Sep 28, 2011 I Micah Hanks

Are UFO Sightings Really on the Rise?

In recent weeks, a number of experts have claimed that sightings of strange objects and unidentified aircraft in the skies are on the rise. In fact, some have even warned that an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth may in fact be imminent.

The recent spike in apparent sightings of UFOs in our skies has become an object of interest in a variety of areas, especially following statements issued last week by Clifford Clift, an international director with the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), a UFO tracking organization. Even noted skeptic Benjamin Radford discussed the apparent rise in sightings in a Fox News editorial last week, noting the psychological and social explanations for why a rise in reports might be occurring.

Whether or not this proves that aliens from space are really about to invade, when it comes to the study of UFOs, even the notion of their being "more sightings" at one given time as opposed to another could be somewhat misleading. This is due to the fact that, while there may indeed be more sightings taking place, this doesn't necessarily mean that UFOs are visiting Earth or appearing in greater numbers.

Unidentified Flying Objects, more commonly known as "UFOs" since the mid 1950s, have long held the fascination of the public. This subject has been taken to task and examined not only by a variety of government agencies, but also by a host of civilian groups over the years. These range from the U.S. Air Force's Project Bluebook; to the civilian NICAP group's early scientific attempts as an investigative organization studying the phenomenon; to the modern Mutual UFO Network, which compiles vast databases pertaining to the study of the phenomenon.

And yet, strangely, there has been a surprising lack of growth in the field of Ufology over the years, at least in terms of coming to any better understanding of the phenomenon as a whole. What, exactly, are UFOs? Are they really visitors from outer space? Could they perhaps represent secret government aircraft in use today? Or could they be a variety of different things, all falling under the rather loose categorization of being "UFOs"?

During the heyday of Project Bluebook's inquiry into the phenomenon, Edward J. Ruppelt, the project's one-time director between 1951-1953, came to a rather convincing conclusion about the future of UFO studies, described in his classic 1957 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. "I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to what the final outcome of the UFO investigation will be," Ruppelt noted, "but I am sure that within a few years there will be a proven answer… Methods of investigating and analyzing UFO reports have improved a hundredfold since 1947 and they are continuing to be improved… Slowly but surely (researchers) are working closer to the answer—closer to the proof."

Somewhat surprisingly, more than half a century later there is little more known of the phenomenon than what was already discernible in Ruppelt's day. How is it that growth in the field became so stunted?

In truth, this occurred for a variety of reasons. The closing of Project Bluebook, along with conclusions made by Edward Condon and a group of researchers with the University of Colorado around the same time, helped affirm in the public mind that UFOs offered no practical benefits from being studied. In the years that followed, a growing number of UFO reports also began to be correlated with claims of people who said they had been taken aboard the strange aircraft, lending to the incredible nature of the UFO experience. Thus, while the UFO mystery deepened for those engaged in their study, legitimate interest in the subject gravitated toward the fringe, and was often made an object of ridicule.

But in all likelihood, the UFO visitations have continued; regardless of what they are, or where they're from. Though they may not have received a lot of attention over the years from accredited scientists, they have certainly persisted, and people have continued to see them. This is especially the case in the modern day: with the growth of technology, the availability of portable devices used to capture photos and video, and a variety of satellite and computer systems that make charting the appearances of UFOs more easy to access, the impression that an increase in sightings has occurred seems only natural.

If this technological trend is indeed behind the UFO mystery's sudden visibility, then in the coming years we can only expect that more and more of the objects--whatever they are--will be seen and reported. Eventually, maybe they'll even begin to be understood to some degree, and at least a few of the determinations Edward Ruppelt had expected as far back as the 1950s will finally come to fruition.

Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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