World UFO Day: Seven Fascinating Facts About These Aerial Objects
What are UFOs? Are they for real? A look at the history of UFOs, from their first sighting to their current status
UFOs or Unidentified Flying Objects have caught the imagination of people for decades. Also known as a ‘flying saucer’, the first well-known sighting of a UFO took place in June 1947. On World UFO day, Reader’s Digest looks at seven fascinating facts about these mysterious aerial objects:
1. While pop culture, especially movies, would have us believe that UFOs are the vehicle of choice for aliens, Britannica has a rather simple definition for a UFO. It says UFO is “any aerial object or optical phenomenon not readily identifiable to the observer”.
2. In June 1947, pilot-businessman Kenneth Arnold was flying his small plane when he reportedly saw some objects travelling at a high speed over Mount Rainier in Washington. The event, quite expectedly, was widely reported—Arnold described the objects as moving like “saucers skipping on water”, but it got misinterpreted as objects being saucer-shaped. This explains why UFOs are also called flying saucers.
3. After this incident, several other UFO sightings were reported in quick succession, prompting the US Air Force to launch an investigation into these sightings in 1948 under ‘Operation Sign’. Since this happened just after the Second World War and in the early days of the Cold War, the first conjecture was that these were Soviet aircraft.
4. The investigation under Operation Sign led to the formation of Project Blue Book, which was headquartered at the US Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Between 1947 and 1969, the Blue Book project compiled reports on over 12,000 UFO sightings.
5. One of the most well-known and controversial chapters in the history of UFO sightings is the incident that happened in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. When rancher W.W. ‘Mac’ Brazel found wreckage on his property in Lincoln County, he believed this could be from a flying saucer. But the US Army said the debris was from a weather balloon. The real story, however, was revealed in 1994—the debris belonged to a surveillance device that was part of a hitherto classified operation, Project Mogul, during the early years of the Cold War.
6. Most declassified reports on UFO sightings in the US argue that these events were largely caused by astronomical or man-made phenomenon, thereby puncturing the ‘extra-terrestrial’ theory. But this has not stopped UFO-enthusiasts or ‘ufologists’ from studying these objects. J. Allen Hynek, one of the advisors on Project Blue Book, started the Centre for UFO Studies in 1974, which continues to analyze UFO sightings across the world.
7. In India, the earliest reference to a UFO possibly goes back to 10,000-year-old rock paintings found in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. One of the more recent sightings was reported in 2014 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. In 2013, several UFO sightings were reported along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Researchers, however, said these UFOs were planets Jupiter and Venus.