Do unidentified flying objects (UFOs) really exist? They most certainly do! No doubt about it: Many flying objects have not yet been identified. Have any formerly unidentified flying objects been convincingly shown to be alien spaceships? They most certainly have not. It is ironic that UFO has become synonymous with alien spaceship, because, if an object had been identified as an alien spaceship, it would no longer be an “unidentified” flying object! Furthermore, sightings that turn out to be stray lights are not sightings of “objects.” And although these lights may be moving, they are certainly not “flying.” For these reasons, it has been suggested that unidentified flying object (UFO) be replaced by unexplained aerial appearance (UAA), since the latter term does not put into people’s minds preconceived notions that should not be there. On June 24, 1947, nine unidentifiable moving objects in the sky were observed by Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot flying near the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Mr. Arnold reported that the objects were flying “like a saucer skipping over water”— a flying saucer.
What happened shortly thereafter added to the mystery. Nine days later, in a New Mexico desert, an object was observed to fall out of the sky and land. Rumors began to circulate that the object might have been one of these flying saucers. The mystery was heightened five days later when the U.S. Army Air Force roped off the area. Rumors began to spread that the bodies of four extraterrestrial beings (ETs) had been found in the wreckage. Rumors also spread that the government had sealed off the area so that it could remove the wreckage and bodies and cover up the existence of aliens. (For the record, the suspicious object that crashed in New Mexico in 1947 eventually proved to be a weather balloon.) Identification of a flying object— or any other object— requires sufficient information about that object. Many objects appearing in the sky are viewed from a great distance, for a relatively short time, and only occasionally, thus making identification difficult if not impossible. Even objects observed by large numbers of people for prolonged periods can be misjudged. For example, a full Moon appears larger near the horizon than when it is high in the sky. If you look at the Moon through a tube when it is near the horizon, it appears no larger than when it is overhead. This optical illusion is known as the “Moon illusion.” One possible reason the Moon looks larger when it is near the horizon is that it is near objects we’re used to seeing.