9 UFO Sightings No One Can Explain

Lots of unidentified flying objects turn out to be weather balloons, clouds, or planes, but there are definitely sightings that can't be explained away so easily.

Most UFOs don't stay unidentified

white weather balloon in the air above the treesChristoff/Shutterstock

UFO sightings often turn out to have very simple explanations, such as "aircraft, astronomical objects, rocket launches, balloons (escaped party balloons at sunset are particularly effective!), birds, insects, intensely bright squid lights used by Japanese fishermen, and so forth," says Seth Shostak, senior astronomer and fellow at the SETI Institute, which is dedicated to exploring the origins of life and intelligence in the universe. In 1973, before he became president, Jimmy Carter reported seeing a UFO, but it's widely believed to have been the planet Venus. The debris found at Roswell Army Airfield in New Mexico in 1947 turns out to have been from a top-secret experimental spy balloon project that wasn't declassified for almost half a century.

But not all can be explained away

Modern US Navy jet fighter taking off with lots of powerIvan Cholakov/Shutterstock

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense acknowledged to The New York Times that it had been running a program focused on investigating unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) received about $22 million in funding between 2007 and when it was shut down in 2012, according to the Pentagon. Two infrared videos were released with the articles that showed an encounter between Navy fighter jets and a UFO off the coast of California in 2004. Commander David Fravor, who was piloting one of the jets, told the paper that after a radio operator asked him to check out a mysterious aircraft, he flew to the specified location and saw the seawater churning below him. A whitish, oval-shaped aircraft was hovering above the water. "It accelerated like nothing I've ever seen," Fravor told the Times, admitting that it made him feel "pretty weirded out." Here are more science mysteries no one has figured out.

Unidentified, but not necessarily alien

Flying saucer UFO over bluff/ cliff side in summer, clear blue sky background, CGI recreationNatural Earth Imagery/Shutterstock

Of course, just because there's no explanation for an event does not mean it was a visit from extraterrestrial intelligence. There are plenty of phenomena that scientists don't understand—they're not even sure why ice is slippery. Shostak says he doesn't know exactly what the AATIP videos show (though he has some ideas), but he's not convinced that they indicate cosmic visitors: "There's no explanation for about one-third of the murders in New York City," he says. "Nonetheless, that doesn't mean that they weren't committed by people!"

Still, humans have been spotting mysterious objects in the sky for centuries, with cases increasing dramatically in the middle of the twentieth century, when aviation and the Cold War presumably made people extra wary of unexplained lights in the sky. Here are a few of the most notable examples of encounters that haven't been solved yet.

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