Have you ever seen something in the sky you couldn't explain? While it might not have been a flying saucer, it still counts as a UFO—an Unidentified Flying Object.
History of UFOs
People have been spotting all sorts of strange things in the skies since ancient times. (Read about an incident from medieval England in which churchgoers claimed the anchor of a ship in the sky caught on their church!) The way UFOs are interpreted by observers tends to reflect religious or supernatural beliefs of the time, or the era's notions of advanced technology. For example, in the 1890s, some people claimed they saw mysterious airships or dirigibles flying above.
World UFO Day is recognized on both June 24 and July 2, two important dates which represent the beginning of the modern UFO era.
June 24, 1947: Kenneth Arnold's Flying Saucers
On June 24, 1947, the pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine bright objects flying in formation above Washington state at what he estimated to be at least 1,200 miles per hour. Spotting them from his plane, he later described them as being saucer- or disc-like and so thin that they sometimes nearly disappeared when viewed edge-on. Arnold's report began what's thought of as the modern era of UFO sightings. The term "flying saucer" comes from his description of the objects.
July 2, 1947: Roswell, NM
Eight days later, on July 2, an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, and its wreckage and occupants were later gathered by the military. (This claim of a spaceship crash has been debunked; the wreckage that existed was probably a crashed weather balloon.)
Interest and controversy over UFOs (which are now sometimes called UAP, or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) continue to this day. Just this year, several high-altitude objects over the U.S. were shot down which have still not been identified to the public.
Read and watch more about this fascinating topic with these resources from SJPL!