Your Extremely Scientific Guide to Famous UFO Sightings Throughout History
If you’re fascinated by UFOs, aliens, and anything extra-terrestrial, brace yourself for these unexplainable reports. The truth is out there...
Maria Bailey and Sarah Burns · 4 months ago
We Earthlings have always been fascinated by UFOs. They’re the center of our favorite sci-fi novels, favorite movies, favorite songs (cue UFO by Sneaky Sound System) — and just recently, at the center of an out-of-this-world report released by the U.S. government!
In case you haven't read the news, this recent government report reveals mind-boggling sightings by military pilots (as opposed to alien-obsessed tin-foil-hat-wearers) that cannot be explained. Officials examined 144 reports of flying objects spotted from 2004 to 2021, of which 143 remain something of a mystery. Therefore, they have been described as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” the official term for unidentified flying objects — or, as well call them, UFOs!
But what does this mean? Do we finally have proof of extraterrestrial life from outer space? The report found no evidence that these objects were sent by aliens, but interestingly doesn’t rule it out, either!
And, this isn’t the first time the U.S. government has investigated unusual sightings of flying objects in the sky. For example, between 1947 and 1969, more than 12,000 UFO sightings were reported to Project Blue Book, a top-secret Air Force Team. Their mission? To scientifically investigate the seemingly otherworldly incidents and see if they pose a threat to national security.
We can’t think of a better time to recap some of the most fascinating UFO sightings in history that have been subject to official investigation. Ready? Strap in, here we go...
Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting, 1947
On June 24, 1947, a private pilot by the name of Kenneth Arnold claimed he saw a string of nine shiny UFOs flying past Mount Rainier in Washington State. Arnold estimated they were traveling at a speed of around 1,700 km an hour, which, for context, is three times faster than any aircraft at the time! How could this be?
Arnold wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him, and if what he was seeing was simply light bouncing off the windows of another airplane. After carrying out a series of tests (including rocking the plane side to side, removing his glasses, and even rolling down his window), he ruled this out. For a moment, against his better judgment, he even considered whether he was looking at a flock of geese, which would have been impossible given the high altitude, high speed at which they were traveling, and their bright reflection.
When the objects came closer, what he saw was hard to believe: Crescent-shaped flying objects, like saucers skipping on water. When he returned to land, he recounted this amazing story to friend and airport manager Al Baxter. Before long, the entire airport crew found out — followed shortly after by the media, who coined the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc" based on Arnold's description.
The story of the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting also caught the attention of the U.S. government, and led the U.S. Air Force to carry out an investigation called Operation Sign. This investigation would go on to spark Project Blue Book, the U.S. government's longest-running official inquiry into UFO sightings.
Roswell Incident, 1947
Just weeks later, the Roswell Army Air Field issued a statement on July 8, 1947, stating they had recovered a "flying disc" near a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. The report said they were able to gain possession of a disc with help from a local ranger and the sheriff’s office. The next day’s headline in the local newspaper sent shockwaves across the community (and the country): "RAAF captures flying saucer on ranch in Roswell region."
It wasn’t long before U.S. Army officials revised their statement, providing a much more down-to-earth explanation after determining the debris was from the wreckage of a high-altitude weather balloon — not a flying saucer.
Conspiracy theorists, however, were skeptical of the new statement, and more than 70 years on, many believe the so-called "Roswell Incident" to be evidence that the U.S. government has covered up the existence of extraterrestrial life here on Earth. Today, the story remains a defining part of the town of Roswell's identity, featuring an alien museum, alien-themed street lamps, and even a flying saucer-inspired McDonald's!
Lubbock Lights, 1951
One evening on August 25, 1951, three scientists from Texas Tech saw a semicircle of lights flying above them at high speeds — and they were not alone. Over the next few days, dozens of reports came flooding in — among them, a photo taken by Texas Tech freshman Carl Hart Jr. The photo capturing the so-called Lubbock Lights incident was published in several publications across the country, including LIFE Magazine.
Project Blue Book investigated the incident and concluded the lights were birds reflecting the luminescence from Lubbock's new street lamps. Many witnesses refused to accept this explanation, declaring the lights were traveling at too great a speed.
Phoenix Lights, 1997
Mysterious formations of light lit up skies over Arizona, Nevada, and the Mexican state of Sonora on March 13, 1997, in an event famously known as Phoenix Lights. The incident involved two distinct events: a V-shaped formation of lights seen in the Phoenix area, and a second event that the United States Air Force later identified as flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft as part of training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in Arizona.
Fast-forward 24 years, we still don't know what the Phoenix Lights were, but it's still a subject of fascination. Fife Symington, the Arizona Governor at the time, described the bizarre light formation as "otherworldly" and would later go on to claim the lights were indeed an "alien spacecraft." The phenomenon was also the subject of a documentary, including eyewitness testimony from scientists, military, and pilots.
Pentagon UFO videos, 2019
In 2019, a spokesperson for the Pentagon confirmed leaked photos and videos of an unidentified aerial phenomenon. A video of a triangular-shaped object moving through the clouds was taken by Navy personnel aboard USS Russell in 2019. It was also confirmed that photos of three unidentified flying objects were also taken by Navy personnel. The Pentagon said in a statement that the leaked evidence was part of an ongoing investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.
On June 25, 2021, the videos were officially declassified in the latest UFO intelligence report released by the U.S. government. By doing so, officials hope this will help them get to the bottom of dozens of mysterious flying objects between 2004 and 2021.
Are any of these famous UFO sightings "real"? Are we being visited by intelligence from other worlds? We may never know for sure — but keep your eyes on the skies, just in case.