An unidentified flying object, or UFO, in its most general definition, is any apparent anomaly in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. Culturally, UFOs are associated with claims of visitation by
extraterrestrial life or government-related conspiracy theories, and have become popular subjects in fiction. While UFOs are often later identified, sometimes identification may not be possible owing to the usually low quality of
evidence related to UFO sightings (generally anecdotal evidence and eyewitness accounts).
Stories of fantastical celestial apparitions have been told since antiquity, but the term “UFO” (or “UFOB”) was officially created in 1953 by the United States Air Force (USAF) to serve as a catch-all for all such reports. In its
initial definition, the USAF stated that a “UFOB” was “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be
positively identified as a familiar object.” Accordingly, the term was initially restricted to those fraction of cases which remained unidentified after investigation, as the USAF was interested in potential national security reasons
and/or “technical aspects” (see Air Force Regulation 200-2). During the late 1940s and through the 1950s, UFOs were often referred to popularly as “flying saucers” or “flying discs”. The term UFO became more widespread during the
1950s, at first in technical literature, but later in popular use. UFOs garnered considerable interest during the Cold War, an era associated with a heightened concern for national security. Various studies have concluded that the
phenomenon does not represent a threat to national security nor does it contain anything worthy of scientific pursuit (e.g., 1951 Flying Saucer Working Party, 1953 CIA Robertson Panel, USAF Project Blue Book, Condon Committee).
Extraterrestrial life is life that does not originate from Earth. It is also called alien life, or, if it is a sentient and/or relatively complex individual, an “extraterrestrial” or “alien” (or, to avoid confusion with the legal
sense of “alien”, a “space alien”). These as yet hypothetical forms of life range from simple bacteria-like organisms to beings far more complex than humans. The possibility that viruses might exist extraterrestrially has also been
The development and testing of hypotheses on extraterrestrial life is known as “exobiology” or “astrobiology”, although astrobiology also considers Earth-based life in its astronomical context. Many scientists consider extraterrestrial
life plausible, but there is no direct evidence of its existence. Since the mid-20th century, there has been an ongoing search for signs of extraterrestrial life, from radios used to detect possible extraterrestrial signals, to
telescopes used to search for potentially habitable extrasolar planets. It has also played a major role in works of science fiction. Over the years, science fiction works, especially Hollywood’s involvement, has increased the
public’s interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Some encourage aggressive methods to try and get in contact with life in outer space, while others argue that it might be dangerous to actively call attention to Earth.
In the past, the clash between civilized culture and indigenous people has not gone well.
On 13 February 2015, scientists (including Geoffrey Marcy, Seth Shostak, Frank Drake, Elon Musk and David Brin) at a convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discussed Active SETI and whether transmitting
a message to possible intelligent extraterrestrials in the Cosmos was a good idea; one result was a statement, signed by many, that a “worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is
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