In 1947, scraps of rubber and metal found in Roswell, New Mexico arguably started the search for UFOs and alien life on our planet. That collection of debris officially came from a downed weather balloon – but that official explanation didn’t satisfy many who claim it was the remains of something not of this world.
Almost 80 years later, a balloon started another round of fear and excitement about an alien invasion. In the past few days, the US military has released a series of unidentified objects – which came after the downfall of a Chinese weather balloon – and has given little explanation as to what they are or what they might be doing.
In the many years since those events took place in Roswell, there has been a growing worldwide interest in UFOs, and where they might have come from. And skeptics have long argued that, rather than being any new technology—either of this Earth or another planet entirely—many of those sightings may actually be weather balloons.
It seems fitting, then, that the latest excitement has been fueled by observation balloons of some sort, although that has yet to be confirmed. And that official secrecy, too, is consistent with the mystery that has surrounded those objects ever since that material fell to Earth in the New Mexico desert.
People have speculated for centuries about the possibility that the skies might be alive with something alien. In fact, a whole conspiracy theory of its own – called “ancient spacemen” – has cited what it says are references in historical texts that describe unusual events in the sky.
But the modern excitement about UFOs really began in the middle of the 20th century. During the war, some pilots described seeing lights in the sky called “foo fighters” which have not yet been definitively explained.
Then followed Roswell, which contributed to a frenzy about UFOs that began soon after the debris was found in 1947 and continued throughout the 1950s and into the present day. The sightings came at a time of heightened tension between the US and the Soviet Union, and many have speculated that the interest in the sightings may at least be a result of that concern.
In the year 2023, the world is the same: for years, pilots have been reporting unusual flying objects in the sky, and – amid increasing global tension – theories about UFOs have led to minimized objects.
In recent years, officials have sought to avoid the word “UFO” and instead refer to the objects as UFOs, or unidentified anomalous phenomenon. That is partly an attempt to make the word more accurate and neutral, but it has also come at a time when there was an increased, serious interest in the objectives.
In recent years, new reports have indicated that the United States is taking at least some reports about things seriously. In 2017, videos were published that showed fighter jets encountering objects that appeared to be moving in ways that seemed impossible with existing hardware.
Since then, more videos have been released and new reports have shown that the United States was conducting its own work – mostly in secret – to examine these unidentified aerial phenomena. Reports also announced the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a program created by the US government to investigate such events.
Amidst these revelations, US military and government officials are becoming more open about the fact that there appear to be unknown objects in the sky. Few have given any indication of what they believe it to be, but possible explanations include everything from aliens to secret military hardware.
Late last year, NASA announced that it would be launching an independent study of UAPs. Over a period of nine months – ending this summer – a team will be analyzing information from a range of sources in order to explain what it contains.
“Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the core of who we are at NASA,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Understanding the data we have on unknown anomalous phenomena is essential to help us draw scientific conclusions about what is happening in our skies. Data is the language of scientists and the inexplicable can be explained.”
The space agency noted that the work was important in part because it is tasked with ensuring that spacecraft remain safe. The data collected through the study will be important in guiding that work, he said.
NASA’s announcement came after the publication, in 2021, of a report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the United States that summarized the public information about PINs. It was launched in recognition of this new interest in the objects – as well as the fear that they might lead to some sort of leap forward by a foreign military power.
That report looked at 144 observations of “unidentified aerial phenomena”, collected mostly from the US Navy between 2004 and 2021. It could only explain one of those sightings – which it said was a ” deflation balloon”.
Weather and other observation balloons have long been cited as an explanation for seeing UAPs. They have a number of characteristics that make them suspicious: they seem to move strangely, their shape and lack of detail mean it’s hard to tell how big or how long they are, and there are a lot of them there.
Every day, about 1800 such balloons are launched around the world. And so officials and experts have suggested that the new surge in weather balloon reports – and the new tensions between China and the US that have arisen from them – is not the result of more balloons but more people looking for them. .
It could simply be that the sky is filled with such PINs, for years or even decades, without much interest to people. So, the new focus may mean that we become more aware of those things – and that we only learn more about the things we don’t know about.
Until now, officials have been coy about declaring anything about the unidentified objects: including whether they are aliens or anything else. Historically, that lack of information has usually been filled with speculation about flying saucers and alien visits.