MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Nasa UFO panel: better data needed to explain anomalous sightings

Nasa UFO panel: better data needed to explain anomalous sightings

The first public meeting of a Nasa panel studying what the government calls "unidentified aerial phenomena," commonly known as UFOs, kicked off on Wednesday to discuss findings since its formation last year.

The 16-member body, assembling experts from fields ranging from physics to astrobiology, was formed last June to examine unclassified UFO sightings, which it refers to as UAPs, and other data collected from civilian government and commercial sectors.

"If I were to summarize in one line what I feel we've learned, it's we need high quality data," said panel chair David Spergel during opening remarks.

Nasa said the focus of Wednesday's four-hour public session at the agency's headquarters in Washington was to hold "final deliberations" before the team publishes a report, which Spergel said was planned for release by late July.

The team has "several months of work ahead of them," said Dan Evans, a senior research official at Nasa's science unit, adding that panel members had been subjected to online abuse and harassment since they began their work.

"Harassment only leads to further stigmatization of the UAP field, significantly hindering the scientific process and discouraging others to study this important subject matter," Nasa's science chief Nicola Fox said during her opening remarks.

The head of the Pentagon's newly formed All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), Sean Kirkpatrick, played recordings of two anomalies that are being studied.

The first, showing a metallic orb in flight in an unnamed location in the Middle East in 2022, was typical of many of the phenomena that are being studied. That incident, Kirkpatrick said, is one of the small percentage of the 800 cases being reviewed that are considered to be genuinely anomalous.

Kirkpatrick then played a previously unreleased video showing three dots in the night’s sky recorded by a surveillance aircraft that appear to be moving in unison an unusual pattern.

Further study later revealed the objects to be distant aircraft headed for a major airport, and their unusual movements were the result of shaking in the sensory equipment recording them, Kirkpatrick said.

“This is the kind of thing that can spoof and or provide misperception of both very highly trained pilots as well as sensors,” he said.

Kirkpatrick has said previously the existence of intelligent alien life has not been ruled out but that no sighting had produced evidence of extraterrestrial origins.

The panel represents the first such inquiry ever conducted under the auspices of the US space agency for a subject the government once consigned to the exclusive and secretive purview of military and national security officials.

The Nasa study is separate from a newly formalized Pentagon-based investigation of unidentified aerial phenomena documented in recent years by military aviators and analyzed by US defense and intelligence officials.

Panel officials on Wednesday, having relied on unclassified data sensors, indicated they have run into much of the same obstacles as their Pentagon counterparts in studying unidentified objects.

"The current data collection efforts about UAPs are unsystematic and fragmented across various agencies, often using instruments uncalibrated for scientific data collection," Spergel said.

The parallel Nasa and Pentagon efforts, both undertaken with some semblance of public scrutiny, highlight a turning point for the government after decades spent deflecting, debunking and discrediting sightings of unidentified flying objects - long associated with notions of flying saucers and aliens - dating back to the 1940s.

While Nasa's science mission was seen by some as promising a more open-minded approach to the topic, the U.S. space agency made it known from the start that it was not leaping to any conclusions.

"There is no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin," Nasa said in announcing the panel's formation last June.

US defense officials have said the Pentagon's recent push to investigate such sightings has led to hundreds of new reports now under examination, though most remain categorized as unexplained.