NASA joins the hunt for UFOs with study into 'unidentified phenomena'

NASA officially joins the hunt for UFOs: US space agency launches its first ever study into ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’

  • NASA has announced its first ever study into unidentified aerial phenomena
  • These are events in the sky that are not aircraft or of known natural occurrence
  • The study will look into the data currently available, including that from civilians
  • Understanding UFOs is of interest for purposes of security and aircraft safety

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Leading experts in space exploration are hoping to find out. 

NASA announced yesterday that it will be launching its first ever study into unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – known popularly as UFO’s.  

These are events in the sky that cannot be absolutely identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena. 

In the nine month study, scientists will look at current data into UAPs, and establish which sightings are naturally-occurring or not worth further investigation. 

Understanding unidentified phenomena in the atmosphere is of interest for both national security and aircraft safety.

Any results found during the pioneering study will be made available to the public. 

This video grab image from April 2020 shows part of an unclassified video taken by Navy pilots that have circulated for years showing interactions with ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’

NASA have confirmed that there is no current evidence the UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin, but the limited number of observations makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions

The researchers involved in the programme will focus on identifying the available data, and how best to collect future data.

They will also look at how NASA can use that data to move the scientific understanding of UAPs forward.

Sources of UAP data include civilians, governments, nonprofits, companies and potentially astronauts who encountered unidentified objects in space.

Experts may also review footage and data from previous missions to help investigate any anomalous encounters, a source revealed last month.

Another overarching goal of NASA is to deepen credibility in this field of study.

‘There is a great deal of stigma associated with UAP among our naval aviators and aviation community,’ said Daniel Evans, an official from at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

‘One of the things we tangentially hope to do as part of this study, simply by talking about it in the open, is to help to remove some of the stigma associated with it, and that will yield obviously, increased access to data, more reports, more sightings.’

A still from a video that was leaked last year appearing to show a UFO buzz a US stealth ship near San Diego before diving under the water in 2019. It was confirmed real by the Pentagon

A still from a video captured by a navy pilot off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida in 2015 that appears to show an object spinning in mid-air and moving against a 120-knot wind


NASA’s study into UAPs will last for nine months.

Researchers will identify current UAP data from civilians, governments and companies.

They will look into how best to collect future data using the scientific tools available.

Understanding UAPs is of interest for purposes of security and aircraft safety.

Another overarching goal of NASA is to deepen credibility in this field of study.

The US space agency has confirmed that there is no current evidence the UAPs are extra-terrestrial in origin, or any indication of alien life, but the limited number of observations makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: ‘NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also.

‘We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space – and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. 

‘We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do.’

NASA will enlist the help of experts in science, aeronautics and data analytics to help crack the UFO mysteries.

They have also coordinated with the US government in order to assess how to best use the scientific tools available, but are working independently from the Department of Defence or intelligence agencies. 

The study is to be led by David Spergel, president of the Simons Foundation, a charitable organisation that supports scientific research, and former chair of Princeton University’s astrophysics department.

He said: ‘Given the paucity of observations, our first task is simply to gather the most robust set of data that we can.

‘We will be identifying what data – from civilians, government, non-profits, companies – exists, what else we should try to collect, and how to best analyse it.’

Evans added: ‘Consistent with NASA’s principles of openness, transparency, and scientific integrity, this report will be shared publicly.

‘All of NASA’s data is available to the public – we take that obligation seriously – and we make it easily accessible for anyone to see or study.’

The subject of UFOs has been a longtime fascination of sci-fi fans and telescope owners, but has recently piqued the attention of US congress.

The first public congressional hearing on UAPs in 54 years was held last month and a new law has mandated a government UAP task force.

Last year, a US intelligence report was released that documented 144 sightings from the past two decades that it said could not be explained.

They suggested the events could be human generated ‘airborne clutter’, like escaped balloons or plastic bags, or the result of natural phenomena caused by ice crystals, moisture or heat.

The report admitted they had no evidence to either suggest or rule out alien origin. 

It stated: ‘UAP would also represent a national security challenge if they are foreign adversary collection platforms or provide evidence a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology.’

However, it also stated the observations ‘could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis.’


  • 1980 – Rendlesham Forest: Sightings of unexplained lights were reported by United States Air Force personnel stationed near Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk which became linked with claims of UFO landings
  • 1977 – Broad Haven: A class of primary school pupils said they spotted a ‘cigar-shaped’ craft with a ‘dome covering the middle third’ near their playground, that was never debunked
  • 1956 – Lakenheath-Bentwaters: A series of radar and visual contacts with UFOs over airbases in eastern England led to a report from the Codon Committee stating that the ‘probability that at least one genuine UFO was involved appears to be fairly high’
  •  2009 – Kim Wilde’s encounter: The singer recounted on ‘Loose Women’ the time she saw an unfamiliar-looking light in the sky that darted back and forth while out in her garden. She credits the ‘life-changing’ experience for inspiring her album that followed

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