What is a UFO? The term Unidentified Flying Object refers to any object, which is flying and cannot be identified. This can be just about anything you can imagine, from planes seen at funny angles to secret experimental aircraft. It can also mean meteorites or planets such as Venus or Jupiter which can sometimes look like they are moving. There is an endless list of things which when seen by the untrained eye will not be readily identifiable.
When a UFO is reported (if someone actually bothers and actually knows who to report it to) this is what most of them turn out to be, 90 to 95%, probably more, are in fact perfectly identifiable objects to those who know their sky. Most UFOs are not UFOs at all.
It is the remaining 5 - 10% which are the most interesting, these have been reported for many, many years. These are objects that cannot be identified that have no explanation. Now this does not mean they are from outer space, they could be (and in many cases probably are) experimental or advanced military aircraft. On the other hand the UFO could be a case of misadventure, like Pink Floyd's giant inflatable pig which escaped into the sky and was seen by pilots of aircraft flying over London back in the 1970s.
But these do not explain everything. There are some aircraft which fly into the airspace of countries all across the world are tracked on radar and are even sometimes chased by the military aircraft. The thing that sets these aircraft apart is their characteristics, these are unusual shapes such as black triangles, glowing orbs, cigar shapes and of course the famous "flying saucer".
These craft can do some decidedly odd things, they can hover silently, they can do seemingly impossible manoeuvres and whiz off at incredible speeds. When they are tracked on radar they have been found to be doing acceleration which no human could survive. That is of course when they can be tracked, most of the time they cannot be tracked on radar due to what is presumably some sort of stealth type technology - this must be very advanced stealth technology as none of the current publicly known stealth aircraft are completely radar invisible.
These UFOs are peculiar in other ways as well, for a start they usually involve some sort of exceedingly bright lights. Secondly there are occasions where electrical equipment has ceased to work while the UFO is in the vicinity, when the UFO disappears (usually at very high speed) the electrical equipment all starts working again as if nothing had happened, no explanation has ever been found for this. Those who have been unfortunate enough to get in close contact with these craft have ended up with serious radiation burns, or worse, dead.
These are the type of incident which interests "proper" UFO researchers. There can be no doubt that there is something decidedly odd is flying about in our skies, official documents from various countries are testament to this, and no one knows who or what they are. The usual explanation is that they are perhaps some form of experimental aircraft however the fact they have very bright lights goes against secret aircraft as they would hardly want to go around advertising their presence. The black triangle could of course be a stealth aircraft but there is a problem here as well, there are reports of black triangles in the sky going back well over a hundred years.
Another point that can be made against experimental craft is that even they would not be capable of the sort of feats performed by some UFOs and even if they could the pilots would be killed doing them. You could point out that these are by nature experimental craft and would do more then we would expect but we would have some idea how to theorise how it would be done, in the case of UFOs we have simply no idea how they do their feats, using existing advanced technology they would simply be impossible to recreate.
The other explanation for UFOs is of course that they are no from this world at all but from a different planet. The first problem with this is Einstein's theory of relativity which prevents travel faster than light, this would make travel between the stars difficult to stay the least but not entirely impossible. Some scientists have proposed how faster then light travel may be possible but these usually involve using impossibly difficult techniques, needless to say faster than light travel is not due any time soon. I have also proposed a method of travelling faster than light but it involves building gravitational engines which we currently have no idea how to make.
There is of course the possibility that an advanced alien civilisation has achieved faster then light travel and are visiting us. However, we don't know if there are any other civilisations out there never mind advanced ones. Then again we equally do not know if there are no civilisation out there, the question is open at the moment. You can throw all the theories you like about but we simply do not know if we are alone or not. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that. Recent discoveries on potential fossils from Mars and of certain molecules on the moons of Jupiter do however seem to be pointing in the direction that life in the rest of the universe may be inevitable.
So, the question remains, are UFOs for real?
Yes, there is something unknown in our skies, that much is a fact. Is it from another world is another question altogether. The abilities of the craft would suggest that they could be and there is no solid reason why "they" should not be visiting us. That however does not constitute proof that they are from another world and until we know that they are going to remain unidentified.
Until then we must make our own judgement based on what we do know, I am lead to the view that something is visiting us, mainly due to the performance of these aircraft. I think that these are just too advanced to be from our own world. and besides, what sort of aircraft emits radiation? When we have the answers we will know, until then I tend to agree with the extraterrestrial hypothesis.
Update October 2010
I originally wrote this over a decade ago and it gets a
steady stream of visitors.
Since I wrote it a lot has changed in the UFO world, the taboo is lifting and things are beginning to open up.
In 1999 France published the COMETA report in which a group of highly qualified people looked into the topic and came to much the same conclusion I have above.
Subsequently multiple countries have openly admitted to studying UFOs for decades and are now opening their archives. Many people have come forward with stories of encounters or stories of how they investigated them. This includes some highly placed individuals from within government and military circles.
One book in particular covers much of this and is very well worth reading:
UFOs Generals, Pilots, and government officials go on the record. by Leslie Kean
Debunking some myths
There is no evidence for UFOs
Wrong, there is plenty of evidence. There are several hundred radar tracings, physical ground traces and tens of thousands of witnesses. There are several cases where people have received radiation burns from UFOs when they have been in close proximity and there are even some reported deaths.
UFOs are only seen by unreliable witnesses or cranks
This is just a myth which betrays ignorance in some people who should know better. There are UFO reports from not just members of the public but also commercial & military pilots, members of the police, astronomers and many other reliable or trained witnesses.
Most UFO pictures are fakes
Some certainly are but investigators are keen to find and remove them, often going to great lengths to do so. The question is usually "What is this?" not "Is this Alien?".
How come UFO pictures are always blurred rubbish?
Simple: Because taking a good picture of anything flying is actually quite difficult.
I live on the flight path of an airport and even with a very good, expensive camera and a decent zoom lens I can get good but not necessarily great images. To get good images of a UFO you will need a high resolution, highly light sensitive camera and a big, long, expensive lens. The type of small cameras or camera phones most people carry around have very low light sensitivity and rubbish lenses. These will only give you small blurred images, and pretty much nothing at night.
That said, digital camera technology is improving rapidly so image quality should start improving soon.
The American government gave up investigating this subject in 1969
There are some 30,000 documents released under the American freedom of information act that show that this is not the case. Despite denials they still study this subject.
Science has better things to study
Like what? Science is there to solve mysteries - not to make judgements, perhaps it could get off it's backside it could solve the mystery but at this moment it can't be bothered. Science has, in this case failed us.
No official has ever admitted UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin.
I found this rather surprising myself but actually a whole string
of American and sometimes British officials
have said exactly that.
By officials I mean the heads of the British and American air forces during the second world war and others of equal high standing. The best of course are the American and Russian Presidents who also stated the above...
The Governments know whats going on and they cover it up.
Yes and No. I do think there are some people, especially those involved in Air defence who know more about whats flying about out there than the rest of us, it is after all, their job. I could imagine that if you knew the capabilities of all your aircraft (including experimental and secret aircraft) and you knew what other countries had, then you could compare their capabilities and if something else was showing up significantly better then what we had you could conclude that they weren't local. If your job is to defend the skies you might not like to admit that there is something up there which you can't do anything about.
If there is a cover up thats probably pretty much it. Some countries are happy to say there are things which they can't identify in their skies. It seems to be a British and American thing not to admit such things. When there was a number of sightings in 1994 in the UK it wasn't exactly big news. However when the same thing happened in Belgium 3 years before their reaction was to hold a press conference...
My very own sightings!
Yup, I've even managed to see a few myself.
August 1997 - Bangor, Northern Ireland
When watching for the MIR satellite on 14th August 1997 I also seen what looked like a satellite but moving far to fast. It wasn't a meteorite as they move much faster and are generally a lot brighter so what did I see? I suspect it was some sort of satellite but who knows, I did manage to see the MIR space station but this object was travelling considerably faster than any satellite I have ever seen..
I also managed to see something very bright but fairly static a couple of nights earlier but this was more than likely Jupiter.
Summer 2001 - Amsterdam
I remember sitting in work one day looking out the window where I could see a white point of light above the Rijksmeseum in the distance. It was not a reflection, It was there for at least a few minutes and after a while it just disappeared. The office is close to the Schipol airport flightpath but this was no plane.
2007 / 2008 - Bangor, Northern Ireland
We were driving back from my grandmothers house when I noticed some very odd lights in the sky. The lights were orange and were just drifting slowly in the air. We stopped, I took some pictures but couldn't see any detail in them.
We later found out we weren't the only people to see these lights. So many people seen them that they were in the local newspapers and TV news the next day. I don't believe they were ever properly identified but the generally accepted theory is they were Chinese lanterns.