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Unidentified flying objects are flying objects whose nature is unknown, often thought to have extraterrestrial origins. By general definition, the term may refer to any anomaly in the sky, or on the ground, that is observed flying, hovering, landing or taking off, which is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. In the 1940s and 1950s, UFOs were generally referred to as flying saucers or discs. The modern UFO era began in 1947, when newspapers all over the United States carried a report from Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot from Idaho who reported sighting nine very bright, disk-shaped objects while flying his plane near Mount Rainier. During the next seven or eight years, there were so many flying saucer reports that the term was added to Webster’s Dictionary. In 1952, a US Air Force F-86 jet interceptor shot at a flying saucer, according to Edward J. Ruppelt, who was chief of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, a special project set up in 1952 to investigate UFO reports, replacing projects Sign and Grudge. The term “UFO” was created by Ruppelt in 1953 to replace other terms, as the craft were sometimes reported as taking other shapes. In the early 1950s, there were many UFO reports made by Air Force pilots. Although a large percentage of these were dismissed by investigators as misidentifications of natural phenomena, there were several reports from reliable witnesses that could be classified in no other way than as unidentified flying objects. Nevertheless, Project Blue Book was terminated in December of 1969, and the Air Force has officially refused to investigate any further reports. Currently, UFO reports are summarily dismissed as hoaxes or natural phenomena, yet sightings have not abated. A 1996 Gallup poll revealed that more than 70% of the US population believed that the government was covering up information regarding UFOs. A 2002 poll yielded similar results, including belief among 48% of those polled that they were alien spacecraft.


Extraterrestrials & Alien Abductions



Feature Article

Become a Ufologist


Yes, it is true that you, too, can become a ufologist. Ufology refers to the study and activities associated with unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The subject of investigations by governments and scientists over the years, investigations into UFOs have, in recent years, been relegated to private organizations and individuals.

During the 1940s and 1950s, large-scale scientific studies were conducted into the phenomenon that were popularly known as flying saucers. The term UFO was created in 1953 by the United States Air Force to acknowledge the variety of shapes that were reported. However, official research into UFOs ended, in the United States, in 1969, and ufology has not been embraced by academia as a serious field of scientific study. Many within the scientific community consider ufology to be a pseudoscience.

The field of ufology includes individuals from all walks of life, many of whom entered the field after observing such objects in the air or undergoing other experiences that led them to believe that the earth has been visited by extraterrestrial beings.

Among them are individuals with scientific credentials, such as Stanford physicist Peter A. Sturrock, astronomer J. Allen Hynek, computer scientist and astronomer Jacques F. Vallee, and meteorologist James E. McDonald.

The lack of acceptance of ufology by academia as a field of study has led to a situation where anyone can claim to be a UFO researcher or ufologist without credentials or peer review. These include radio hosts, photographers, former military personnel, police, librarians, engineers, and others, including those who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

While a form of peer review exists within the ufology community, along with training programs, the lack of an academic clearinghouse allows one claim to be as valid as another and, even among scientifically inclined ufologists, the collection of data is generally done by amateur investigators.

Organizations conducting research into UFOs rely almost entirely on contributions from the public, or membership fees, for their support. These are barely sufficient to maintain an office, and are seldom enough to pay full-time investigators. In fact, while reviewing ufology websites, it is often difficult to determine if they represent an actual organization, or merely an individual who has created a website.

Because such a small percentage of the scientific community considers ufology to be a legitimate topic for scientific study, those who study UFOs seriously do so as an avocation. Many of these individuals and organizations endeavor to adhere to scientific methods, but they do so as an unpaid activity, doing the best they can with what they have, often investing their own resources into the project.

For those who wish to become involved in ufology, there are training programs available, although none that are conducted as programs of study in major universities. Some have chosen to learn the field by joining one of several UFO organizations, and being assigned a mentor.

Perhaps the best known of the UFO organizations is the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which has chapters throughout the United States, and in other countries. MUFON offers an online training program, and certifies those who complete it. In conjunction with this, the organization publishes the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual, and offers identification cards, patches and other items.

Another option is the Civilian Department of Ufology (CDU), which publishes its own handbook, which includes an exam that has to be passed in order to be certified as a ufologist.

Alternatively, because there are no accepted standards in the field of UFO studies, you could create your own website, publish your own study guide, and issue your own credentials. If you're very good at what you do, you may earn a spot on late-night radio.

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