"GIMBAL" Pentagon UFO video, January 2015

An unidentified flying object (UFO), or unidentified anomalous phenomenon[a] (UAP), is any perceived aerial phenomenon that cannot be immediately identified or explained. Upon investigation, most UFOs are identified as known objects or atmospheric phenomena, while a small number remain unexplained.

File_Gimbal_The_First_Official_UAP_Footage_from_the_USG_for_Public_Release

 

Gimbal The First Official UAP Footage from the USG

 

 

 

 

 

While unusual sightings have been reported in the sky throughout history, UFOs became culturally prominent after World War II, escalating during the Space Age. Studies and investigations into UFO reports conducted by governments (such as Project Blue Book in the United States and Project Condign in the United Kingdom), as well as by organisations and individuals have occurred over the years without confirmation of the fantastical claims of believers. The U.S. government currently has two entities dedicated to UAP (or UFO) data collection and analysis: NASA’s UAP independent study team and the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

Scientists and skeptic organizations such as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have provided prosaic explanations for UFOs, namely that they are caused by natural phenomena, human technology, delusions, and hoaxes. Small but vocal groups of ufologists favour unconventional or pseudoscientific hypotheses, often claiming that UFOs are evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, technologically advanced cryptids, interdimensional contact or future time travelers, but even after decades of promotion of such ideas by believers and in popular media, the kind of evidence required to solidly support such claims has not been forthcoming. Beliefs surrounding UFOs have inspired parts of new religions even as social scientists have identified the ongoing interest and storytelling surrounding UFOs as a modern example of folklore and mythologyunderstandable with psychosocial explanations.

History

People have always observed the sky and have sometimes seen what, to some, appeared to be unusual sights including phenomena as varied as comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets that can be readily seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, and atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds.[citation needed] One particularly famous example is Halley’s Comet: first recorded by Chinese astronomers in 240 BC and possibly as early as 467 BC as a strange and unknown “guest light” in the sky.[citation needed] As a bright comet that visits the inner solar system every 76 years, it was often identified as a unique isolated event in ancient historical documents whose authors were unaware that it was a repeating phenomenon.[citation needed] Such accounts in history often were treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens.[citation needed] While UFO enthusiasts have sometimes commented on the narrative similarities between certain religious symbols in medieval paintings and UFO reports,[2] the canonical and symbolic character of such images is documented by art historians placing more conventional religious interpretations on such images.[3]

Some examples of pre-contemporary reports about unusual aerial phenomena include:

  • Julius Obsequens was a Roman writer who is believed to have lived in the middle of the fourth century AD. The only work associated with his name is the Liber de prodigiis (Book of Prodigies), completely extracted from an epitome, or abridgment, written by Livy; De prodigiis was constructed as an account of the wonders and portents that occurred in Rome between 249 and 12 BCE. An aspect of Obsequens’ work that has inspired excitement in some UFO enthusiasts is that he makes reference to things moving through the sky. The descriptions provided bear resemblance to observations of meteor showers. Obsequens was also writing some 400 years after the events he described, thus the text is not an eyewitness account. No corroboration with those amazing sights of old with contemporary observations was mentioned in that work.[4][5]
  • Shen Kuo (1031–1095), a Song Chinese government scholar-official and prolific polymath inventor, wrote a vivid passage in his Dream Pool Essays (1088) about an unidentified flying object. He recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses in 11th-century Anhui and Jiangsu (especially in the city of Yangzhou), who stated that a flying object with opening doors would shine a blinding light from its interior (from an object shaped like a pearl) that would cast shadows from trees for ten miles in radius, and was able to take off at tremendous speeds.[6]
  • A woodcut by Hans Glaser that appeared in a broadsheet in 1561 has been featured in popular culture as the “celestial phenomenon over Nuremberg” and connected to various ancient astronaut claims.[7] Skeptic and debunker Jason Colavito argues that the woodcut is “a secondhand depiction of a particularly gaudy sundog”, a known atmospheric optical phenomenon.[8] A similar report comes from 1566 over Basel and, indeed, in the 15th and 16th centuries, many leaflets wrote of “miracles” and “sky spectacles” which bear resemblance to natural phenomena which were only more fully characterized after the scientific revolution.[9]
  • On January 25, 1878, the Denison Daily News printed an article in which John Martin, a local farmer, had reported seeing a large, dark, circular object resembling a balloon flying “at wonderful speed”. Martin, according to the newspaper account, said it appeared to be about the size of a saucer from his perspective, one of the first uses of the word “saucer” in association with a UFO. At the time, ballooning was becoming an increasingly popular and sophisticate endeavor, and the first controlled-flights of such devices were occurring around that time.[10]
  • From November 1896 to April 1897, United States newspapers carried numerous reports of “mystery airships” that are reminiscent of modern UFO waves.[11] Scores of people even reported talking to the pilots. Some people feared that Thomas Edison had created an artificial star that could fly around the country. On April 16, 1897, a letter was found that purported to be an enciphered communication between an airship operator and Edison.[12] When asked his opinion of such reports, Edison said, “You can take it from me that it is a pure fake.”[13] The coverage of Edison’s denial marked the end of major newspaper coverage of the airships in this period.

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