According to a report that was published in December 2017 by the New York Times, the United States Air Force had been conducting a covert investigation into a variety of unidentified flying objects that had been seen buzzing around US Navy vessels off the coasts of the United States between the years 2004 and 2015.
There are three recordings in specific that were collected by the US Navy that may be responsible for the surge in interest in unidentified flying objects (UFOs) [also known as unidentified aerial phenomenons or UAPs].
The evidence of the first two incidents were leaked to the New York Times, which published them on the front page of the paper's print edition on December 17, 2017. The third was published a few months after the first one.
The first of these encounters is called the "USS Nimitz" sighting. It is termed as per the super-carrier the UFO take-off was observed by the pilot. This experience is considered to be the most important of all of these encounters.
In November of 2004, roughly one hundred miles off the coast of San Diego, Commander David Fravor and Lt Commander Amy Dietrich, asserted to have seen a "white tic-tac-looking object" with the surface area of an F/A-18 aeroplane that had no wings or any other markings. The object was the size of an F/A-18 aircraft.
According to Frabor, it turned abruptly and started mimicking him when approached and eventually it disappeared. He and along with his co-pilot Dietrich shared his full experience with Bill Whitaker in 60 Minutes' show.
A few seconds later and sixty miles distant, the encounter was recorded again by the USS Princeton, a cruiser operating in the area that issued the order to Fravor and Dietrich to investigate unusual aircraft occurrences and report their findings. Another flight crew used their forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR) to take a video of the object. This footage, which became known as the "FLIR1 video", became very popular.
After decades of being considered fringe issues, serious discussions are being held about UFOs by serious people. "There's footage and records of objects in the skies that - we don't know exactly what they are, we can't explain how they moved, their trajectory," former President Barack Obama told CBS's James Corden in May 2021.
Today's UFO moment is quite similar to how the UFO mythology developed in the 1950s. According to The Atlantic, the one of the first and widely discussed UFO contact was made by an amateur pilot named Kenneth Arnold on June 24, 1947. The event then became a talk of the town all over the US.
Arnold said that he saw nine unexplained objects moving at a high speed in the area of Mount Rainier on that day. He added that the objects "flew like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." The media covered the concept with craze, coining the phrase "flying saucers". And in no time at all, the whole nation was captivated.
A few months later the same year, a balloon-like military device had an accident and collapsed on a field in Roswell. While the device was in no way similar in appearance to a flying saucer, the wreckage apparently produced a chain of stories filled with sci-fi drama. All of these soon reached climax with narratives such as "alien bodies" or "reversed engineered alien spaceship".
As a direct consequence of Arnold's disclosure, people all throughout the US were now reporting seeing unidentified flying objects on a daily basis. For instance, in 1947 alone, there were over 850 reports of aerial objects in the US and Canada combined.
The postwar world's rapidly growing anxieties about atomic weapons and the Cold War with the Soviet Union helped place the idea of UFOs into the public consciousness. Many individuals who were caught up in the hysteria believed that the appearance of flying saucers signalled the end of civilization as they knew it, whether it was brought about by aliens or by the Russians.
Over the last seven decades, governments, the media and the armed forces ridiculed and condemned anyone who took UFOs seriously. In spite of everything, considerable allegations of cover-ups have been made in the United States Congress over the course of the last few years.
However, in May of this year, the US Congress convened for a hearing on UAPs for the first time in more than half a century. During the house hearing, many videos of strange aircraft sightings were shown demanding proper explanations.
Officials from the Pentagon spoke on the unexplained incidents, and lawmakers from both sides agreed to make an investigation into the claims of UAPs more open and accessible to the public. Top US defence officials testified before Congress saying that during the last two decades, there has been an increase in the number of unexplained flying objects that have been seen in the sky.
In addition to that, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) initiated fresh study in June of this year with the intention of recruiting well-known specialists to explore unexplained events in the atmosphere.
The investigation will start later this year. The focus of the study will be on locating data that is already available, determining how to gather further information data in the future, and determining how Nasa can analyse the results in an effort to advance scientific knowledge in the field.
Nasa personnel at the time say that the key goals would be to assess and define current information UAPs, design the most effective techniques to acquire observations in the future, and determine how the agency may use such data to advance our understanding of these mysterious sky sights.
However, why should policymakers be concerned about UAPs? An interesting hypothesis is that UAPs are really spacecraft from other worlds that have travelled to our planet. It's a widely held belief that stems from decades' worth of science fiction movies, popular ideas about what goes on in Area 51, and reports of supposed sightings.
Strange occurrences have been seen by individuals from all corners of the world for hundreds of years now. Nevertheless, the new investigation of UFOs being carried out by Nasa and the Pentagon should not be taken for proof of alien lives yet. In fact, they are not looking for alien-related objects at all. To tell the truth, they are not so much hunting for extraterrestrial life as they are looking for "explanations."
One hypothesis that is far more grounded in reality is that the US government and Nasa are interested in inexplicable aircraft events, especially those that take place within their airspace, since these phenomena could reveal weaponries that have been developed by rival nations.
Indeed, given that UAPs are a product of human ingenuity, the vast bulk of the discussion that took place at the recent hearing was on the potential risks posed by those. On the other hand, it is a lot more likely that the UAPs in issue are the consequence of natural occurrences that we do not yet fully understand.
Last year, for example, a US intelligence inquiry report gave five potential explanations: "airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, industry development programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall 'other' bin."
According to the Washington Post, UAPs are also caused by "natural atmospheric phenomena," which include "ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations that may register on some infrared and radar systems."
For example, last year the US intelligence committee provided plausible causes of UAP sightings, including "airborne clutter", "natural atmospheric phenomena", "foreign adversary systems" etc. According to the Washington Post report, "natural atmospheric phenomena" are probably the most common explanations for UFO encounters which may include "ice crystals, moisture, and temperature variations that may register on certain infrared and radar systems".