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  • Writer's picturePeter Fuller


A couple of weeks back, traffic on a New Jersey highway was interrupted when hundreds of commuters stopped their cars and got out to photograph what they thought was a UFO. Each of them armed with their cellphone cameras, held them up to photograph and videotape the unusual aerial phenomena. Excitement ran across social media and the UFO websites about a sighting made by so many people in broad daylight. Keep in mind–most sightings occur at night, when visibility is less than optimum. This was during the day, and close to a busy highway. Everyone was convinced they were witnessing a real alien spacecraft hovering not far from them.

Well, it turned out that the UFO became an IFO–“identified flying object.” The so-called alien spacecraft was in fact none other than the Goodyear Blimp. The enigmatic aircraft was beyond everyone’s cell phone camera's focal range, and the blurry images that appeared to show ET visiting earth was nothing more than a terrestrial aircraft.

And this is what I want to discuss. The term “UFO” has become so ingrained in the public psyche and connected to purported alien spacecraft, so much so that another term has begun to be used–namely “UAP,” or “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”

You see, the term UFO or “unidentified flying object” originally referred to any object observed in the sky that could not be recognized. It could turn out to be a bird, an aircraft (and more specifically, a classified military aircraft), or even an insect that flew too close in front of the camera lens. Yes, it could actually be the planet Venus, a meteor, comet, or an unusual cloud formation, or simply the product of an overactive imagination or delusion. Anything that was unidentifiable. But somehow over the course of time, the term UFO became synonymous with alien spacecraft, so whenever it is mentioned, the majority of people automatically think, flying saucer.

Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of true unknowns, many of which have been dismissed as one of the list mentioned above. But not every unknown in the sky, every “UFO,” is an interstellar spacecraft piloted by extraterrestrials. So when someone mentions they saw a UFO, don’t immediately think “flying saucer” (that’s another term that is used specifically for a supposed alien spacecraft). When you do so, you’re making an assumption, and you could be guilty of the same error as so many of those folks on that New Jersey Highway that were disappointed by a giant balloon used to advertise tires.

However, there is a real phenomenon–and the true unknowns have been tracked on radar (and sometimes on multiple radars at once) travelling at hypersonic speeds and executing 90-degree turns while doing so. They can be seen by the naked eye, they can be photographed (like our now infamous Goodyear Blimp), they bend and break tree branches when they descend and not only leave impressions on the ground but also baffling radiation residue, among other things. There is a real, physical phenomena taking place, but is it little gray aliens from another star system? That question has yet to be answered conclusively. But the next time your sister’s husband’s cousin’s nephew tells you they saw a UFO, don’t jump to conclusions and immediately think it was an alien spacecraft. Who knows? It might be the latest stealth fighter being tested, or nothing more than the planet Venus.

Or swamp gas.

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