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The term “unidentified flying object”, or “UFO”, was first used in the early 1950s, coined by the United States Air Force after a spate of reports of strange objects observed in the sky.1 These airborne objects possessed characteristics which did not conform to any known aircraft or missile type, and could not be positively identified as a familiar object. Thought by the observer to have no “ordinary natural origin”2, the objects were labelled as “unidentified”, which in the decades since has often led to the assumption of alien origin. However, it must be remembered that the term UFO does not necessarily mean such an object is related to extraterrestrials, but rather that a sighted object is merely unexplained, cannot be identified, and appears out of place.
In present times, the search for genuine UFO sightings, especially those caught on camera, is frustrated by the ease with which they can be faked. As such, the study of UFOs can be just as embarrassing as it can be exhilarating. Yet, with thousands of sightings reported across the globe each year, not a day goes by when a UFO is not spotted in the sky.
According to the world’s oldest and largest UFO investigative organization, there were 5,485 reports of UFOS in the United States alone in 2017. 3 Statistics from the National UFO Reporting Center indicate a drop in the number of reported sightings in 2018 (with 3,205 US reports).4.
UFO phenomena is difficult to ignore. Not all sightings can be easily explained – many cannot be positively identified. As such, here are five pieces of footage showing UFOs that remain unexplained.
5 – Declassified footage of U.S. Navy UFO
In 2004 David Fravor was the commanding officer of a U.S. Navy squadron. What he witnessed whilst aboard a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft off the coast of California would later be investigated by a secret Pentagon programme. 5
The footage, captured by the most advanced sensors and tracking system available at the time, was later declassified and approved for public release in December 2017.6 Speaking to the press all those years later, David Fravor, now retired, confessed that he still could not explain what he saw that day. According to him, the object he witnessed was “something not from the Earth.”7
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During a training mission, Fravor and his four-man team were commanded to pursue an anomaly sighted over the ocean. Their tracking system locked onto its movements. After several minutes of chase, the object accelerated rapidly to the left and disappeared. Its speed was so fast that Fravor’s sensors could not maintain tracking. The velocity of the object was unprecedented. 8
Fravor remains convinced that the unidentified object he witnessed was extraterrestrial – and that there may be other, similar crafts out there.9
4 – UFO fleet over Preston, UK
The following footage was filmed in early February 2018 by Craig Megson, a warehouse worker from Barnoldswick in the UK. His video appears to show a formation of unidentified flying objects cross the night sky.
Megson was changing trains at Preston train station, in Lancashire, England, on his way home after a day out with his six-year-old son. According to his testimony, it was around six-thirty in the evening when he noticed a series of lights in the sky.10
The peculiar objects quickly drew a crowd of at least twenty people, all with their eyes turned to the sky. Like Megson, they could not explain what they were seeing. 11
One explanation that has been proposed is that the mysterious lights were simply Chinese lanterns. However, Megson has stated that the weather conditions that evening were windy. 12 It is highly unlikely that a group of paper lanterns could have moved in such a steady, evenly spaced formation, under such windy conditions.
For Craig Megson, the footage is “compelling” proof that we are not alone in the universe. 13Whilst it is impossible to conclude that these objects are extraterrestrial, there are unidentified.
3 – Mass UFO sighting in Chongqing, China
In July 2018 a multitude of people came forward claiming to have sighted UFOs after several strange lights were seen flashing over the sky of Chongqing, China.
Beginning at around eight o’clock in the evening on 18th July 2018, Chongqing residents took to Chinese social media platforms to share their reports and videos of orange-red lights moving in a linear motion across the sky. 14
The balls of light appeared to have an eerie yellow halo around them, visible for a few seconds before disappearing.
Panicked, some local residents feared that aliens were visiting China. Some web users even claimed to have seen the same mysterious pattern appearing above other cities, including Shanghai. 15
Various attempts have been made to explain the sightings. Some have speculated that the lights were caused by a military training exercise, and may have been the result of decoy flares being released, with the aircraft itself concealed by nighttime cloud cover. 16
Nigel Watson, a leading British UFO expert and author, suggested that the footage could be “a rocket zooming into the atmosphere”, with the pulses of light being blasts from its engines.17
Certainly there has been a lot of speculation as to the cause of the eerie lights. However, with the Chinese authorities yet to comment on the matter, they are yet to be fully explained.
2 – SpaceX Rocket Explosion UFO
On the morning of 1st September 2016, a Falcon-9 rocket designed and manufactured by the aerospace company SpaceX exploded on its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was being test-fired in preparation for the planned launch of a communications satellite. Both the launch vehicle and its payload, the $195 million satellite, were destroyed in the blast.18
At the scene of the incident was US Launch Report, a veteran-owned video productions agency which “produces video reports of all things space”. 19 It was their footage of the dramatic incident which ignited a secondary explosion – an explosion of reports that an unidentified flying object had been responsible for the rocket’s destruction.
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The cause of these claims was a mysterious object, which enters from the right of the screen and passes above the rocket at the same time as the explosion.
Sceptics have pointed out that, whilst we cannot “know for sure what this object is”, that the video was captured using a telephoto lens adds to the challenge of questioning the footage scientifically. The further the zoom, the greater the risk for distortion of an object’s perceived speed and distance. Add in video compression and increased pixelation, and you are navigating a minefield of uncertainty. 20
Was the anomaly a bug or bird? Or was it something more sinister – a UFO responsible for the rocket’s explosion?
1 – The Mariana UFO Incident
The following video was filmed on 15th August 1950, in Great Falls, Montana. It is believed to be the first UFO sighting captured on video. Almost seventy years later, the footage still has experts divided.
Nick Mariana, the manager of minor-league baseball club, was surveying an empty ballpark with his secretary Virginia Raunig, when the pair noticed two peculiar objects in the sky. 21In a later documentary interview, Mariana described seeing “two silvery objects”, made of a “bright shiny metal”, moving “swiftly out of the northwest”. He noticed that the objects, “both of the same size”, were “about 10,000 feet in the air”. After a few moments, they suddenly stopped. Struck by the bizarre nature of what he and his secretary were witnessing, Mariana decided to film the incident using his 16mm colour video camera, which he had in the glove compartment of his car. 22
When he started filming, the two objects were moving once again, flying directly against strong wind speeds.23
Mariana continued filming the anomalies “until they disappeared into the blue sky” behind a nearby water tank.24
In the years that followed the footage was officially investigated at least four times. With each fresh analysis, a different conclusion was made. One investigation claimed the objects were the reflections of jet fighters. Another concluded the footage was “an unknown”.25 It soon became clear that no one could positively identify the objects in the footage. Even today, after dozens of experts from the US Government, Air Force and documentary film projects have studied Mariana’s film, a conclusive explanation is nowhere in sight. As such, Mariana’s film remains one of the most compelling pieces of footage of unidentified flying objects.
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