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(yū-fŏl'ə-jē) pronunciation
The study of unidentified flying objects.

[UFO + -LOGY.]

ufological u'fo·log'i·cal ('fə-lŏj'ĭ-kəl) adj.
ufologist u·fol'o·gist n.


the study of unidentified flying objects

Ufology (play /juːˈfɒlə/) is the title used for the array of subject matter and activities associated with an interest in unidentified flying objects (UFOs). UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists. The term derives from UFO, which is pronounced as an acronym, and the suffix -logy, which comes from the Ancient Greek λογία (logiā).



According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the first documented uses of the word ufology can be found in the Times Literary Supplement from January 23, 1959, in which it writes, "The articles, reports, and bureaucratic studies which have been written about this perplexing visitant constitute 'ufology'." This article was printed eight years after Edward J. Ruppelt of the United States Air Force (USAF) coined the word UFO in 1951.

Historical background

A Swedish Air Force officer searches for a "ghost rocket" in Lake Kölmjärv, Norrland, Sweden, in July 1946.

The modern UFO mythology has three traceable roots: the late 19th century "mystery airships" reported in the newspapers of western United States, "foo fighters" reported by Allied airmen during World War II, and the Kenneth Arnold "flying saucer" sighting near Mt. Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947.[1] UFO reports between "The Great Airship Wave" and the Arnold sighting were limited in number compared to the post-war period: notable cases include reports of "ghost fliers" in Europe and North America during the 1930s and the numerous reports of "ghost rockets" in Scandinavia (mostly Sweden) from May to December 1946.[2] Media hype in the late 1940s and early 1950s following the Arnold sighting brought the concept of flying saucers to the public audience.[3]

As the public's preoccupation in UFOs grew, along with the number of reported sightings, the United States military began to take notice of the phenomenon. The UFO explosion of the early post-war era coincides with the escalation of the Cold War and the Korean War.[1] The U.S. military feared that secret aircraft of the Soviet Union, possibly developed from captured German technology, were behind the sightings.[4] If correct, the craft causing the sightings were thus of importance to national security[5] and of need of systematic investigation. By 1952, however, the official US government interest in UFOs began to fade as the USAF projects Sign and Grudge concluded, along with the CIA's Robertson Panel that UFO reports indicated no direct threat to national security.[6] The government's official research into UFOs ended with the publication of the Condon Committee report in 1969,[6] which concluded that the study of UFOs in the past 21 years had achieved little, if anything, and that further extensive study of UFO sightings was unwarranted.[6] It also recommended the termination of the USAF special unit Project Blue Book.[6]

As the U.S. government ceased officially studying UFO sightings, the same became true for most governments of the world. A notable exception is France, which still maintains the GEIPAN,[7] formerly known as GEPAN (1977–1988) and SEPRA (1988–2004), a unit under the French Space Agency CNES. During the Cold War, British,[8] Canadian,[9] Danish,[10] Italian,[11] and Swedish[12] governments have each collected reports of UFO sightings. Britain's Ministry of Defence ceased accepting any new reports as of 2010.[13]

Status as a field

Ufology has generally not been embraced by academia as a scientific field of study,[14][15] even though UFOs were during the late 1940s and early 1950s the subject of large-scale scientific studies. The lack of acceptance of ufology by academia as a field of study means that people can claim to be "UFO researchers", without the sorts of scientific consensus building and, in many cases peer review, that otherwise shape and influence scientific paradigms. Even among scientifically inclined UFO research efforts, data collecting is often done by amateur investigators.[14]

Famous mainstream scientists who have shown interest in the UFO phenomenon include Stanford physicist Peter A. Sturrock,[16] astronomer J. Allen Hynek,[17] computer scientist and astronomer Jacques F. Vallée,[18] and University of Arizona meteorologist James E. McDonald.[19]

As a pseudoscience

Ufology has sometimes been characterized as a partial[20] or total[21][22] pseudoscience, which many ufologists reject.[23] Pseudoscience is a term that classifies studies that are claimed to exemplify the methods and principles of science, but that do not adhere to an appropriate scientific methodology, lack supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lack scientific status.[24][25]

Feist thinks that ufology can be categorized as a pseudoscience because, he says, its adherents claim it to be a science while being rejected as being one by the scientific community and because, he says, the field lacks a cumulative scientific progress; ufology has not, in his view, advanced since the 1950s.[26] Cooper states that the fundamental problem in ufology is not the lack of scientific methodology, as many ufologists have striven to meet standards of scientific acceptability, but rather the fact that the assumptions on which the research is often based are considered highly speculative.[27]

Methodological issues

Scientific UFO research suffers from the fact that the phenomena under observation do not usually make predictable appearances at a time and place convenient for the researcher.[28] Ufologist Diana Palmer Hoyt argues,

The UFO problem seems to bear a closer resemblance to problems in meteorology than in physics. The phenomena are observed, occur episodically, are not reproducible, and in large part, are identified by statistical gathering of data for possible organization into patterns. They are not experiments that can be replicated at will at the laboratory bench under controlled conditions.[29]

On the other hand, skeptics have argued that UFOs are not a scientific problem at all, as there is no tangible physical evidence to study.[15][28] Barry Markovsky argues that, under scrutiny by qualified investigators, the vast majority of UFO sightings turn out to have mundane explanations.[30] Astronomer Carl Sagan stated on UFO sightings, "The reliable cases are uninteresting and the interesting cases are unreliable. Unfortunately there are no cases that are both reliable and interesting."[31]

Peter A. Sturrock states that UFO studies should be compartmentalized into at least "the following distinct activities"[32]:

  1. Field investigations leading to case documentation and the measurement or retrieval of physical evidence;
  2. Laboratory analysis of physical evidence;
  3. The systematic compilation of data (descriptive and physical) to look for patterns and so extract significant facts;
  4. The analysis of compilations of data (descriptive and physical) to look for patterns and so extract significant facts;
  5. The development of theories and the evaluation of those theories on the basis of facts.

Denzler states that ufology as a field of study has branched into two different mindsets: the first group of investigators wants to convince the unbelievers and earn intellectual legitimacy through systematic study using the scientific method, and the second group sees the follow-up questions concerning the origin and "mission" of the UFOs as more important than a potential academic standing.[33]

UFO categorization

J. Allen Hynek (left) and Jacques Vallée

The "UFO" is unidentified flying object. Because it is unidentified, the classification and categorization are impossible. However, ufologists have proposed different systems for the classification.

Hynek system

Developed in the 1970s, J. Allen Hynek's original system of description divides sightings into six categories.[34] It first separates sightings into distant- and close-encounter categories, arbitrarily setting five-hundred feet as the cutoff point. It then subdivides these close and distant categories based on appearance or special features:

  • Nocturnal Lights (NL): Anomalous lights seen in the night sky.
  • Daylight Discs (DD): Any anomalous object, generally but not necessarily "discoidal", seen in the distant daytime sky.
  • Radar/Visual cases (RV): Objects seen simultaneously by eye and on radar.

Hynek also defined three close encounter (CE) subcategories:

  • CE1: Strange objects seen nearby but without physical interaction with the environment.
  • CE2: A CE1 case that leaves physical evidence, e.g. soil depressions, vegetation damage, or causes electromagnetic interference.
  • CE3: CE1 or CE2 cases where occupants or entities are seen.

Later, Hynek introduced a fourth category, CE4, which is used to describe cases where the witness feels he was abducted by a UFO.[35] Some ufologists have adopted a fifth category, CE5, which involves conscious human-initiated contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.[35]

Vallée system

Jacques Vallée has devised a UFO classification system, where the UFO sightings of four different categories are divided into five subcategories[36]:

  • Close Encounter (CE): As per Hynek.
  • Maneuver (MA): Trajectory discontinuity in flight.
  • Fly-by (FB): No observed discontinuity in flight.
  • Anomaly (AN): Unusual lights or unexplained entities.

The five subcategories can apply to all previous categories of sightings:

  1. Sighting
  2. Physical effects: for example, radar sighting
  3. Life form or living entity
  4. Reality transformation: witnesses experienced a transformation of their sense of reality (often corresponding to the popular characterization of the incident as an abduction)
  5. Physiological impact: Such as death or serious injury

Thus, the Vallée categorization categorizes cases as MA-2, AN-1, CE-4, for example.

Alleged academic ridicule

Stanton Friedman considers the general attitude of mainstream academics as arrogant and dismissive, or bound to a rigid world view that disallows any evidence contrary to previously held notions.[37] Denzler states that the fear of ridicule and a loss of status has prevented scientists of pursuing a public interest in UFOs.[38] J. Allen Hynek's also commented, "Ridicule is not part of the scientific method and people should not be taught that it is."[39] Hynek said of the frequent dismissal of UFO reports by astronomers that the critics knew little about the sightings, and should thus not be taken seriously.[40] Peter A. Sturrock suggests that a lack of funding is a major factor in the institutional disinterest in UFOs.[41]

Ufology and fringe theories

In addition to UFO sightings, certain supposedly related phenomena are of interest to some in the field of ufology, including crop circles,[42] cattle mutilations,[43] and alien abductions and implants.[44] Some ufologists have also promoted UFO conspiracy theories, including the alleged Roswell UFO Incident of 1947,[45][46] the Majestic 12 documents,[47] and UFO disclosure advocation.[48][49]

Skeptic Robert Sheaffer has accused ufology of having a "credulity explosion".[50] He claims a trend of increasingly sensational ideas steadily gaining popularity within ufology.[50] Sheaffer remarked, "the kind of stories generating excitement and attention in any given year would have been rejected by mainstream ufologists a few years earlier for being too outlandish."[50]

Likewise, James McDonald has expressed the view that extreme groups undermined serious scientific investigation, stating that a "bizarre 'literature' of pseudo-scientific discussion" on "spaceships bringing messengers of terrestrial salvation and occult truth" had been "one of the prime factors in discouraging serious scientists from looking into the UFO matter to the extent that might have led them to recognize quickly enough that cultism and wishful thinking have nothing to do with the core of the UFO problem."[51] In the same statement, McDonald said that, "Again, one must here criticize a good deal of armchair-researching (done chiefly via the daily newspapers that enjoy feature-writing the antics of the more extreme of such subgroups). A disturbing number of prominent scientists have jumped all too easily to the conclusion that only the nuts see UFOs".[51]

Surveys of scientists and amateur astronomers concerning UFOs

In 1973, Peter A. Sturrock conducted a survey among members of the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where 1175 questionnaires were mailed and 423 were returned, and found no consensus concerning the nature and scientific importance of the UFO phenomenon, with views ranging equally from "impossible" to "certain" in reply to the question, "Do UFOs represent a scientifically significant phenomenon?" [52] In a later larger survey conducted among the members of the American Astronomical Society, where 2611 were questionnaires mailed and 1356 were returned, Sturrock found out that opinions were equally diverse, with 23% replying "certainly", 30% "probably", 27% "possibly", 17% "probably not", and 3% "certainly not", to the question of whether the UFO problem deserves scientific study.[53] Sturrock also asked in the same survey if the surveyee had witnessed any event which they could not have identified and which could have been related to the UFO phenomenon, with around 5% replying affirmatively.[53]

In 1980, a survey of 1800 members of various amateur astronomer associations by Gert Herb and J. Allen Hynek of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) found that 24% responded "yes" to the question, "Have you ever observed an object which resisted your most exhaustive efforts at identification?"[54]

Notable studies, panels, and conferences in ufology

Project Sign, Project Grudge (USA, 1947–1949)

Nathan F. Twining

The first official USAF investigations of UFOs were Project Sign (1947–1949) and its successor Project Grudge (1949). Several hundred sightings were examined, a majority of them having a mundane explanation.[55] Some sightings were classified as credible but inexplicable, and in these cases the possibility of an advanced unknown aircraft could not be ruled out.[56] The initial memos of the project took the UFO question seriously. After surveying 16 early reports, Lt. Col. George D. Garrett estimated that the sightings were not imaginary or exaggerations of natural phenomena.[57] Lt. General Nathan F. Twining expressed the same estimate in a letter to Brig. General Schulgen.[58]

Flying Saucer Working Party (UK, 1950–1951)

The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence, alarmed by reports of seemingly advanced unidentified aircraft, followed the US military's example by conducting its own study on UFOs in 1950.[59] A research group was formed based on the recommendation of the chemist Henry Tizard, and was involved in similar work, such as "Project Sign".[59] After less than a year, the directorate, named the "Flying Saucer Working Party" (FSWP), concluded that most observations were either cases of mistaken identity, optical illusions, psychological delusions, or hoaxes, and recommended that no further investigation on the phenomena should be undertaken.[60] In 1952, the directorate informed Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after his inquiry about UFOs, that they had found no evidence of extraterrestrial spacecraft.[59] The FSWP files were classified for fifty years and were released to the British public in 2001.[59]

Project Magnet, Project Second Story (Canada, 1950–1954)

Project Magnet, led by senior senior radio engineer Wilbert B. Smith from the Department of Transport, had the goal of studying magnetic phenomena, specifically geomagnetism, as a potential propulsion method for vehicles.[61][62] Smith believed UFOs were using this method to achieve flight.[62] The final report of the project, however, contained no mention of geomagnetism.[63] It discussed twenty-five UFO sightings reported during 1952, and concluded with the notion that "extraterrestrial space vehicles" are probable.[63]

Along with the Smith group, a parallel committee dedicated solely to dealing with "flying saucer" reports was formed.[64] This committee, called Project Second Story, was sponsored by the Defence Research Board, with its main purpose being to collect, catalog, and correlate data from UFO sighting reports.[64] The committee appeared to have dissolved after five meetings, as the group deemed the collected material unsuitable for scientific analysis.[65]

Project Blue Book (USA, 1951–1969)

As a continuation of Project Sign and Project Grudge in 1951, the USAF launched Project Blue Book, led by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt. Under Ruppelt, the collection and investigation of UFO sightings became more systematic.[66] The project issued a series of status reports, which were declassified in September 1960 and made available in 1968.[67] Project Blue Book was terminated in December 1969, following the report of the Condon Committee. Until then, 12,618 incidents had been investigated, the grand majority of which explained by conventional means. 701 cases, around 6%, remained "unidentified".[68] Officially, the USAF concluded from the project that the phenomena investigated were of no concern to national security, and that there was no evidence the sightings categorized as "unidentified" were caused by extraterrestrial aircraft.[68]

Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 (USA, 1952–1954)

The main entrance to Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio

Ruppelt contracted a team of scientists from the Battelle Memorial Institute to evaluate the early sightings gathered by Project Blue Book. They conducted analysis, primarily statistical, on the subject for almost two years. The study concluded that the more complete the data was and the better the report, the more likely it was that the report was classified as "unidentified".[69][70] However, the report emphasized the subjectivity of the data, and stated that the conclusions drawn from the study were not based on facts, but on the subjective observations and estimations of the individual.[71][original research?] Furthermore, the report summary and conclusion stated that "unknowns" were not likely something beyond the era's technology, and almost certainly not "flying saucers".[66]

Robertson Panel (USA, 1953)

Before the final Battelle report was published, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had developed an interest in UFOs as a national security issue, and set up a committee to examine existing UFO data.[66] The panel, headed by mathematician and physicist Howard Percy Robertson, met from January 14 to 17, 1953.[6] It concluded unanimously that the UFO sightings posed no direct threat to national security, but did find that a continued emphasis on UFO reporting might threaten government functions by causing the channels of communication to clog with irrelevant reports and by inducing mass hysteria.[6] Also, the panel worried that nations hostile to the US might use the UFO phenomena to disrupt air defenses.[6] To meet these problems, the panel stated that a policy of public education on the lack of evidence behind UFOs was needed, to be done through the mass media and schools, among others.[6] It also recommended monitoring private UFO groups for subversive activities.[6]

The recommendations of the Roberson Panel were partly implemented through a series of special military regulations.[72] The December 1953 Joint-Army-Navy-Air Force Publication 146 (JANAP 146) made publication of UFO sightings a crime under the Espionage Act.[72] The Air Force Regulation 200-2 (AFR 200-2) revision of 1954 made all UFO sightings reported to the USAF classified.[72] AFR 200-2 revision of February 1958 allowed the military to deliver to the FBI names of those who were "illegally or deceptively" bringing UFOs to public attention.[72]

Condon Committee (USA, 1966–1968)

Edward U. Condon

After the recommendations of the Robertson Panel, the USAF wanted to end its involvement in UFOs, and pass Project Blue Book to another agency.[73] In October 1966, the USAF contracted the University of Colorado, under the leadership of physicist Edward U. Condon, for $325,000 to conduct more scientific investigations of selected UFO sightings and to make recommendations about the project's future.[6][73] The committee looked at ninety-one UFO sightings, of which 30% was unidentifiable.[69] The report concluded that there was no "direct evidence" that UFOs were extraterrestrial spacecraft,[69] that UFO research from the past twenty-one years had not contributed anything to scientific knowledge, and that further study was not justified.[74] As a direct result of the Condon report, Project Blue Book was closed in December 1969.[69] Many ufologists, however, were not satisfied with the Condon report, and considered it a cover-up.[6]

RAND Corporation paper (USA, 1968)

The RAND Corporation produced a short internal document titled "UFOs: What to Do?", published in November 1968.[75] The paper gave a historical summary of the UFO phenomenon, talked briefly about issues concerning extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel, presented a few case studies and discussed the phenomenological content of a UFO sighting, reviewed hypotheses, and concluded with a recommendation to organize a central UFO report-receiving agency and conducting more research on the phenomenon.[75]

Project Identification (USA, 1973–1980)

In 1973, a wave of UFO sightings in southeast Missouri prompted Harley D. Rutledge, physics professor at the University of Missouri, to conduct an extensive field investigation of the phenomenon.[76] The findings were published in the book Project Identification: the first scientific field study of UFO phenomena.[77] Although taking a specific interest in describing unidentified aerial phenomena, as opposed to identifying them, the book references the presumed intelligence of the sighted objects.[78] Rutledge's study results were not published in any peer-reviewed journal or other scientific venue or format.[76]

Studies by GEPAN, SERPA & GEIPAN (France, 1977–present)

Drawing from the GEPAN report on the Cussac case

In 1977, the French Space Agency CNES Director General set up a unit to record UFO sighting reports.[79] The unit was initially known as Groupe d’Etudes des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés (GEPAN), changed in 1988 to Service d'expertise de rentrée atmosphérique Phenom (SERPA) and in 2005 to Groupe d'études et d'informations sur les phénomènes aérospatiaux non identifiés (GEIPAN).[79]

GEIPAN found a mundane explanation for the vast majority of recorded cases, but in 2007, after 30 years of investigation, 1,600 cases, approximately 28% of total cases, remained unexplained "despite precise witness accounts and good-quality evidence recovered from the scene" and are categorized as "Type D".[79] In April 2010, GEIPAN statistics stated that 23% of all cases were of Type D.[80] However, Jean-Jacques Velasco, the head of SEPRA from 1983 to 2004, wrote a book in 2004 noting that 13.5% of the 5,800 cases studied by SEPRA were dismissed without any rational explanation, and stated that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin.[81][82]

United Nations (1977–1979)

Thanks to the lobbying of Eric Gairy, the Prime Minister of Grenada, the United Nations General Assembly addressed the UFO issue in the late 1970s.[83] On July 14, 1978, a panel, with Gordon Cooper, J. Allen Hynek, and Jacques Vallée among its members, held a hearing to inform the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim about the matter.[84] As a consequence of this meeting, the UN adopted decisions A/DEC/32/424 and A/DEC/33/426, which called for the "establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, co-ordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena".[85][86][87]

Project Hessdalen / Project EMBLA (Norway, 1983–present / Italy 1999–2004)

Since 1981, in an area near Hessdalen in Norway, unidentified flying objects have been commonly observed. This so-called Hessdalen phenomenon has twice been the subject of scientific field studies: Project Hessdalen (1983–1985, 1995–) secured technical assistance from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, the University of Oslo, and the University of Bergen, while Project EMBLA (1999–2004) was a team of Italian scientists led by Ph.D. Massimo Teodorani from the Istituto di Radioastronomia di Bologna.

Both studies confirmed the presence of the phenomenon and were able to record it with cameras and various technical equipment such as radar, laser, and infrared.[88][89] The origin and nature of the lights remains unclear.[90][91] Researchers from Project EMBLA speculated the possibility that atmospheric plasma had been the origin of the phenomenon.[92]

Project Condign (UK, 1996–2000)

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) published in 2006 the "Scientific & Technical Memorandum 55/2/00a" of a four-volume, 460-page report entitled Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region, based on a study by DI55 (a section of the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence of the Defence Intelligence Staff) codenamed Project Condign.[93] It discusses the British UFO reports received between 1959 and 1997.

The report affirms that UFOs are an existing phenomenon,[94] but points out that they present no threat to national defense.[95] The report further states that there is no evidence that UFO sightings are caused by incursions of intelligent origin, or that any UFO consists of solid objects which might create a collision hazard.[96] Although the study admits of being unable to explain all analyzed UFO sightings with certainty, it recommends that section DI55 ceases monitoring UFO reports, as they do not provide information useful for Defence Intelligence.[97] The report concludes that a small percentage of sightings that can not be easily explained are caused by atmospheric plasma phenomenon similar to ball lightning; Magnetic and other energy fields produced by these "buoyant plasma formations" are responsible for the appearance of so-called "Black Triangles" as well as having hallucinogenic effects on the human mind, inducing experiences of Close Encounters.

Sturrock Panel Report (USA, 1997)

From Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, 1997 a workshop examining selected UFO incidents took place in Tarrytown, New York. The meeting was initiated by Peter A. Sturrock, who had reviewed the Condon report and found it dissatisfying.[98] The international review panel consisted of nine physical scientists, who responded to eight investigators of UFO reports, who were asked to present their strongest data.[99] The final report of the workshop was published under the title "Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports" in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1998.[100] The study concluded that the studied cases presented no unequivocal evidence for the presence of unknown physical phenomena or for extraterrestrial intelligence,[101] but argued that a continued study of UFO cases might be scientifically valuable.[102]

COMETA Report (France, 1999)

COMETA (Comité d'Études Approfondies, "Committee for in-depth studies") is a private French group, which is mainly composed of high-ranking individuals from the French Ministry of Defence. In 1999 the group published a ninety-page report entitled "Les OVNI et la défense: à quoi doit-on se préparer?" ("UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For?").[103] The report analyzed various UFO cases and concluded that UFOs are real, complex flying objects, and that the extraterrestrial hypothesis has a high probability of being the correct explanation for the UFO phenomenon.[104] The study recommended that the French government should adjust to the reality of the phenomenon and conduct further research.[105] Skeptic Claude Maugé criticized COMETA for research incompetency, and claimed that the report tried to present itself as an official French document, when in fact it was published by a private group.[106]

"Disclosure Project" Press Conference (USA, 2001)

On May 9, 2001, twenty government workers from military and civilian organizations spoke about their experiences regarding UFOs and UFO confidentiality at the National Press Club in Washington D.C..[107] The press conference was initiated by Steven M. Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project, which has the goal of disclosing alleged government UFO secrecy.[108] The purpose of the press conference was to build public pressure through the media to obtain a hearing before the United States Congress on the issue.[109] Although major American media outlets reported on the conference,[110] the interest quickly died down, and no hearing came forth.

Fife Symington Press Conference (USA, 2007)

On November 12, 2007, a press conference, moderated by former Governor of Arizona Fife Symington, was held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.[111] Nineteen former pilots and military and civilian officials spoke about their experiences with UFOs, demanding that the U.S. government engage in a new investigation of the phenomenon.[112]

Notable cases in ufology

Below are short summaries of select famous cases in UFO research. All of the incidents remain subject to controversy.

Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting (USA, 1947)

On June 24, 1947 pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine metallic objects flying near Mt. Rainier, Washington.[113] The term "flying saucer" was coined by an Associated Press reporter, Bill Bequette, who based it on Arnold's description of the objects.[113]

Roswell UFO Incident (USA, 1947)

The Roswell Incident of 1947 ranks as one of the most publicized and controversial UFO incidents.[114] The US Army recovered an object which crashed near Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947, allegedly an extraterrestrial spacecraft, and alien pliots,[115] Many books on the incident have been written since the 1970s, and numerous alleged witnesses have spoken on the event.[116] The USAF maintains that the crashed object was a top-secret military spy balloon, a part of Project Mogul, many UFO proponents maintain that an alien craft was found and its occupants were captured, and that the military covered it up.[117]

July 1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident (USA, 1952)

From July 13 to 29, 1952, there was a major wave of UFO sightings over Washington D.C. Simultaneous radar and visual sightings were reported, of what appeared to be a group of UFOs flying over the city, and the Capitol Building.[118][119] Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the objects, which allegedly disappeared when the planes got close enough to engage, and reappeared when the jets disengaged.[118] The USAF held a major press conference to respond to the media and public inquiry, and brought in Harvard astronomer Donald Menzel to explain away the sightings as being caused by temperature inversion.[118]

Tehran UFO Incident (Iran, 1976)

Page 2 of a USAF report on the Tehran incident by Captain Henry S. Shields

On the morning of September 19, 1976, a bright object was sighted and recorded by radar over Tehran, Imperial State of Iran. Two Imperial Iranian Air Force F-4 Phantom jet fighters tried to intercept the object, but turned back, reportedly after an instrumentation and communications failure on both planes.[120] The second plane's weapons system reportedly also died when it tried to fire a missile at a smaller object, which had emerged from the object pursued.[120] The case is confirmed both by the statements of a senior Iranian military official and by a report from the U.S. Defense Department on the case.[121] [122] Skeptic Philip J. Klass, after having examined the case, claims the witnesses initially saw an astronomical body, possibly Jupiter, while equipment malfunction and pilot incompetence accounted for the technical malfunctions.[123] Klass also pointed out that although being supposedly such a spectacular UFO case, it remained unclassified, and that there was no evidence of a follow-up investigation.[124]

Rendlesham Forest Incident (UK, 1980)

From December 26 to 28, 1980, several bright UFOs were reportedly observed by military personnel in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England.[125] In one case, a witness reported seeing a landed object, which he then touched and felt characters etched on its surface, before the object flew off.[126] Later, military personnel found impressions and increased radioactivity measurements on the supposed landing site.[127] The witnesses were all military personnel, including the deputy commander of the nearby Bentwaters Royal Air Force base, Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt. An official USAF memo dated January 13, 1981 documents the incident.[128] An audio recording of the military investigation that took place on December 27 is also available to the public.[128] Skeptic Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast suggests the UFO and strange light sightings were misidentifications of the nearby Orfordness lighthouse, the re-entry of the Russian Cosmos 749 rocket, and meteors.[129]

Belgian UFO wave (Belgium, 1989–1991)

From 1989 to mid-1991, around 3,500 UFO sightings were recorded in Belgium.[130] On the night of March 30, 1990, hundreds of people reported seeing UFOs in the airspace over Belgium, and unknown targets were confirmed by radar.[131] Two Belgian Air Force (BAF) F-16 fighters attempted to intercept the objects, with no success.[131] The radar tapes were later analyzed by the BAF, who concluded that the anomalies could have been caused by processing errors on the on-board computers.[131] Ufologist Renaud Leclet states that some of the sightings could be explained by helicopters with unusual designs, with which the public was unfamiliar.[132]

Phoenix Lights (USA, 1997)

On March 13, 1997, from around 8:15 to 10 p.m. local time, hundreds of citizens in the city of Phoenix, Arizona reported seeing a formation of lights move over city and surrounding mountains, giving the impression of a large "V"-shaped object.[131][133] Along with eyewitness testimony, video material and pictures of the lights exist.[131] It was revealed that the visiting 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard dropped illumination flares as a part of an exercise near Phoenix around 8:15 to 8:30 p.m.[134][135]

Notable UFO organizations

United States

In the US, groups and affiliates interested in UFO investigation number in the hundreds, of which a few have achieved prominence based on their longevity, size, and researcher involvement with scientific credentials.[136] The first significant UFO interest group in the US was the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), formed in 1952 by Coral and James Lorenzen.[136] The organization closed down in 1988.[136] The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), which formed in 1957 and shut down in the 1970ṣ,[136] whose Board of Directors included former Director of Central Intelligence and first head of the Central Intelligence Agency, VADM Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, was, at one time, the largest UFO organization in the country, with numerous chapters.[136] In 1957, brothers W. H. and J. A. Spaulding founded the Ground Saucer Watch, which later became famous when, in 1977, the group filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act against the CIA.[136]

The two major UFO groups active today are the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), founded in 1969, and the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), founded in 1973 by J. Allen Hynek.[136] MUFON grew as the key members of NICAP joined the organization in the 1970s.[136] CUFOS has tried to limit its membership to established researchers, but has found little academic acceptance.[136]

United Kingdom

The British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) is the largest and oldest of the active British UFO organizations.[137] It traces its roots to the London UFO Research Association, founded in 1959, which merged with the British UFO Association (BUFOA) to form BUFORA in 1964.[137]


The Ukrainian Ufologic Club (UFODOS) has released and placed on the Internet (ufobua.org.ua) a national archive of UFO evidences [138]. It was complied based on people's evidences about strange flying objects over Ukraine. The "secret files" comprise about 500 eyewitnesses testimonies who saw UFO in Ukraine starting from the 17th century. According to UFODOS chief Yaroslav Sochka, the materials were collected from various sources, basically, Hydrometeorological Center of Ukraine Air Force and public ufological organizations.


The Australian Flying Saucer Bureau (AFSB) and the Australian Flying Saucer Research Society (AFSRS) were the earliest UFO groups established in Australia, with both being founded in the early 1950s.[139] The Australian Centre for UFO Studies (ACUFOS) was established in 1974 with links to the American CUFOS.[140] Other currently active Australian UFO groups include the Victorian UFO Research Society (VUFORS),[139] the Australian UFO Research Network (AUFORN),[141] and UFO Research Queensland (UFORQ).[142]

Skeptic organizations

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), although not a UFO organization, has investigated various UFO cases and has given a skeptical review of the phenomena in its publications, often in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine.[143] Founded as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) in 1976 by professor of philosophy Paul Kurtz, the committee is notable for its member scientists and skeptics, such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Philip J. Klass, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Martin Gardner.[144] The Skeptics Society, founded by science historian Michael Shermer in 1992, has also addressed the UFO issue in its magazine Skeptic.[145]

See also


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  2. ^ Denzler, Brenda (2003). The lure of the edge: scientific passions, religious beliefs, and the pursuit of UFOs. University of California Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0520239059. 
  3. ^ Denzler (2003), pp. 9
  4. ^ Schulgen, George (October 28, 1947). "Schulgen Memo". http://www.roswellfiles.com/FOIA/Schulgen.htm. Retrieved May 3, 2010. "the object sighted is being assumed to be a manned aircraft, of Russian origin, and based on the perspective thinking and actual accomplishments of the Germans." 
  5. ^ "The Air Force Intelligence Report". http://www.roswellfiles.com/FOIA/AFIntellRpt.htm. Retrieved May 3, 2010. "To implement this policy it was directed that Hq, Air Material Command set up a project with the purpose of collecting, collating, evaluating, and distributing to interested government agencies and contractors, all information concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which could be construed to be of concern to the national security." 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Haines, Gerald K. (April 14, 2007). "CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90". https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/97unclass/ufo.html. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  7. ^ GEIPAN stands for Groupe d'Études et d'Informations sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés ("unidentified aerospace phenomenon research and information group")
  8. ^ UFO files from the UK National Archives
  9. ^ UFO files from the Library and Archives Canada
  10. ^ "Secret UFO archives opened". The Copenhagen Post. January 29, 2009. http://jp.dk/uknews/article1586223.ece. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ Italian Air Force UFO site (in Italian)
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Further reading

Ufology Books Collection
Academic books about ufology as a sociological and historical phenomenon
Skeptical opinions
Ufology studies

External links

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Mentioned in

Skywatch (parapsychology)
Naphology (parapsychology)
Psychics and Mystics Fayre (parapsychology)