We’re Not Saying It’s Aliens Because It’s Not Aliens. But Check Out These UFO Data Visualizations

The number of UFO sightings per year, Credit: Sam Monfort

When it comes to conspiracy theories and modern preoccupations, few things are more popular than unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and alien abductions. For over half a century, there have been rumors, reports, and urban legends about aliens coming to Earth, dabbling with our genetics, and conducting weird (and often invasive) experiments on our citizens.

And while opinions on what drives this popular phenomenon tend to differ (some say hysteria, others that it is media-driven), a few things are clear. For one, sightings appear to take place far more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. And in recent years, these sightings have been on the rise!

Such are the conclusions of a series of visualizations based on the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). Established in 1974 (and located in Davenport, Washington), the National UFO Reporting Center is “dedicated to the collection and dissemination of objective UFO data”. Since that time, they have been monitoring UFO sightings worldwide and have maintained careful logs about the 104,947 sightings that have taken place since 1905.

The geographic distribution of UFO sightings. Credit: sammonfort3

Using this data, Sam Monfort – a Doctoral Candidate from the department of Human Factors & Applied Cognition at George Mason University – produced a series of visuals that illustrate the history of UFO sightings. And based on the visualized trends, some rather interesting conclusions can be drawn. The most obvious is that the geographical distribution of sightings is hardly even. For starters, reports in the USA were equal to about 2500 sightings per 10 million people.

This is almost 300 times higher than the global average. Based on individual states, the concentration of sightings was also quite interesting. Apparently, more sightings happen (per 10 million people) in the West and Northwest, with the highest numbers coming from Washington and Montana. Oregon, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico also made strong showings, while the Great Lakes and Midwestern states were all consistent with the national median.

On the opposite coast, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire all had a good number of sightings per capita, though the state of New York even as New York was beneath the national median. Texas actually ranked the lowest, and was followed by the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. But as Monfort told Universe Today via email, this may be slightly skewed because of who is collecting the information:

“[I]t’s worth mentioning that the NUFORC is an American agency (“N” stands for “National”). They make an effort to record international sightings (phone banks staffed 24/7), but I’d guess that sightings in the USA are still over-represented. Honestly, I’d bet that the NUFORC being based in Seattle is the main reason we see so many more sightings in the States. A more thorough analysis might cross-reference sightings from other agencies, like MUFON.”

The geographic breakdown of annual UFO sightings (per 10 million people) in the US. Credit: sammonfort3

Canadians did not do much better, coming at second place after the United States with 1000 sightings per 10 million people. And according to a recent article by Allan Maki of The Globe and Mail, its becoming more common – with a record 1982 sightings reported in 2012. He also suggests that this could be due to a combination of growing interest in the subject and reduced stigma.

Iceland, the UK, Australia, the Virgin Islands and Cyprus all ranked a distant third, with between 250 and 500 sightings per 100 million people per year. New Zealand, Mexico, Israel and the Gulf States also produced considerable returns, as did the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Belgium, Danemark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

From this distribution, one might make the generalization that more developed nations are more likely to report UFOs (i.e. better record-keeping and all that). And this is a possibility which Monfort explored. In another visualization, he cross-referenced the number of sightings in a respective country with amount of internet access it has (per 100 people), and a limited correlation was shown.

Nations like Israel and the Gulf States have a higher number of sightings than neighboring countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, while South Africa has more reported sightings than several North African and Sub-Saharan African nations surveyed. However, fast-developing nations like Russia, China and India showed a lower than average level of sightings, while Guyana and Suriname showed a higher than average level.

The number of UFO sightings per year, subdivided based on the type of object reported. Credit: sammonfort3

France, Italy and the Czech Republic also lagged behind many of their European counterparts, and Germany and Spain were only slightly higher than the average. So much like distribution by state within the US, internet access does not seem to be a consistent determining factor. Another interesting visualization was the one which broke down the sightings per decade based on the nature of the sighting.

As you can see from the table above, when UFO sightings first began in the early 20th century, they reportedly took the form of either a sphere or a cigar-shaped object. This differs from the 1920s, when “flying saucers” began to appear, and remained the dominant trend throughout World War II and the Cold War era. And ever since the 1990s – what Monfort refers to as “post-internet” era – the most common UFO sightings took the form of bright lights.

“If I had to guess, I’d say it was a combination of factors,” said Monfort. “Like I mentioned in the blog, it seems a lot more plausible that someone would see strange lights in the sky than a flying object with a concrete shape (like a saucer). Seeing a shape implies that the object is pretty close to you, “and if it’s that close why didn’t you take a video of it?”

As for other factors, Monfort considers the possibility of fireworks and (as one comment on his blog suggested) Chinese lanterns. “Those are the little paper balloons you light a candle in and let fly. Some of the bright light sightings could be those, especially since I’d bet most Chinese lanterns are released in groups, with several people going out in groups to release them together. (Often people report formations of lights.)”

Naturally, the data does not support any ironclad conclusions, and plenty can be said about its reliability and methodology. After all, while UFO sightings are documented, they are famous for being routinely debunked. Nevertheless, visuals like these are interesting in illustrated the patterns of sightings, and can allow for some insightful speculation as to why they take place.

Further Reading: Visualize This

Mystery Solved: Breakdown of Russell Crowe’s UFO Video

Actor Russell Crowe made some waves this week when he claimed to have captured photos of a UFO outside the window of his office in Australia. It turns out it really was a UFO…. an Unidentified Floating Object, which has now been identified. Crowe’s office sits on a pier in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, and via Twitter, Crowe said that he and a friend set up camera to capture fruit bats flying over the Gardens. “Canon 5D, no flash, can’t be lense (sic) flare because it moves, camera is fixed,” and “The camera is on a balcony – not behind glass.”

But ParaBreakdown’s Phil Poling has now provided a breakdown of why Crowe’s UFO is most likely to be a series of long-exposure photos of a … wait for it … passing sailboat with a high mast.

Crowe’s footage is below:
Continue reading “Mystery Solved: Breakdown of Russell Crowe’s UFO Video”

A Completely Fake UFO Video

We’ve yet to see an authentic and convincing UFO video, and this one takes the cake. It is completely fake. Not one thing in it is real. Seriously. If you haven’t yet seen or heard about the “UFO Over Santa Clarita” video (above), it appears to be footage taken from a handheld camera, shakily taking shots from within a moving car. Then a spaceship darts across the sky, and the gasping filmmaker stops the car, only see a huge hovering mothership grab the first ship and disappear.

The filmmaker, Aristomenis “Meni” Tsirbas, revealed to Wired that, as many suspected, the video was fake. But impressively, absolutely everything in the film, from the car’s interior to the sky to the UFOs, is not real. It is all CGI (Computer Generated Imagery).

“The video is 100 percent CGI through and through,” Tsirbas told Wired. “The electric towers [seen alongside the road] are 3-D geometry and the sky is a 3-D dome that has a texture map on it that’s a combination of painting, volumetric clouds and photogrammetry.”

Tsirbas has now produced a new video showing the breakdown of the CGI, and it’s quite impressive:

“The point of the video was to prove that CGI can look natural and convincing,” Tsirbas told Wired in another article. ”Everybody assumes the background and car are real, and that the UFOs are probably fake, especially the over-the-top mothership at the end. The general reaction is disbelief, so I usually have to prove it by showing a wireframe of the entire shot to prove that nothing is real.”

Tsirbas has worked on movies such as Titanic and Hellboy and several Star Trek television shows. Wired said Tsirbas and his team spent about four months mimicking the look of an accidental extraterrestrial encounter captured on a smartphone.

As impressive as Tsirbas’ handiwork is, what is most perplexing is the reaction to the video by some of the UFOer crowd.

“But the most unusual comments come from a growing chorus of people who insist that the announcement of the hoax is actually part of an elaborate government plan to cover up the fact that the video is real,” Tsirbas said in Wired. “I even received a mildly threatening personal e-mail from one of these people.”

Go figure.

Poll: Obama Better Than Romney at Defending Earth from Alien Attack

Not quite sure this is really relevant or at all scientific, but nearly two in three Americans think President Barack Obama would be better than Republican rival Mitt Romney in dealing with an alien invasion, according to a poll done by the National Geographic Channel. Surely, this is in response to the claim that Obama was teleported to Mars as a youth to meet and greet the Martians living there.

In addition, disappointingly, 36% of Americans believe UFOs exist, and 11% claim they have actually seen one, and 20% said they know someone who has seen one, the poll also determined.

In May, the NGC contacted 1,114 adults across the United States to conduct an opinion poll for its new documentary series “Chasing UFOs.” The show premiers Friday with Texas and Colorado residents describing their encounters with mysterious flying objects. Hopefully there will be some science and reality behind this new series. The Houston Chronicle says the new series is a lot like the show “Finding Bigfoot,” and is by the same producers.

Groan.

Lead image caption: Artist concept of a UFO. Photo: Getty Images, via The Telegraph.

Source: Yahoo News

FBI Memo Does Not Prove Aliens Crash Landed in Roswell

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A 1950 FBI memo is creating some recent buzz by UFO supporters who say this provides “smoking gun” evidence that the US government recovered a crashed alien ship and bodies in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The memo, found on the FBI vault website and dated March 22, 1950 reports that an informant related information about three flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico along with three bodies of human shape, but only 3 feet tall, and dressed in metallic cloth.

So, does this “newly found” and “secret” memo confirm what UFO supporters have believed for years, that the government covered up a landing by aliens in Roswell?

Sorry, no.

While the memo is genuine – written up by FBI special agent Guy Hottel, (you can see it on the FBI Vault website) it is not new, is not secret and does not have anything to do a supposed crash by an alien ship in Roswell, New Mexico.

The memo is not classified, as was reported by some websites, and has actually been discussed by UFO supporters for years, having been released in 1976 by the FBI. Even Robert Hastings, the guy who believes UFOs are shutting down nuclear reactors posted a comment on a UFO website that he has been discussing this memo in his talks since 1981.

So, the memo is certainly not new.

Also, the memo is not a secret FBI report, but a third-hand account from agent Hottel reporting what an Air Force investigator was told by an “informant.”

Lastly, as Benjamin Radford points out in his post on Live Science, “ the description in the memo of three ‘flying saucers…circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter,’ does not match the 1947 Roswell crash at all. Roswell eyewitnesses described finding lightweight metallic debris scattered in a field—not three intact 50-foot saucers holding nine dead alien bodies.”

In fact, Radford goes on, this memo does not refer to Roswell, but instead to a reported UFO crash in another small New Mexico town called Aztec in March 1948. The supposed crash was made famous by journalist Frank Scully who wrote for Variety magazine and wrote specifically about the Aztec crash in 1949. However, in 1952, it was revealed by another reporter that Scully had been hoaxed by a con man named Silas Newton, who fabricated the entire story in hopes of making money from the deal. Newton was arrested and convicted of fraud.

So, nothing new has been “revealed” by this old memo which very likely describes Newton’s account of an event that has since been proven to be a complete fabrication.

Report: UFO Sightings Coincide with Popular Sci-Fi Films, TV

The British Ministry of Defense released 4,000 pages of documents detailing hundreds of UFO sightings between 1981 and 1996. A summary of the documents by UFO expert David Clarke comes as no surprise to scientists and skeptics: many of the sightings coincide with the release of popular sci-fi movies or television shows.

609 UFO sightings in 1996, compared with 117 in 1995 correspond with the rise in popularity of the “X Files” television show and the release of the alien blockbuster film “Independence Day.” “Obviously, films and TV programs raise public awareness of UFOs and it’s fascinating to see how that appears to lead more people to report what they see to the authorities,” Clarke said.

The documents released include sightings reported by police officers and fighter pilots as well as young children, the Daily Mail reported Monday. 90% of the sightings could be explained by mundane objects such as bright stars and planets, meteors, artificial satellites and airship advertising.

The other 10% were listed as “unexplained,” mainly because of insufficient information.

For an excellent overview of what really happened in one of the most famous UFO stories of all, the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico alien spaceship crash, listen to Brian Dunning’s 365 Days of Astronomy podcast on the subject.

Source: Reuters, UPI

The Truth About NASA’s UFO Videos

Perusing You Tube, there are lots of UFO videos, which are usually grainy, shaky videos showing nothing that can be proved definitively. But there are a couple of videos that are different — and have generated a lot of interest — because they were filmed by NASA astronauts during space missions.

I’d like to recommend everyone read an article published today by Popular Mechanics where the astronauts who were behind the camera for two of these videos speak out about what is actually in the videos, and NASA’s supposed “cover-up.” The two astronauts, Tom Jones and Mario Runco “reveal” what the videos are really showing.

“There’s no way to keep people from using public domain footage for silly purposes,” former astronaut Tom Jones says in the article. “If a shuttle beams back 10 hours of Earth views each day, there are bound to be images and scenes that are misunderstood or taken out of context.”

And “out of context” is what many UFO theories and proponents rely on, says writer Erik Sofge. And NASA tends to never make official statements debunking any of the UFO claims, which helps fuel the flames. One clip, taken by Runco is of the PAM-STU satellite that Runco and his crew deployed during the STS-77 mission in 1996, outfitted with reflective materials. During the entire clip, however, Runco or mission control never says exactly what they are filming, but keep referring to it as “the target,” typical for pilots and NASA astronauts. There are other oddities about the clip, with lights moving in the background, but Runco says the lights are likely to be stars.

Another clip, taken by Jones is simply “ice crystals or flakes of thruster residue in the near field are floating by, get hit by a thruster exhaust plume and zip out of the scene,” Jones said.

It’s one thing to believe that alien life is a statistical likelihood, and quite another to interpret lights in the sky as intergalactic contact. Check out the great article, and kudos to Jones and Runco for speaking out.