you can't go out and collect aliens or spaceships. Means
for testing the observations are needed.
- Null Hypothesis - Create a statement for each theory stating that it is false.
- Experiment - Design tests (such as light spectra) to tell different kinds of objects
Observe from multiple locations to weed out optical effects.
- Collect Data - Perform the experiment and collect the results. Automatic
instrumentation must either run all the time or detect the presence of unknown objects
and record at those times.
- Analysis - Better data gives better analysis. It can prove something unknown was there
without any idea of what it was. Sometimes the fact that nothing was detected is
Spectroanalysis can narrow down the possible causes of sightings.
- Conclusion - Do not conclude anything not supported by the evidence.
- Results - Publish the procedure and results so others can try to duplicate the
Eliminating the last theory does not prove anything about the extraterrestrial
- Verification - Let other UFO researchers look at the results.
Who is going to pay for all of this research?
If we want the equivalent of an air traffic control system, a police force, a forensic
lab, and lots of manpower, nobody would fund it. Taxpayers would not approve, and nobody
in business would pay for any venture without a profit. Donations were tried, and fell far
What pitfalls do UFOlogists fall into?
UFO "researchers" who don't use the scientific method are wasting their time.
- Using the process of elimination to "prove" a space ship
- Thinking that much marginal data is as good as one airtight case
- Making untestable arguments
- Expecting skeptics to prove that something does not exist. It's impossible
- Taking photo evidence or RADAR evidence alone as proof of anything
- Expecting the technology shown in science-fiction movies can exist
- Treating objective studies as attempts to hide the truth, or denouncing the truth when
it is discovered
- Trying to make conclusions not supported by the facts or discarding facts that don't fit
- Treating testimony as being equivalent to the facts (especially witness statements of
size, speed, distance, or altitude of an object) as fact without verification
- Assuming fantastic amounts of energy are required
- Being biased toward extraterrestrial causes
- Ignoring or making excuses for the lack of evidence that should be present if the event
occurred as told
- Endowing aliens with unearthly powers
- Ignoring the physiological effects that any strange situation can cause in normal human
- Ignoring as attempts to debunk valid proposed solutions.
- Not understanding the effects of autokinesis, autostasis, optical illusions, multiple
RADAR reflections, second trip echoes, atmospheric bending, halation, and lens
- Imagining RADAR to be a kind of TV picture showing exactly where everything is in the
- Connecting the UFO problem with psychics, spiritists, and other occult practices
- Thinking that a space ship is more probable than a prank
- Thinking government covering up aliens is more probable than government hiding military
- Not checking facts, but assuming them
- Taking government explanations as attempts to hide the truth
- Not believing people who recognize the object as something familiar
- Believing a government would hide the truth of a dangerous situation for 50 years
- Using statistics they don't understand
- Misusing statistics they don't understand
- Wasting time with the politics of UFOs instead of studying the problem seriously
- Believing anything found in tabloids
- Explanations of alien energy methods without any inkling of how the physical world
- Taking the profession of the witness as a testimonial as to what was seen
- Starting a religious frenzy that aliens are here
- Getting emotional about the identity of a sighting
- Expecting hypnosis to reveal the truth
- Believing aliens can remove evidence of their visit and remove evidence of removing
- Using name-calling, pejoratives, and innuendo
- Expecting aliens to solve earthly problems
- Believing stories given by "contactees"
- Thinking of extraterrestrials every time the word "alien" appears
- Thinking of extraterrestrials every time something strange happens
Once a UFO is identified, what does it usually turn out to be?
There are hundreds of different kinds of objects that are seen by witnesses as UFOs or are
photographed and thought to be UFOs captured on film. Here is a list of the various
categories of UFO sightings:
- Aircraft - airplanes, helicopters, sun reflections from aircraft, missiles, parachutes,
paragliders, ultralight aircraft, drones, and other kinds of man-made devices that fly
- Animals - birds, insects, bats, flying mammals, flying fish, and other animals in the
air, including a bird frozen in flight by the camera
- Astronomical Objects - stars, planets, scintillating stars or planets, comets, meteors,
auroras, zodiacal light, and other astronomical objects
- Balloons - man-carrying hot-air balloons, man-carrying gas balloons, weather balloons,
research balloons, toy balloons, model balloons, fire-balloons, and other kinds of
- Fireworks - commercial fireworks displays, consumer fireworks, rescue flares, parachute
flares, sky lanterns, and other pyrotechnic devices
- Meteorological Phenomena - sundogs, halos, lightning, ball lightning, tornadoes, storms,
clouds, cloud holes, lenticular clouds, noctilucent clouds, dust devils, waterspouts, hail,
and other weather events
- Non-Flying Objects - streetlights, building lights, yard lights, farm lights, radio
antennas, lights on vehicles, searchlights, searchlights on clouds, advertising lights,
LASERs, traffic signals, airport beacons, camera lights and flashes, light shows,
reflections from power lines, and many other items
- Photographic Effects - lens flare, multiple exposure, reflection off window glass, bugs
or dust caught in flash, bird frozen in flight, wrong camera settings, sun in frame,
digital raster effects, accidentally took photo, forgot why photo was taken, object on
window, flash failure, subject too small, and many other effects
- Pranks and Hoaxes
- Space Exploration - satellites, re-entries, spacecraft, rockets, missiles. sun
reflections from satellites, parachuting capsules, test launches, the space station,
barium clouds, and other items associated with space research and exploration
- Unusual or Brief Uses of the Air - flying toys, model aircraft, model rocket, kites,
wind turbine kites, boomerangs, paper airplanes, artillery, aircraft-towed advertising
signs (day banners, and night light grids), aerial firefighting, news gathering, movie or
TV special effects, and many, many other such uses
What are the top ten causes of UFO sightings?
The following are the top ten causes of UFO sightings by frequency (#1 is most
- Stars, planets, or other astronomical objects - usually Venus
- Ordinary aircraft, including airplane lights at night and sun halation from airplanes
- Fire balloons (sky lanterns), often sent up as UFO pranks
- Advertizing plane seen edge-on (has a moving-letters matrix of lights hung under the
- Balloons, including manned balloons, weather balloons, research balloons, and toy
- Parachute flares dropped from an airplane for rescue training or actual rescue.
- Meteor, bolide, or satellite re-entry
- Satellites and the space station, including bright sun reflection flashes from
- Flying animals, including birds, bugs, and anything else alive that flies.
- Unusual aircraft, including parachutes, drones, kites, turbine kites, and other flying
What about the extraterrestrial (ET) hypothesis? Why can't a UFO be identified as
The extraterrestrial hypothesis is the conjecture that UFOs come from outer space.
In order for a UFO to be identified as an extraterrestrial spacecraft, there would have
to be conclusive evidence that it did not originate from this earth. No such UFO has yet
been found, mainly because most UFOs do not leave behind any evidence to be analyzed. The
following could possibly be evidence of an extraterrestrial spacecraft:
- An unusual isotope ratio in a residue (CAUTION - anyone can order any isotope ratio
from a chemical supply house for mass-spectrometer calibration)
- Evidence of bombardment of an artifact by solar particle radiation and cosmic rays.
- Residues of unknown chemical compounds are found.
- Evidence of unknown organic processes is found.
- An unusual light spectrum emitted by the object is recorded by spectrographic
More direct evidence would include:
- RADAR tracking of the object as it arrives from space and lands on the earth, with
authorities arriving to find it intact. Then it is tested for the above. This has never
- The object does not leave. It is collected and tested for the above by scientists. This
has never happened, except in cases where the object was something conventional.
Nobody has any conclusive evidence that any extraterrestrial beings have ever visited the
The fact that nobody has found a plausible prosaic explanation for a UFO sighting does
NOT imply that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is the most likely explanation for the
What if they found a chemical element unknown on the earth?
This is an impossibility. All of the stable chemical elements and all of the radioactive
isotopes of chemical elements with half-lives long enough to be discovered at a UFO landing
site are already known. There are no empty spaces left in the periodic table of the elements
for any elements that can exist longer than milliseconds.
Some might object to this idea of impossibility, because it is normally impossible to
prove that something can't exist. But in this case, it depends on the quantum value of
atomic number. Atomic number is the number of protons in the nucleus of the atom. This
number must be an integer. Science now knows an element for each atomic number from 1 to
118, and the isotope with the longest half-life for each element.
Robert Lazar reported that engines based on the element with atomic number 115 were being
researched at Area 51. But Element 115 has since been briefly created in particle
accelerators. Its half-life is 220 milliseconds, meaning that we can't store any for longer
than a few minutes. And Lazar discredited himself by claiming that government had removed
his picture and info from every copy of every yearbook published by the schools he
supposedly attended during his alleged college education. But there is no way government
could know the location of every copy of every yearbook, and nobody has come forward with
a copy of any yearbook containing his picture.
What about the "crash-retrieval" cases?
Crash-retrieval cases are cases where it is claimed some kind of a UFO crashed, and then
"authorities" (civil or military) arrived and took away all of the pieces, with no
explanation to witnesses of what happened. Most of these are retrieval of man-made debris
from some kind of accident. Often people are not told what was going on to protect a
government secret. But occasionally the government does not tell what happened to avoid
monetary liability. A few examples:
- Roswell NM, 1947 - Crashed secret Project Mogul spy
- Socorro NM, 1947 - Crashed jet ejection capsule test with crash dummies*
- Aztec NM, 1948 - Fake account to promote a movie; author was tricked
- Kingman AZ, 1948 - Hoax to sell the author's book
- Mattydale NY, 1954 - Wing tank fell off airplane; FAA Investigator gave UFOlogist a
wild tale to get rid of him
- Spitsbergen Is. Norway, 1959 - Discoverer II satellite crashed*
- Doña Ana Wells NM, 1962 - Crashed missile from White Sands base*
- Kecksburg PA, 1965 - Probably crashed Soviet satellite*
- Shag Harbor NS, 1967 - Probably a fire balloon with fireworks landing in water
- Carbondale PA, 1974 - Someone threw a lit flashlight in a pond
- Carp ON, 1989 - Hoax
* In some cases, the secrecy is to keep enemy agents from learning military secrets,
intelligence, or capabilities.
What is a "Project Mogul spy balloon"?
This was the military's secret attempt to spy on the Soviets. The idea was to fly a
microphone 18 miles above the earth to listen for Soviet nuclear tests.
The early version of this that crashed at Roswell NM was made of the parts of 20 RaWin
weather balloons connected together. The explanation of it as a weather balloon held for
30 years, until someone realized that there was way too much material collected for one
The later versions evolved into the Skyhook high altitude research balloon.
If a spy balloon crashed at Roswell, what were the strange symbols found in the
They used what they could buy without suspicion in the early versions of the Mogul
balloon. To tape several RaWin RADAR reflectors together, they bought some rolls of
decorative package wrapping tape in a craft store. The page author recognized the symbols
because he once had several rolls of that same tape.
What is a "jet ejection capsule test"?
In 1947, nobody yet knew how to bail the crew out of a jet aircraft that is about to
crash. If they just jumped (as was done with propeller aircraft), they were injured by the
airstream throwing them against the fuselage or tail. So the Air Force was doing experiments
to find ways to get crews out of a crashing jet. This ejection capsule was one early
The now-familiar ejection seat was the final result of this research.
What are some theories for the causes of the unidentified sightings?
There are many theories. Note that more than one might be true, and that different
theories might be relevant to different sightings.
The following theories are rather dubious because science does not have any evidence to
support their reality:
- The extraterrestrial hypothesis - beings from other worlds are visiting the earth
- The living UFO theory - UFOs are really life forms we rarely see
- The foreign UFO theory - foreign governments have technology to create and control such
- The Nazi UFO theory - Nazi scientists escaped with their inventions and are trying to
create a new Reich.
- The time-traveler theory - UFOs come from our future
- The interdimensional theory - UFOs come from another dimension
- The angelic theory - UFOs are manifestations of angels or of God
- The demonic theory - UFOs are manifestations of demons or of satan
- The alien worship theory - the belief that space aliens will save us from this awful
- The Smurf theory - used only to show that nobody can possibly prove that something does
The above are theories with very remote probabilities. The following are much more
Of course, a single theory can never explain ALL UFO sightings. There are too many
What about all of the research intended to find out the propulsion systems of
What research? A few pseudoscientists have made conjectures of the types of propulsion
needed to make UFOs behave as some have been observed to behave.
The entire question is based on the assumption that UFOs are extraterrestrial spacecraft.
But often the requirement that a huge amount of power is needed to make a UFO do what UFOs
have been observed to do is based on the faulty assumption that the UFO is the size of a
What are the kinds of behavior that seem to make a UFO need large amounts of
The following are the kinds of behaviors that seem to need large amounts of power:
- Right-angle turns
- Falling leaf effect (moving like a pendulum)
- Oscillatory flight (flying in a series of shallow S turns)
- Wobbling and jittering
- Straight-up flight, often with a spiraling motion
- Rapidly moving directly away from witnesses
What can explain right-angle turns without requiring large amounts of power?
There are several possibilities:
- A fire balloon wobbling in an erratic breeze.
- The tracking light on the instrument package holder of a weather balloon can swing
- An airplane making a turn that is seen almost edge-on by witnesses appears to make a
- Two aircraft crossing paths can be seen by witnesses as one UFO that appears to make a
very sharp turn.
- Birds and bugs often make sharp turns.
What can explain the falling leaf effect without requiring large amounts of
There are several possibilities:
- This is the classic motion of a fire balloon in an erratic breeze. The witness can see
only the lighted bottom end of it as it rocks back and forth.
- The light on the instrument package holder of a weather balloon can swing back and
- Birds can often make this motion when they are trying to land in difficult places.
What can explain oscillatory flight without requiring large amounts of
There are several possibilities:
- A fire balloon in a steady wind can rock back and forth as it is blown along by the
- The tracking light on the instrument package holder of a weather balloon in a steady
wind can also swing back and forth.
- This kind of flight is typical of insect flight.
What can explain wobbling or jittering without requiring large amounts of
There are several possibilities:
- Fire balloons inherently wobble slowly.
- The light on the instrument package holder of a weather balloon can do this.
- Rapid wobbling is usually caused by misidentification of a small bird flapping its
What can explain straight-up and spiraling flight without requiring large amounts of
There are several possibilities:
- The light on a weather balloon can do this after the balloon drops its instrument
- A fire balloon can do this once some of the weight burns off and falls.
- A fire balloon does this if a firecracker intended to end the "UFO" blows
part of it off.
What can explain a UFO moving rapidly away from witnesses without requiring large
amounts of power?
There are several possibilities:
What is a fire balloon?
A fire balloon is a hot-air balloon made out of a thin dry
cleaner's suit bag, balsa wood or soda straws, scotch tape, and birthday candles. It flies,
gives off a Halloween-orange glow, and is known to be able to appear to do many of the
tricks ascribed to UFOs.
The number of these seen has suddenly become much larger now that fireworks companies
sell them ready to fly. They are usually sold under the name "Sky Lantern" or
"Chinese Sky Lantern".
A wave of UFOs all over the state of California on 12/31/2013 was attributed to the wide
availability of sky lanterns. Sky lanterns have been around since the 14th century, and
were implicated in many of the 1897 "Airship" sightings. People thought they
were flying machines. This happened 6 years before the Wright brothers made the first
The top photo at right shows a sky lantern seen at a distance. It looks like an orange
ball of light. The bottom photo is of a sky lantern seen close-up. The "engine" in the
center is a wax-covered square of cardboard.
How can a witness recognize a fire balloon or sky lantern in the sky?
Fire balloons (sky lanterns) can produce all of the following effects:
- The color is usually orange. But other colors are possible with colored bags. Often the
color orange is mixed with another color (e.g. green).
- They hover.
- They can execute erratic maneuvers, including the falling leaf, pendulum, and
undulatory flight maneuvers.
- They can make sudden turns if the wind shifts.
- They usually fly quite low, often at treetop level.
- They can fly vertically.
- They can appear to be much larger and farther away than they really are.
- Some appear to fire rockets at the ground (falling candles).
- Some explode or give off secondary objects (if fireworks are attached).
- They usually disappear by appearing to move quite rapidly, directly away from the
witness (actually they just dim out, and the motion is an illusion).
Are all fire balloon sightings pranks?
No. Sky lanterns are sold as fireworks. They are sold for use on Independence Day and
New Year's Day. Asian people also use them as prayer balloons. These uses are not attempts
to deceive or trick others.
Some science fair projects use fire balloons to measure wind currents at various
The following items are in a list of possible identities of UFOs. What are
- Barium cloud: A barium cloud is a cloud of metallic salt ions released by a satellite
or a rocket to study solar radiation and the earth's magnetic field. These clouds glow in
various colors and are easily visible from the ground.
- Bird frozen in flight: In an outdoor photograph, the camera captures a bird in mid
flap. This freezes the position the bird happened to be in at the instant the photograph
was taken. Some of these result in very strange shapes.
Flash failure: A photograph is attempted with a flash, but the flash lamp fails to work.
Only the light sources in the camera frame appear in the resulting photo. Several of these
have been turned in as photos of UFOs.
- Lens flare: This is a reflection that happens inside the camera lens. A bright light
source (usually the sun) reflects off of the front and back surfaces of the lens, causing
a bright smear or shape to appear in the picture. Often the resulting shape is an ellipse,
or looks like a toy top.
- Parachute flare: This is a very bright flare on a parachute that is dropped from an
aircraft. They are used for air rescue at night, and for air rescue training. When several
of these are dropped in sequence from an airplane, they can appear to be on a giant
- Scintillating star: This is a star, usually near the horizon, that is being distorted
by atmospheric effects. The star can appear to move, jiggle, flash, change color, give
off colored blobs, or stretch. A planet can also appear to do the same thing.
Spin-O-Reno: This is a toy plate that is easy for a kid to spin on a stick the way circus
performers spin real china plates. See upper illustration. The name is the brand name of
the original product. The plate alone has been used to make fake UFO photos.
- Wind-turbine kite: This is a kite that spins on its horizontal axis and receives its
lift from the spinning airfoil. Newer versions give off brilliant rainbow colors due to a
diffraction grating Mylar surface. See lower illustration. Note the two bridle lines that
join some distance from the kite, and the white plastic bearings for those lines at the
ends of the horizontal axis. As seen from the camera location, the kite spins
counterclockwise at up to 10 rotations per second.
What is the difference between a hoax and a prank?
- A hoax is a story told to fool others, often supplemented with fake evidence or
- A prank is something released into the sky for others to see, or something placed
somewhere to fool others.
What are some examples of hoaxes?
The following are well-known hoaxes:
- Every faked UFO photo reported as a UFO or given to the press.
- A college student shaved a dead monkey, cut off its tail, dyed the body green, and said
he had hit a space alien with his car. He was charged with several crimes as a result.
- A security guard said he had fired his gun at a UFO over the factory he guards, and
offered flattened bullets as proof. But police found the steel drum he had used for
unauthorized target practice.
- A cab driver used the excuse that a UFO landed on top of his cab to account for the
time he was asleep in his cab.
- Crooks phoned in a UFO sighting from several different phones to keep police busy while
they burgled a closed store.
- A man reported a UFO with an insignia on the side. The insignia consisted of curved
lines. But when his sketch of it was turned upside down, the letters U, F, and O were
discernible in that order within the pattern.
- A "scientist" claimed to have found a piece of silicon with an unusual
isotope ratio, which was confirmed with the use of a mass-spectrometer. The page author
suggested that the calibration of the mass-spectrometer should be checked. It had been
deliberately altered in the region of silicon to be off by one atomic mass unit. This
caused it to report the unusual isotope ratio.
What are some examples of pranks?
The following are well-known pranks:
- Fire balloons (sky lanterns) launched by pranksters to make
people see UFOs
- Crop circles (man-made by pranksters or artists)
- A student made a blackened blast crater with three landing pads around it, and let
others find it.
- The crew of a helicopter used a bright searchlight to scare people on the ground into
thinking they saw a UFO.
- Persons unknown released a model hot air balloon with the letters U, F, and O on the
side. A woman reported a UFO. When they asked her how she knew it was a UFO, she said
"It had the letters U, F, and O, right on the side." This was a model hot-air
balloon kit sold by Edmund Scientific in the 1970s, complete with the letters U, F, and O,
and advertised as "build and fly your own UFO".
- College students released hundreds of fire balloons in
southern New Hampshire in the 1965-1966 school year. Many UFO sightings in this area were
caused by these pranks.
Do some UFO sightings have psychological causes?
There are some. Many of them are reported by people who already have other psychological
- Some people with brain damage see things that are not there.
- Some people have a craving for publicity or notoriety.
- Some people have a desire to test public credulity with a false story.
- Some people try to make those present believe that the ordinary airplanes in the sky
- Some will do everything they can to make people believe the extraterrestrial hypothesis
One symptom of psychological reports is repeat sighting - frequently reporting UFO
In most psychological cases, any evidence that is found does not match the report.
Often, negative UFO reports contradict the claims of a psychological UFO report.
Note that optical illusions and other tricks of the senses are not really
What is a "negative UFO report"?
A negative UFO report is a report by a witness who was observing the sky at the time
and did NOT see any kind of UFO in the area where someone else claimed a UFO was seen. It
can also be a photograph taken at the time of a UFO report that shows the sky at that time
without a UFO in the photo.
The page author once made a negative UFO report:
- He went to a high hill on the east side of his hometown after a series of UFO reports
were made in the area. He wanted to find out what other people were seeing.
- He observed the entire sky for over 5 hours, and saw absolutely nothing, other than a
few airplanes and the planet Mars, very bright in the eastern horizon.
- The next day, the newspaper contained UFO reports by people on the west side of town
where people reported that the UFO was hovering over the east side of the town.
- The page author's negative report refuted the conjecture that the reported UFO was over
the east side of town. This meant that the UFOs (if real) were either much closer to the
witnesses, or were the planet Mars (misidentified by the witnesses).
Any UFO investigator who ignores negative UFO reports is not investigating very well.
How can people fail to identify the ordinary objects they see or photograph?
There are several reasons why people can easily misperceive an
- The viewing conditions were inadequate to identify the object (darkness, brevity, glare,
- The witness never heard of the object that was seen (e.g. a propane sport hot air
balloon seen in 1964).
- The witness assumed the wrong size, distance, speed, and/or altitude of the object. This
then prevented the witness from deducing the correct identity of the object.
- The witness makes an assumption about the object that is not true.
- Autokinesis of a star or planet made the witness reject the true identity.
- An optical illusion fooled the witness.
- A combination of multiple stimuli confused the identity of the object.
- Some kind of special effect occurred to produce the event.
- The photographer did not see an object, but an object appeared on a photograph or a
- Something unique to the case occurred.
What does "assumed the wrong size, distance, speed, or altitude"
When anything unknown is farther away than 30 feet (9 meters) and is seen against the
sky, the human vision system cannot estimate any of those values without accurately knowing
one of the others.
When the nature of the object seen is unknown, any report of any of those values is pure
guesswork. The mind assumes an erroneous size or distance, and then wrongly infers the
Often the erroneous assumption made is that the object must be a vehicle large enough to
carry a man. Actual objects in UFO reports where this error in observation occurred include
a butterfly, a model airplane, a fire balloon, a meteor, and the planet Venus. During
World War II, many gunners on US warplanes mistakenly thought the planet Venus was an enemy
plane, and fired on it.
Can't the eyes of a witness be trusted?
In this case, no.
The convergence of the eyes for binocular vision and the lens accommodation of the eyes
are both essentially at a setting for objects at an infinite distance for any distance of
30 feet (9 m) or greater. So the human vision system cannot estimate any of those values
when an object in the sky is more than 30 feet from the witness. So only one value is
known - the angular size of the image.
The human vision system can see perspective at greater
distances, but not when the sky is the background.
If human vision can't find these values in the sky, how do plane spotters know
Plane spotters know the actual size of each type of airplane and know the various types
of airplanes by sight. Often they have a book or a chart of silhouettes and actual sizes.
So the actual size of the spotted plane is known. With a known size, the distance, speed,
and altitude can be easily deduced by the angular size of the image they see and its
location in the sky. With the proper instruments, they can even be calculated with
Note that, in the case of a UFO, the size and distance of the object are NOT known.
Therefore, such deductions are not possible.
What is the angular size of an object?
The angular size of an object is the angle it subtends in the sky as viewed by the
There are several ways to report angular size. The most common is the scale used by the
US Air Force in the form used by Project Blue Book:
- Like a Star - A star is essentially a single point of light, with very little angular
- Distant Plane - An airplane in the distance is a common sight that most people
- Full Moon - The angular size of the full moon is 31 minutes of arc (just over half a
- Multiple Moons - For larger angles, placing multiple copies of the moon in a line is
An angular size larger than the full moon is extremely rare. One well-known case with an
angular size of multiple full moons was the Phoenix lights
case in 1977. This was conclusively shown to have been parachute flares dropped by an
airplane in a practice rescue exercise.
Another trick is to hold up your little finger at arm's length from your eyes, and compare
it to the visible angular size of the object. Put it next to the UFO if possible. The little
fingernail of most people at arm's length is about half a degree (the size of the full
A trained investigator can use angular size as a valuable tool to help find the identity
of a UFO.
What is autokinesis?
Autokinesis is an effect that occurs in the eye. Since the eye muscles have to make the
eyes jitter slightly to find the edges of objects, the jitter can make a small stationary
light against a dark background appear to move. This fools witnesses into thinking a star
or planet moved.
What is a "combination of multiple stimuli" in a UFO case?
The best way to answer this is to use examples:
- Case 1: A UFO was reported to have caused streetlights to go out, and simultaneously
caused a car radio to quit playing. The truth was that a power failure occurred first.
This made streetlights go out. The radio station lost power too, so the car radio quit
playing. The witness then saw an airplane with a (then new) strobe light on it.
- Case 2: A man saw a UFO over his house when he got home late at night. The next day,
he found in the part of his yard near the street two large bare rings with all of the
grass missing. Later, the neighbor girl confessed that her date made the rings by riding
in circles on his motorcycle while waiting for her to finish getting ready. The UFO was
not identified, but it was unrelated to the rings.
- Case 3: A friend of the page author saw a large white bird-shaped object making a loud
roar while following a car down a nearby street. It happened again while the author was
there. The UFO was really a seagull, much closer to the witness than the car was. The
roar came from a power crane that was hidden behind a hill.
- Case 4: RADAR operators at a military base tracked several unidentified targets, some
going faster than any jets available at the time. Several witnesses visually sighted
objects in the area. At about the same time, some officers urgently requested information
on something that was flying slowly 18 miles above the earth. Investigation showed the
RADAR tech had operated the RADAR set wrong, getting the wrong speed for an ordinary
airplane. A second target moving faster than a jet was a weather target. The visually
seen objects were weather balloons. The object 18 miles up was a high-altitude research
balloon. The officers wanted a fast report to settle a bet on its altitude.
- Case 5: A UFO was seen leaving the ground near a road. The witnesses then went to the
location they saw the object rise from, and found three rectangular pad prints pressed
into the ground near the road. But the pad prints came from an arm-lift bucket truck that
was there the previous day for work on utility lines.
Is the government covering up UFO sightings?
The government did cover up some UFO sightings, but not to hide extraterrestrial
- The government hid its secret devices that were sighted and reported as UFOs. Examples
include the Project Mogul spy balloon, the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, and the stealth
fighter and bomber.
- The investigation of a UFO sighting was kept secret because the report itself contains
information on the limits of the capabilities of the military or the procedures used to
intercept an aircraft (information any enemy would love to get its hands on).
- In a few cases, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigators found that
UFOlogists had been interfering with plane crash investigations by taking evidence away
from crash scenes (as "proof of UFO involvement"). They gave the UFOlogists
wild stories to get rid of them. Some of these stories are still in the UFO files as
genuine UFO cases.
- The US border patrol hid the fact that they knew model rockets were being used to
smuggle drugs until they were able to round up the smugglers. People were seeing the
rockets as UFOs.
- Sometimes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used a faked wild UFO story to detect
security leaks. If the story reaches the press or the UFOlogists, then the CIA knows it
has a leak. The problem is that some of the leaked stories are in the UFO files as
genuine cases, and the CIA will not tell that these cases are fake.
- Either the object seen as the UFO or the witnesses were part of a secret diplomatic
- To avoid being hounded by UFOlogists, the press, and cranks, witnesses have asked the
government to not release any information about them or the sighting.
- The military officer in charge did not want the public to know that he had no idea what
the UFO was.
- UFOlogists are upset that information on solved UFO cases more than 20 years old is
routinely destroyed, because the military is overburdened with paper. Before this
destruction of old records was allowed, most bases and ships had over 20 tons of paperwork
to take care of - all of the records since the beginning of World War II. An admiral's
comment "We do not shoot paper at the enemy!" was what made the military decide\
to change its policy.
The records on the 1947 Roswell case were destroyed under this rule. The case was
thought to be solved long ago at the time those records were destroyed. Now the
UFOlogists are complaining that "the records were destroyed to hide the
- In one case, some UFO witnesses were put in the Witness Protection Program sometime
after the sighting because they had testified in court against people connected with
organized crime. When UFO investigators discovered their new identities and revealed them
on UFO websites, the witnesses were exposed to peril from the criminals. Then the
government had to quickly find another set of new identities for them and move them to
When the need for secrecy was explained to the UFOlogists, they said the UFO case was
"much more important" than any threat from criminals. They objected to the
government hiding the UFO witnesses from UFO investigators for any reason. Some
UFOlogists still believe that these witnesses were hidden solely to keep them from
telling about the UFO.
Part of the problem is that there is no way for government to prove that it is not hiding
any secret files. It is impossible to prove that such files do not exist, because it is
impossible to prove that something does not exist.
If the government is not covering anything up, why do so many TV shows say the
government is hiding something?
Because those TV shows make money for their network:
- They can do this because the government can't possibly refute their claims. It's
impossible to prove that something does not exist.
- They make many other claims that cannot possibly be tested or refuted. Some of these
claims include events portrayed to have occurred in the distant past (ancient astronauts).
Others are claims that nobody can refute or test because no evidence exists to be
- The shows have high ratings, meaning more revenue from commercials. People watch TV
shows that present a mystery and leave it mostly unsolved. But most people do not watch
a TV series that explains UFOs as conventional objects.
- The owners of the networks obviously do not care that they are airing shows that teach
bad science and questionable ethics. But they are businessmen, not scientists, and may
not understand just how bad this science is.
Note that these shows mostly use bad science and occult "sciences"
(questionable methods used by ghost hunters and spiritists). Their logic goes directly to
extraterrestrial explanations while ignoring any prosaic explanations that are much more
likely. In many cases, they present UFO cases that are known to be solved as "unsolved
sightings" that support their case.
Note that the page author watches these shows for two reasons:
- To have something to laugh at in this age of constant world turmoil.
- To know about some of the wild claims made by these people, because they often show up
in real UFO reports made by people who previously saw some of these shows.
What about the places these TV shows (and many UFOlogists) say the aliens come
Most of them are not hospitable to life:
- Mars: Mars has almost no atmosphere. It may have once supported life, but apparently
does not do so now.
- The Pleiades: This is a system of closely-spaced B-type stars emitting much ultraviolet
light. Life is not likely to survive under these conditions. And the system is not very
- Orion: This is not a small place, but a huge region of space. It is not specific
- Sirius: This is a system that has had a rather recent red-giant star disrupting any
climate that might have existed, combined with the high ultraviolet output of the A-type
- Polaris: This is a least-hospitable system, with a giant Cepheid-variable star, and
multiple stars in orbits that would cause extreme temperature changes in the climates of
any possible planets.
- Zeta Reticuli 1 and 2 form a double star system, which means days without darkness
during part of the year of any planet orbiting one of the sunlike stars. Temperature
swings would be extreme.
Most of the prominent stars in the sky are stars that are in a red-giant phase, have
recently experienced a red-giant star, are bright ultraviolet stars, or are in multiple-star
systems. None of these are likely places for life to exist.
Do we know whether or not UFOs come from outer space?
We have scientific proof that alien spacecraft do not come near the earth. Our systems
for tracking missiles, satellites and other near-earth objects in space, using both visual
images and RADAR systems, have not detected any UFOs either entering or leaving the earth's
Of course, this does not include satellite and space debris re-entries, which ARE tracked
by these systems. But, excepting the fact that some people report re-entries as UFOs, they
are known objects.
What about UFOs seen by astronauts?
Most sightings by astronauts fit into one of the following categories:
- Parts of the spacecraft normally jettisoned during the flight (e.g. stages, covers,
doors, release devices, etc.)
- Detritus that fell off the spacecraft (e.g. ice from condensation, insulation,
- Known satellites
- Spy satellites not on normal satellite charts
- Space junk
- UFOlogists misunderstanding astronaut communications
Example: Astronauts trying to identify which equipment in the shuttle
cargo bay has a flashing light
What about UFOs appearing on films taken from manned spacecraft?
Most sightings by astronauts fit into one of the following categories:
- Accidentally taken photos (One famous photo is of the rim of a capsule window)
- Bits of dust inside the spacecraft caught by the lens
- Bits of debris that came off the outside of the spacecraft (e.g. bits of the ceramic
- Bits of debris that seem to change course when the spacecraft thrusters fire (the
spacecraft moved, not the debris)
- Bits of debris that do change course when the spacecraft thrusters fire (gases from
the thrusters moved the debris)
- Internal camera reflections or lens flares
- Video camera artifacts caused by raster scanning
- Sunlight striking internal camera parts (a ring with notches in it is a well-known
- Known satellites
- Spy satellites not on normal satellite charts
- Space junk
How are UFO sightings categorized?
There is no standard way to do this. Different researchers have used different sets of
categories. Here are some of them:
|J Allen Hynek||Jacques Vallee
|Hynek used a sighting type classification, supplemented by strangeness and probability
An example is CE2 S4/P2.
The sighting categories are:
- NL. Nocturnal Light
- DD. Daylight Disc
- RV. RADAR-Visual
- CE1. Close encounter - within 500 feet
- CE2. Close encounter - physical or electromagnetic effects
- CE3. Close encounter - life forms seen
- CE4. Close encounter - abduction
The strangeness rating was a subjective value from 1 to 5.
The probability rating was a subjective value from 1 to 5.
|Vallee used one category from each group. An example is MA1
- CE. Close encounter - within 500 feet
- MA. Maneuvering - path changes
- FB. Fly-by - straight flight
- AN. Anomalous - anything unusual
- Sighting only
- Physical or electromagnetic effects
- Life forms observed
- Reality shift - e.g. abduction
- Physiological effects on witness
|CUFOS (Center of UFO Studies)||NICAP
|CUFOS used the Hynek classifications above, with the following additions.
An example is ND S3/P2.
The added sighting categories are:
- AM. Animal Mutilations
- BH. Black Helicopter
- BVM Blessed Virgin Mary
- CM. Cattle Mutilations
- CR. Crash-Retrieval
- DL. Daylight Light
- DO. Daylight Object
- ND. Nocturnal Disc
- NO. Nocturnal Object
- RR. RADAR only Report
- TC. Physical Trace Case
- UX. Unexplained Sound
|The NICAP categories originally depended on reported shape:
An example is 2.
The sighting categories are:
- Disc with dome
- Flattened sphere
- Elliptical or Football
- Only Light Source
|The Page Author's Attempt
|The Page Author experimented with a system that made each
classification element a yes-no value, rather than a set of nonoverlapping categories.
Here is such a system:
An example case code is: CELMV2z*o+*#
|Major sighting categories use capital letters:
- A Animal reactions
- B Being (occupant) seen
- C Close encounter - within 500 feet
- D Damaged plants or animal mutilations
- E Electromagnetic effects
- F Formed Object seen
- G Generate or drop other objects or lights
- J Joining or colliding with other objects
- L Light or lights
- M Maneuvering - path changes
- N Normal Straight flight
- O Odor unexplained
- P Physical Effects or Evidence found
- R RADAR
- S Sound unexplained
- T Time missing
- U Unidentified object crash retrieval
- V Visually seen
- X X unexplained anomalous behavior
- Y PhYsiological effects on witness
- Z Reality Shift Z (e.g. Abduction)
|Angular size and shape use number and miniscule letters:
- 0 Size not given or no visual sighting
- 1 Angular size similar to a star
- 2 Angular size like a distant plane
- 3 Angular size like the full moon
- 4 Angular size multiple moons
- a Amorphous
- c Cylinder
- d Disc
- e Flattened sphere (ellipsoid)
- f Football or elliptical
- h Hemisphere
- p Polygon (5 or more sides)
- q Quadrilateral (square or rectangle)
- r Saturn Ring
- s Sphere
- t Triangular
- u Turret
- x Other shape
- z Only Light Source, shape not given, or no visual
|Asterisk with letters show colors:
- * start each color
- m magenta
- e cerise
- r red
- o orange
- y yellow
- l leaf
- g green
- q aqua
- c cyan
- z azure
- b blue
- v violet
- w white
- a gray
- k black
- n brown
- p pink
# Many changing
- + lighter (suffix)
- − darker (suffix)
Two color letters together =
the color between them
Large area colors before small
What are "physical effects"?
These are physical effects on the environment seen by witnesses or evidence found by
- Unexplained disruption of the motion or direction of motion of any kind of vehicle
- Damage caused by the UFO hitting something
- Evidence that something landed (e.g. tracks, burned areas, pad prints, liquids,
- Artifacts left by the UFO or by aliens
- Radioactivity found where it should not be
- Items claimed to have been given to contactees by aliens (marginal)
What are "electromagnetic effects"?
These are electromagnetic effects witnessed by witnesses or independently recorded.
- Unexplained radio, television, cell phone, or other kind of interference
- Unexplained power failure, brownout, or overvoltage on power lines
- Unexplained disruption of the operation of any motor or engine
- Any electrical or electronic device failing to respond to its controls
- Unexplained damage to electric or electronic equipment.
- Damage or erasure of information stored on magnetic or electronic devices.
- Evidence of electrical arcs
What is a "reality shift"?
Events that cause a reality shift in an individual include:
- Communication with UFO entities
- Abduction by UFO entities
- Medical examinations by UFO entities
- Messages imparted by UFO entities
- Being shown something the witness does not have the language to tell about
Note that no proof of the reality of any of these has been scientifically
What are "physiological effects on witnesses"?
Physiological effects in an individual include:
- Being controlled by or rendered unconscious by a UFO encounter
- Being sickened by the UFO encounter
- Signs of radiation sickness
- Burns on the skin of the witness
- Rashes, allergic reactions, and other disorders
- Major diseases
- Internal damage to a witness
- Cured diseases
Note that no proof of the reality of any of these or any link to a UFO in any of these has
been scientifically demonstrated.
Is government doing anything about UFOs?
Not in the way most people would expect (in the US):
- Investigation of sightings is left to local law enforcement. Most agencies do nothing.
- The FAA investigates near collisions with planes.
- NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) investigates astronaut and satellite
- NORAD (NORth American Air Defense command) investigates UFOs behaving like satellites or
- CUFOS (Center of UFO Studies) is a civilian group that investigates UFOs, but it has an
- MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) is a civilian group that investigates UFOs, but it has an ET
- NUFORC (National UFO Reporting Center) is a civilian group that takes and catalogs
- UFOCAT (UFO CATalogue) is a civilian group that takes and catalogs UFO reports.
- BUFORA (British UFO Research Association) is a civilian group that investigates UFOs in
Is science doing anything about UFOs?
Organized science is not actively taking any actions about UFOs for the following
- There is usually no hard data for scientists to look at. We do not have specimens of
UFOs. We have specimens of UFO reports.
- Because believers in the occult have latched onto UFOs, mainstream science avoids
- Mainstream science is required by convention to avoid anything that looks like a
- Scientists who are religious or look into UFOs too often wrongly lose their jobs.
- Scientists who look into the occult often lose their jobs.
- There is no source of funding for UFO research.
- Nobody needs the results of such study.
- Because of the occult connection, most scientists do not see science being advanced by
Has science been advanced by the study of UFOs?
The author of this page believes that several advances have been made:
- Advances have been made in the various sciences surrounding visual perception. One
important advance was that perspective vision does not work if the sky is the background.
See the above question "Can't the eyes of a witness be trusted?".
- Knowledge of the kinds of stimuli that are mistaken as UFOs has greatly increased.
- Methods of investigation have been improved (as long as the investigator is not
- Tricks used by hoaxers and pranksters have been uncovered.
- New methods of optical and computer photoanalysis were developed to study UFO
- The defense systems tell us there are not huge numbers of spacecraft coming into the
- The "process of elimination" has been shown to not work if one or more
possibilities are unknown to the investigators.
- The effects of leading questions asked by hypnotists in hypnotic regression cases were
Has anyone tried to use a computer to look for patterns in UFO sightings?
This has been done many times. In each attempt, they could not find any pattern in the
unidentified sightings that differed any from the patterns they found in the solved cases.
Also, the computers were unable to find a single model that fit most unidentified sightings.
What they found was a large amount of randomness in the reports.
The page author even tried to do this (using the above classification system). The
biggest problem he found was finding a way to encode the details of a sighting in a way that
kept the searching and sorting algorithms from rejecting sightings from case categories
based on technicalities.
How does a witness report a UFO sighting?
This depends on why the witness wants to report the sighting:
Note that if you mention a UFO, many officials will hang up the phone.
- The witness wants to know what it was:
- Observe the UFO as long as possible. This often reveals what it really
- Calling the local airport can provide the identity of actual aircraft in
the area. Say that you want to know what you saw in the sky and describe it. (The page
author saw an object that looked like a gray rectangle with a hot dog behind it in
silhouette to the sunset. By calling the airport, he found out it was a towed
advertising sign with a special offer attached.)
- The witness fears that it is a hazard:
- If there seems to be a danger to property on the ground, call the police.
But don't call it a UFO. Say a low flying aircraft is endangering property.
- If the object appears to be in the way of air traffic, call the local
airport. But don't call it a UFO.
- The witness sees the object damaging property:
- Call the police. Tell them something like a flying toy is damaging
- If the UFO started a fire, call the fire department. Report the fire,
but not a UFO.
- The witness thinks that it should be reported to advance science:
- Report it to NUFORC or UFOCAT. These are objective cataloging
Who can see a UFO?
Anyone can see a UFO. It is entirely a matter of being where and when the UFO is visible.
Of course, if you are inside all of the time, or if you are always messing with your cell
phone, you are not likely to see a UFO. People who are outside all the time, and especially
those who look at the sky frequently, are more likely to see a UFO.
How can I see a UFO?
It takes a lot of patience and luck (or a nearby prankster). Here are some tips:
- Be outside. Continuously look at the sky. (This will also familiarize you with what is
normally found in the sky.)
- Find a place where you can see most of the sky.
- Take others with you.
- Have equipment available to document your sighting. If possible, photograph it.
- Don't use a camera you have to waste time fooling with before you can take a picture.
The UFO could leave while you are adjusting the camera.
- Don't be too eager to see a conventional object as a UFO.
What should I do if I see a UFO?
You don't have to do anything. But the following are things to do during and after
the sighting to find out more about it or to advance science.
- Observe the UFO as long as possible. Too many witnesses leave while the UFO is still
- Test the UFO for angular size by holding your little fingernail at arm's length next
to the UFO. Notice how much of the UFO you can hide behind your little fingernail (which
should just cover the full moon).
- Try to get other witnesses.
- If you have a camera handy, photograph the object many times.
- Do not approach too close to a UFO. It might be a crashed satellite that is
radioactive, or some kind of man-made device that could inadvertently harm you (e.g. a
- Document your sighting as soon as possible after it ends. Write down every detail you
remember. Be sure to include the result of the angular size test.
- Be sure to correctly locate yourself. Use unmistakable landmarks to locate where you
were, and which way you were facing.
- Before reporting the UFO, use some of the techniques above to try to identify it. If
you find out what it was, then don't report it.
- You may report it to UFOCAT or NUFORC.
Why are UFOs reported more often near military bases, nuclear power plants, and
This is probably because these locations usually have guards and other people whose jobs
require them to look at the sky (and elsewhere) for possible threats.
Many military bases have RADAR.
This does NOT mean that UFOs congregate at these locations. It means that more people
are available at more times to be in a position to see them.
Why are UFOs reported more often during wars?
There are sentries, spotters, guards, reconnaissance aircraft, picket ships, and RADAR
installations constantly scanning the skies for enemy threats. They have to report
anything they see to their superiors. So there are many more eyes and devices looking at
the skies during a war.
This does NOT mean that UFOs congregate during wartime. Again, it means that many more
people are available at more times to be available to see them.
In many cases, soldiers and airman found themselves shooting at the planet Venus during
World War II. They would see the bright light in the sky and think it was an enemy
There were more real devices in the air too. In World War II, both the French
Underground and the Japanese defense system used fire balloons to fool the enemy. Many
countries had barrage balloons holding up nets to snare enemy planes, and sometimes those
balloons got loose. And the Japanese were using Fu-Go balloon-borne bombs to attack the
US west coast.
Why are so many UFO reports by police officers and pilots?
Again, these are people who are outside and are often looking at the sky. In addition,
police officers are often called on to investigate UFO reports called in by others.
What about the high number of UFO reports near bodies of water?
Again, there are people who are outside and are often looking at the sky near bodies of
water. Reservoirs often have guards. People are often boating, fishing, birdwatching, or
enjoying other forms of recreation near bodies of water. And in the eastern United States,
there are few places that are not near bodies of water.
Why are so many UFO reported near power lines?
Almost anywhere people can go, there are power lines nearby, to service the people who
go or live there. Near a city, there are also plenty of high-tension power lines in the
area to service the many substations needed to power the city.
It is a rare case where a UFO is sighted where power lines are not visible in the area.
Even farms need power. In those rare cases, either the power lines are underground, or
the witness is out in the wilderness away from power lines.
Do UFOs sightings vary in frequency by time of day, day of week, or time of
Most of this variation is due to the availability of witnesses, not the characteristics
- The main time-of-day variations are due to when witnesses are available and are
looking at the sky. More witnesses are available at 9 PM than at any other time,
explaining the major peak.
- A minor peak centered on 3 AM is probably due to people leaving bars and other such
venues when they close.
- There are no peaks during commuting hours because most drivers are too busy driving
to look at the sky. Also, people in buses and trains have a limited view of the sky.
- There is no major variation in sightings due to the day of the week.
- The major variation that more UFOs are seen in the summer is mostly explained by the
fact that more people are outside during good weather and during vacations.
- One variation caused by the nature of the objects sighted is the proliferation of
fire balloons and sky lanterns at 9 PM (10 PM where double daylight time exists) is that
fire balloons and sky lanterns are not usually released until after the sky is dark.
Why don't astronomers see UFOs in their telescopes?
There are several reasons:
- The field of view of a telescope is very narrow. The moon is very large, compared to
the angular view of most large telescopes. The page author's small telescope can't even
show the entire moon at the maximum magnification of 60x.
A UFO could be near the field of view without being detected.
- Anything near the earth is out of focus in a large telescope observing the objects
studied by astronomers. A UFO in the earth's atmosphere would be an out-of-focus streak
- Astronomers rarely look through telescopes. They are usually using the telescope as a
camera, exposing photographic film or charge-coupled devices to light from the studied
objects for hours. Any UFO showing up in the image would be an out-of-focus streak or
blob - a spoiled exposure and wasted telescope time (astronomers have to reserve time
slots on major instruments). Such a ruined exposure is usually attributed to an airplane
or satellite crossing the telescope's field of view, not to a UFO.
- Many astronomers are reluctant to report UFOs for fear of losing their jobs.
Scientists are not supposed to be religious, or have anything to do with the occult or
UFOs. Too many Atheists are in charge of hiring scientists, and have decreed this.
What was APRO?
APRO (Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization) was a pro-ET civilian UFO group from 1952
to 1988. It was founded by Jim and Coral Lorenzen.
What was NICAP?
NICAP (National Investigation Committee for Aerial Phenomena) was a civilian UFO group
from 1957 to the late 1970s, although it still maintains a website. It was founded by
What was IUFOS?
IUFOS (International UFO Skeptics) was a civilian UFO group from 1990 to 2003 that
searched for prosaic explanations for UFO sightings. This group did not do anything to
force a bad explanation onto a sighting, but took each case as an interesting puzzle to
try to solve.
What was the Invisible College?
The Invisible College was a group of scientists interested in finding out the truth
Who were the "men in black"?
After years of speculation that they were government agents, some artifacts claimed to
have been taken by such men were found in the possession of tabloid magazine companies.
So the "men in black" were tabloid reporters pretending to be government men to
increase the strangeness of the report (and the sales of their magazines) and get the
sighting evidence for their magazines.
What is the general chronology of UFO sightings over history?
UFO research is divided into the following periods:
- Pre-1889 - Before the advent of aviation - Most sightings were not interpreted as
- 1890-1941 - The advent of aviation - Most sightings were thought to be aircraft,
including the 1897
- 1942-1947 - The sightings of World War II and its aftermath, including the Foo
Fighters, Arnold, and Roswell.
- 1948-1969 - The classical UFO period, including all years the US Air Force
- 1970-1977 - UFO sightings after the Air Force stopped investigating, but before the
events in the next period influenced the kinds of UFO cases reported.
- 1978-1995 - The period where the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind
and the resurrection of the long-dead Roswell case influenced the kinds of reports that
- 1996-present - The period influenced mainly by the Internet.
What are the so-called classic cases?
The classic cases are the ones that are known by more people. This is the page author's
- 02/25/1947 the battle of Los Angeles (fu-go Japanese balloon bomb released by
- 06/1947 Roswell NM crash (now identified as part of a secret
spy balloon train)
- 06/24/1947 over Mineral WA, Kenneth Arnold case that coined the term
- 01/07/1948 Fort Knox KY case where Thomas Mantell crashed his plane chasing a UFO too
high without oxygen (was a high-altitude research balloon)
- 05/11/1950 Paul Trent, McMinnville OR photographs (probably a side-view mirror from
- 08 and 09/1951 Lubbock TX sightings and photos (new streetlights shining on birds - The
Hart photos, when analyzed, show a choir behind the lights)
- 05/07/1952 Ed Keffel, Barra da Tijuca Brazil photographs (montages - sun from below
in photo 5)
- 07/14/1952 Nash and Fortenberry, Newport News VA, lights flew below plane
- 07/19 and 07/26/1952 Washington National Airport (RADAR operator miscalibrated
upgraded RADAR set adjusting wrong knob)
- 08/13-14/1956 Lakenheath and Bentwaters air bases, England
(the same RADAR upgrade and error as in the Washington National case)
- 11/03/1957 Levelland TX car stopping UFOs (now a known desert static electricity
- 11/04/1957 Fort Itaipu Brazil, soldiers burned by UFO (fake case - no local memory of
- 01/16/1958 off Trinidade Island, Brazil, photos (montage with image from a comic
- 04/24/1959 Itapoan Brazil photos (drive wheel from a Collaro record changer thrown in
- 09/20/1961 Barney and Betty Hill abduction near Indian Head NH (see hypnosis question
- 04/24/1964 Lonnie Zamora, Socorro NM sighting (Now
identified as an early propane hot-air balloon)
- 09/03/1965 Exeter NH sighting (probably prank fire balloons
released by college students)
- 03/1966 Ann Arbor, Dexter, and Milan MI, multiple sightings (fire balloons released
by college students)
- 03/20/1966 Frank Mannor, Dexter MI, landed object (probably poachers, who turned off
their lights when discovered)
- 03/21/1966 Hillsdale MI, multiple sightings (this really was swamp gas, along with
- 04/17/1966 Atwater OH to Conway PA police chase (probably a prank released by college
- 11/02/1971 Delphos KS, glowing ring "left by UFO" (galvanized stock watering tank once
- 10/11/1973 Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker abduction in Pascagoula MS (see hypnosis
- 11/05/1975 Travis Walton abduction near Snowflake AZ (see hypnosis question below)
- 12/25-27/1980 Rendlesham Forest, England case (probably covering up a secret spy
satellite film drop, with fire balloons added by pranksters and a lighthouse sighted by
- 12/29/1980 Betty Cash and others, Huffman TX (probably a helicopter hoist cable fouled
in power lines, making UV and X-ray radiation)
- 12/11/1996 Yukon Highway, Yukon Canada, giant UFO (flight of US transports looked
like one giant UFO)
- 3/10-13/1997 Phoenix AZ, The Phoenix Lights
- 2008 Stephenville TX sighting wave (initial objects were jets, the remainder were
How useful is hypnosis in recovering a mentally suppressed UFO experience?
Hypnosis can be useful if it is not abused. But it can never produce conclusive evidence
The following are misuse of hypnosis:
- "Party" hypnosis has caused many UFO cases when an amateur hypnotist plants
a post-hypnotic suggestion that a UFO event happened. Examples include the 1961 Eagle
River WI Joe Simonton case and the Brooksville FL John Reeves case.
- The hypnotist, wanting the ET hypothesis to be true, asks leading questions. Instead
of the witness saying he does not know the answer to a leading question, the mind of the
witness often creates a false answer to please the hypnotist. The 1961 Indian Head NH
abduction, the 1973 Pascagoula MS case, and the 1975 Snowflake AZ case are possibly
tainted by this.
How can UFOs go at the unbelievable speeds reported?
There are several possibilities?
- The object is a lot smaller and a lot closer to the witness than he believes it is.
Thus, it is going much slower.
- The object is a meteor moving at several thousand miles per hour above the normal
- The witness thought the UFO moved away at great speed, when it actually just dimmed
- The UFO was a projected image or a searchlight on clouds. These can move at any speed
the light source can be swiveled.
- A rotating or oscillating clear reflector between the observer and the background the
UFO was seen against is reflecting one or more light sources toward the witness.
- At night, the observer's headlights are reflected off different parts of a reflecting
power line as he drives.
How can an object seen in the sky be an airplane if it is not making any
There are several possibilities?
- Most distant airplanes seen in the sky are too far away for the witness to hear any
sound. The page author sees many jets leaving trails and distant propeller planes that
are not making any noise that he can hear every day. Most people never even notice these
Remember that sound in the open air follows the inverse-square law. As the distance
from the sound source doubles, the intensity of the sound heard is quartered. A
propeller airplane that is audible at a certain level one mile away would be heard
at 1/64 of that level (down 36 decibels) if it is 8 miles away. That would normally be
too faint to hear unless the plane is exceptionally loud.
- Ultralight airplanes have very low power motors that run almost silently.
- Local sounds (traffic, wind, children playing, music, etc) can drown out the sound of
- If the wind is coming from behind a witness facing the plane, the sound of the plane
is greatly reduced.
- Advertising planes are moving very slowly so the ad reaches more people, so they
don't make much noise.
Are the "chemtrails" I see in the sky made by UFOs or government
Chemtrails? Anyone believing that has been reading too many conspiracy websites.
Those are contrails (condensation trails). All jet engines give off a lot of water
vapor. When the airplane is flying through air with certain combinations of temperature
and humidity levels, this water vapor condenses into a long thin cloud.
Most contrails seen in the sky are made by passenger jetliners.
Contrails can have colors other than white during sunrise/sunset conditions.
Why aren't UFO photos conclusive proof that UFOs exist?
Because it is too easy to fake a UFO photo.
How easy is it to fake a UFO photograph?
Very easy. Here are some of the methods used to fake UFO photographs
- Using an existing photo that looks like it has a UFO (e.g. a flash failure photo)
- Hanging a model in front of the camera and photographing it - Monofilament fishing
line is often used, because it is undetectable on the film. Page author photo A is at
- Throwing a spinning model in front of the camera and photographing it
- Throwing an aerodynamic model in front of the camera and photographing it
- Throwing something else (e.g. a flashlight) in front of the camera and
- Intentional double exposure
- Reflecting a UFO model into the camera with a piece of glass
- Sticking an object to a window and taking the photo through the window
- Montage of a UFO image onto a print and rephotographing it
- Double printing with two negatives
- Overlapping two negatives in the enlarger
Digital photo editing (Page author photo B at right)
- Taking a photo of an unusual light source at night
- Photographing a fixed light (e.g. a streetlight) and claiming it is a UFO
- Staging a scene for the camera
- Taking a time exposure of a firework
- Drawing something on the negative with a marker
- Dodging (printing parts of different negatives in different parts of the print)
- Scraping emulsion off the negative
- Taking a time exposure of a moving object at night (airplane lights make interesting
- Opening the shutter and gyrating the camera
People used to fake UFO photos because newspapers and tabloids used to pay for them.
How do UFOs get into photographs without the photographer seeing them?
There are many ways this can happen:
- A bird or a bug is frozen in flight by the camera shutter
- A bird or a bug is caught in the camera flash and appears as a light on the print
- Windblown debris is frozen in flight by the camera shutter
- Windblown debris is caught in the camera flash and appears as a light on the print
- Something the photographer didn't notice was going on in the background (e.g. a
football or Frisbee being thrown by people behind the subject)
- A lens flare occurs (a bright light shines on the camera lens and is reflected
multiply off the glass surfaces of the lens), creating a bright blob or shape on the
- A photo is attempted from a moving car, which passes an object not noticed by the
- A hanging streetlight in the background (both day and night have happened)
- A reflection in a window the photo was taken through (e.g. a ceiling light)
- Accidental double exposure
- A small bug got inside the camera
- Dirt or lint got inside the camera
- Light leaked onto the negative
- The film is damaged (torn, crimped, or scraped), leaving an unusual shape on the
- The sun was in the frame and burned the film
- Dust or debris in the air near the lens was illuminated by the flash
- Developer was spilled on the negative or the print
- The Polaroid self-developing process failed
- The camera was exposed to radioactive materials
- The digital image collector was hit by a cosmic ray, leaving bright spots
- In a digital image or video, the raster scanning of the image can multiply or
distort a moving object
What are "rods"?
"Rods" are artifacts of the process of making a video recording.
When an analog or digital video is recorded, different parts of each frame are recorded
at slightly different times. Usually a frame is raster scanned from left to right for
each horizontal line, and the horizontal lines are scanned from top to bottom of the
Some video modes (including the NTSC analog system that was used in the United States)
use an interlaced scan. The camera scans all of the odd lines of the frame, and then
returns to scan all of the even lines. This is intended to reduce image flicker.
A rod is created when a moth or other insect flies across the field of view of the
camera close to the lens. Because the moth is moving, the raster scan catches the moth
in different parts of its motion in different parts of the scan. Interlace scanning
amplifies this error. The same parts of the moth are seen in multiple locations in the
same frame. Thus, the wings of the moth are seen in multiple locations.
An interlace scan of a moving car can make it look like it has 8 wheels. Also, the page
author has a digital photo of an ordinary volleyball in flight. But the red, green, and
blue images of the volleyball are in different parts of the photo. The camera that took
the photo uses interlace by color, rather than interlacing odd and even lines.
The proof of what a rod is was obtained when the same scene was recorded with an
ordinary camcorder using NTSC video and a high speed film camera taking 1000 frames
per second. Where the high speed camera recorded a moth, the NTSC camera recorded a
What are "orbs"?
Orbs are artifacts of using a cheap disposable camera. The flash on these cameras is
so close to the lens that it illuminates tiny dust motes close to the lens. Because they
are very close to the lens, they appear as out-of-focus orbs of light.
The proof of this is that orbs never appear when good cameras are used. The flash is
farther away from the lens, and the reflector of the flash protects the area in front of
the lens from the flash.
How is a fake UFO photo recognized?
There are many clues:
- Was the object not seen by the photographer at the time the picture was taken? If so,
see the above question:
"How do UFOs get into photographs without the photographer seeing them?"
- Look for things that are out of focus. If either the object is out of focus or the
background is out of focus, the UFO is a small model close to the camera.
This is not motion blur. Motion blur happens in only one direction, not all around the
- Does the object look transparent in some way? Do things in the background show through
it. Suspect a double exposure or a reflection.
- Is the object under something in the photo that might be holding it up with invisible
- Does the object look like something familiar (e.g. a Frisbee or a hubcap)? It might
be that object.
- Is the light shining on the object coming from the same direction as the light shining
on the background is coming from? If not, the UFO was added by montage (the page author
caught one where the light hit the UFO from below - impossible in the daytime).
- If the photo is digital, magnify it and look for "pixel dust" in the sky
that is not present away from the object. This is a giveaway that the object was added
digitally and then blended into the sky background.
- Is the object the subject of the photo? If not, check for things in the area that
could have been accidently photographed.
- Is the object in the sky darker than any of the dark objects in the background? Then
the object is very close to the camera. Scattering of light by the air molecules would
make a distant object look lighter and bluer.
- Is a bright UFO directly across the center of the image from a bright light source?
If so, suspect a lens reflection (lens flare).
- Is the object a sky lantern?
- Could the object be a bird or an insect caught in mid-flap by the camera shutter?
- Could the object be a bird or an insect caught by the flash at night?
- Does the camera have to be in an unusual position to reproduce the shot minus the
object (e.g. 6 inches from the ground)?
- If a digital version is available, play with the lightness and contrast to see if
any clues show up. These have included a post holding up the object, a choir behind a
row of lights (candles), and a truck CB antenna holding up a small model.
- Turn the picture sideways and upside down. See if the object is something photographed
at a strange angle, reflected in water, or floating on water reflecting the sky.
Is the sky real, or is it reflected from something? One UFO was a hood pin on the hood
of a race car.
The hood was reflecting the sky. Another UFO was a light fixture mounted on a polished
marble building that was reflecting the sky. In another case, the object was a rowboat
on water that was assumed by the photographer to be sky when he got the pictures
- Is the object a chicken brooder? Many UFO contactees sold photos of these
infrared-lamp farm devices (see photo). Notice the three ceramic "dull" bulbs
(no visible light emitted) that screw into sockets in the central hub, the vent holes in
the upper housing, the support wire, and the power cord. Of course, in the fake UFO
photos, the support wire and the power cord are gone.
What kinds of real objects have been used in fake UFO photos?
Many different kinds of objects appear in fake UFO photos. Here are some examples:
- Chicken brooder (see above)
- Automobile hubcaps
- Ceiling light fixtures
- Plates or saucers
- Table and desk lamps
- Parts of pressure lanterns (e.g. ColemanTM)
- Throwing discs (e.g.FrisbeeTM)
- Metal cigar tubes
- Paper plate (or two stapled together)
- Night lights
- Space toys (see author photo B above)
- Trash can lids
- Straw hat
- Radio or TV Knob
- Plastic ice cream dishes taped together (see author photo A above)
- Saucer with inverted cup on top
- Truck brake drum
- Truck air cleaner cover
- Bus ceiling light cover
- Foot pump for an air mattress
- Toy balloon
- Drive wheel from a record player
- Ranger hat
- Spin-O-Reno (see above)
- Bush hog blade
- Phonograph record
- Plastic toy canoe with Indians
- Tie clip
- Hanging mobile
- Suction cup
- Office golf cup
- Moth on a window
- Vegetable steamer
- Air duct register
- Soap saver
- Auto side view mirror
- Plastic models
- Carnival rides
- Advertising signs
Who are the contactees?
Contactees are people who claim to have been contacted by beings from outer space.
Most of them are people selling UFO books, "artifacts", photos, diagrams,
maps, toy UFOs, and other UFO paraphernalia. They are making money from gullible people
who want to know more about UFOs. But the stuff they publish and sell is nothing but
fakery. One contactee admitted he got into the flying saucer business after the government
shut down his whiskey bootlegging business.
What is (or was) Hangar 18?
This was a fictitious hangar, supposedly at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, created by
UFO book authors after the Air Force closed down its UFO investigation. It was supposed
to contain classified evidence of crashed UFOs.
The real hangar numbered 18 at Wright-Patterson is used for ordinary purposes, and is
not classified. But that didn't stop the pro-UFO authors. They say the classified material
is underground below that hangar.
Wright-Patterson AFB is the site of the original field the Wright brothers used near
Dayton after they had success at powered flight at Kitty Hawk NC.
What is Area 51?
When above-ground atomic bomb testing was still being used, a large area of desert in
southern Nevada was divided into a number of areas, each one intended for one nuclear
test. The same areas were subsequently used for underground nuclear tests once
above-ground tests were abandoned.
Area 51 was one of these areas, containing Groom dry lake. Until recently, it
contained a secret aerial technology research center and Nellis Air Force Base.
What happened to Muroc Army Air Base (1947 UFO case site)? Where was it? Is Muroc
an Indian name?
It is still there. It was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in 1949 after Capt. Glen
Edwards, a pilot who died in a crash of a Northrop YB-49 flying wing. It is known as
being one of three sites where the space shuttle could land.
The original name came from the town closest to the base. People named Corum founded
the town, but found to their dismay that there was already a Corum CA, and that the post
office would not allow a second town with that name to have a post office. So they spelled
it backwards - Muroc. The town of Trevlac IN got its name the same way.
Actually, they originally intended to call the base Mohave field.
What were Project Open Book and Project Blue Paper?
These were the secret continuations of Project Blue Book hypothesized by some pro-UFO
authors. They made the false assumption that military project names are related to each
other, and to the purpose of the project (actually, most military projects are numbered,
or use names chosen at random). They also falsely assumed that the Air Force was still
What were MJ-12 and Majic?
These were names found on fake documents purported to be secret CIA UFO-related
operations beginning in 1953. They were shown to be fake when the typeface used to type
the documents was shown to have been created in the mid 1960s.
What was Project Silverbug?
This was a fictitious project name for the Air Force attempt to create a flying saucer,
hypothesized by pro-UFO authors. The result of this real attempt was the Avro Aerocar, a
hovercraft. They discovered that a saucer-shaped aircraft was very unstable when it got
more than a few feet off the ground.
What was Project Aurora?
We don't know. It was apparently a secret military project that accidentally appeared
as an item in a military appropriations bill. It never appeared again, and no other
mention of it ever appeared again. Theories include a hypersonic spy aircraft, a stealth
STOL, and the stealth fighter/bomber program. Or it might have been just a way to get
more funding for something else.
What was Project Twinkle?
This was a US Air Force project that investigated the cause of the sudden appearance
of many green fireball meteors in the southwest US in the late 1940s.
Isn't the film of the autopsy of an alien in Roswell NM in 1947 proof of
The film is a fake:
- The outer case of the telephone in the film was first made in 1963. Those who made
the film were careful to get a real 1947 telephone, but the outer Bakelite case had
been broken and replaced.
- Those performing the autopsy were not sufficiently protected against any alien
microbes that might have been present in the body. They had on standard surgical
- The procedure used is not what would have been done if they were really investigating
the physiology of an alien. They would have carefully preserved each organ for detailed
study later. The film looks like the kind of things they would do in a movie production
to make them look scientific.
- Alien bodies were not part of the Roswell story until it was resurrected from the
dead cases in the late 1970s. Only the debris was part of the original case. The
"alien bodies" were from several other incidents in the area at about the
What were those other incidents near Roswell with alien bodies?
There were no alien bodies. There were cases where alien bodies were alleged to have
- Within a few months of the discovery of the Roswell debris, an airplane stolen by
children crashed near Roswell NM. Base personnel investigated the crash and recovered
the burned bodies. Some people on the base later remembered the charred bodies, and
thought of the Roswell crash.
- Ejection capsule tests (see above) were being conducted in the area of Socorro NM.
Half-size crash dummies were used in these tests. Some civilians saw the dummies as they
were being collected by the researchers. Because military jet aircraft were classified
at the time, the researchers didn't tell bystanders what they were doing.
- The Roswell base ordered some child-sized coffins that year. Back in an age when it
was a sacrilege to open a coffin that was being shipped, the army used the coffins to
ship atomic bomb casings.
- There were two cases of fake stories of UFO crashes in the area, in Aztec NM and
Kingman AZ. Both had reports of alien bodies.