The American space agency NASA has analysed roughly 800 UFO reports collected over decades, but only a few remain truly unexplained, according to a panel of researchers. Formed last year, the panel aims to shed light on NASA’s efforts regarding unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP).
UAP refers to sightings that defy identification as conventional aircraft or natural occurrences. Recently, the panel conducted its inaugural public meeting and here are the 5 take-aways from the meeting:
Not all the sightings were mysterious
According to Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) within the US Defense Department, they receive approximately 50 to 100 new reports each month. However, only around 2% to 5% of those sightings are deemed “possibly really anomalous” within their comprehensive database.
During a hearing, a video captured by a naval aircraft showcased a sequence of dots moving across the night sky. Despite attempts, the military plane failed to intercept the object, eventually identified as a commercial aircraft en route to a prominent airport in the western US.
In another instance, out of the 144 sightings by military pilots made since 2004, one remained unexplained, a Pentagon report in 2021 stated. Officials did not rule out the possibility that the objects are extra-terrestrial, BBC reported.
Privacy limits Nasa investigations
Privacy concerns played a role in limiting NASA’s investigations, Kirkpatrick noted. “We can point to the largest collection apparatus in the entire globe at any point we want,” he said.
“A lot of what we have is around the continental United States,” he added. “Most people…don’t like it when we point our entire collection apparatus at your backyard.”
Misinterpretations and illusions
Interpreting UAP-related data can be challenging and prone to distortion. David Spergel, head of NASA’s UAP team, shared an incident involving unusual radio wave patterns detected by Australian researchers. These signals perplexed experts until they discovered that the microwave used for heating lunches was causing the anomaly.
Scott Kelly, an experienced former astronaut and pilot, recounted an optical illusion he encountered while flying near Virginia Beach. His co-pilot mistook a balloon shaped like Bart Simpson for a UFO, prompting them to investigate, only to realise it was a harmless object after all.
Harassment hampers research
Spergel noted that commercial pilots hesitate to report sightings due to the stigma associated with UFOs. He emphasised the importance of eradicating this stigma to obtain reliable data for investigating UAPs. Unfortunately, some scientists have encountered online harassment for their involvement in this field.
NASA’s science chief, Nicola Fox, expressed concern that such harassment perpetuates the stigmatisation of UAP research, obstructing scientific progress and dissuading others from exploring this significant subject matter.
‘NASA committed to transparency’
Wednesday’s meeting holds significance due to NASA’s shift in approach. After years of debunking UFO sightings, the space agency has adopted a different stance. The panel, towards the end of the hearing, entertained inquiries from the public.
One question raised was, “What is NASA hiding?” In response, Dan Evans from NASA emphasised the agency’s dedication to transparency, highlighting their decision to broadcast the event live on television as evidence of their commitment.