On December 9, 1965, hundreds of witnesses saw a strange object crash into the woods in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania ... Early in the morning of December 27, 1980, two U.S. Air Force security patrolmen saw a glowing metallic object hovering above Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England ... Between 1989 and 1990, hundreds of enormous triangular objects were reported in the skies over Belgium ... On January 5, 2000, a business owner and several police officers in Illinois saw a huge, brightly lit object dart across the sky ...
Thousands of people around the world have reported occurrences just like these -- strange, unidentified flying craft that hover in the air or land on the ground. Are these unidentified flying objects -- UFOs, as they're called -- alien spaceships visiting us from faraway planets? Or are they simply high-tech military craft, weather balloons or other easily explainable sightings?
This article looks into the myths and mysteries surrounding UFOs, highlighting the discoveries researchers have made so far and the great unknown that still surrounds these strange flying objects.
What are UFOs?
At around the middle of the 20th century, the U.S. Air Force coined the phrase "UFO" as a catchall term for any "unidentified flying object" -- unknown lights and discs spotted in the sky. But among ufologists (UFO enthusiasts and researchers), the term has become synonymous with alien spacecraft.
The late astronomer J. Allen Hynek defined a UFO as:
The reported perception of an object or light seen in the sky or upon the land the appearance, trajectory, and general dynamic and luminescent behavior of which do not suggest a logical, conventional explanation and which is not only mystifying to the original percipients but remains unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically capable of making a common sense identification, if one is possible.
UFOs are more often than not revealed to be something very well known -- a weather balloon or airplane lights, for example. But in anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of UFO cases, the object remains a mystery.