When Was the First UFO Sighting?

The Truth is Out There! Yes, I grew up watching The X-Files. Therefore, I’m kinda familiar with UFO conspiracies, in a way. I was surprised though to discover that there are people who are going in front of the American Senate to ask that all the dealings with the alien spaceship and all of that are made public. It just seems surrealist. But anyway, it hit me that all of this was not limited to the realm of science-fiction. So I went on a quick quest to discover:

What is a UFO?

Maybe we should begin with a definition of UFO. An unidentified flying object, or UFO, is also known as an unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP). It encompasses any perceived aerial occurrence that defies immediate identification or explanation. Following a thorough investigation, the majority of reported UFOs are eventually identified as known objects or atmospheric phenomena. Nonetheless, a small subset of these phenomena remains unexplained, leaving room for ongoing speculation and study.

The term UFO was coined by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt of the United States Air Force in 1952 and was originally defined as objects that remained unidentified even after expert investigation. However, people are now using UFO to describe any sighting that cannot be readily identified, regardless of whether it has been investigated.

The UFO is quite a modern concept. While ancient civilizations had various mythologies and beliefs surrounding celestial events and deities, there is no verifiable evidence or historical account of UFO sightings as understood in contemporary terms, as many of these stories often lack concrete evidence and may be the result of misinterpretations, exaggerations, or modern-day interpolations onto historical records.

Cover of Weird Science Vol 1 #13 from July 1950 by Al Feldstein (EC Comics).

So, When Was the First Confirmed UFO Sighting?

Kenneth Arnold, a seasoned pilot and successful businessman from Boise, Idaho, had an amazing encounter on June 24, 1947, which would go down in history as one of the most significant UFO sightings ever.

At approximately 3:00 PM on a clear summer day, Kenneth Arnold took off in his private plane, a CallAir A-2, from Chehalis, Washington. His task was to assist in the search for a military cargo plane that went missing after crashing close to Mount Rainier. He noticed something amazing as he flew above the Cascade Mountains.

Suddenly, Arnold spotted a formation of nine unusual, crescent-shaped objects gliding at high speed, unlike any aircraft he had ever seen. These unidentified objects moved erratically, “like saucers skipping on water,” which later led to the popularization of the term “flying saucer” in the media. The objects were flying in a chain-like formation, maintaining a consistent horizontal line as they swiftly maneuvered through the sky.

Captivated and intrigued by the peculiar sight, Arnold began tracking the objects with great interest. Estimating their size to be about 50 to 60 feet wide, he calculated their speed to be at least 1,700 miles per hour, an incredible feat considering the fastest known aircraft at the time could only reach about 400 miles per hour.

Kenneth Arnold’s sighting captured the public’s imagination and became an overnight media sensation. News outlets from across the country and even international media covered the story, thrusting the concept of UFOs into the forefront of popular culture. The incident triggered a flood of UFO reports from eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen similar unexplained objects in the sky.

The U.S. government’s response was cautious but relatively muted. They attributed Arnold’s sighting to a mirage or a misidentification of a prosaic phenomenon, such as birds or reflections. Nevertheless, the event marked the beginning of official interest in UFO sightings, leading to the establishment of Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force program tasked with investigating and documenting UFO reports.

The media attention generated by Arnold’s sighting led to a surge in reported UFO sightings across the United States and around the world. Numerous people claimed to have witnessed unidentified flying objects in the sky, prompting further investigations and research.

Cover for the comic book Project Blue Book #1

The Project Blue Book

The U.S. Air Force took an interest in the UFO phenomenon and established Project Sign in late 1947 to investigate UFO sightings. This project was later renamed Project Grudge in 1948. Both projects aimed to study UFO sightings and determine if they posed any threat to national security.

In March 1952, the U.S. Air Force initiated Project Blue Book directed by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, which replaced Project Grudge. Project Blue Book was a more comprehensive and systematic effort to study and analyze UFO reports, and ultimately investigated thousands of sightings.

In the summer of 1952, a series of radar and visual sightings near the National Airport in Washington, D.C., garnered significant attention. While explanations were offered, not everyone was convinced by the official accounts attributing these sightings to atmospheric phenomena like temperature inversions. The escalating number of UFO reports prompted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to advise the U.S. government to form an expert panel to study the sightings.

Headed by physicist H.P. Robertson from the California Institute of Technology, the Robertson Panel convened in 1953 and included other esteemed scientists such as an astronomer and a rocket engineer. Over three days, the panel interviewed military officers and the head of Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force program dedicated to investigating UFO reports. They also scrutinized films and photographs of UFOs.

The conclusions reached by the Robertson Panel were significant. They attributed 90 percent of the sightings to conventional and easily explainable phenomena, such as astronomical events (e.g., planets and stars), meteorological occurrences (e.g., meteors, auroras, ion clouds), and earthly objects like aircraft, balloons, birds, and searchlights. Additionally, the panel found no obvious security threats associated with UFOs and crucially stated that there was no evidence to support the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) – the idea that UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin.

In 1966, the U.S. Air Force established a second committee to review the most compelling material collected by Project Blue Book. Two years later, the committee, led by physicist Edward U. Condon, released its findings as the “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects,” commonly known as the Condon Report.

The report underwent review by a special committee of the National Academy of Sciences and featured contributions from 37 scientists who meticulously investigated 59 UFO sightings. This led to the U.S. Air Force’s decision to discontinue Project Blue Book in 1969. The project concluded that the vast majority of UFO reports could be attributed to natural phenomena, misidentifications, or hoaxes. However, a small percentage remained unexplained.

As official government interest waned, civilian organizations and individuals began taking up the investigation of UFO sightings. Organizations such as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI) were founded to collect and analyze UFO reports from witnesses worldwide.

Following the demise of Project Blue Book in 1969, civilian organizations such as CUFOS and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) continued to log UFO sightings reported by the public. These organizations sought to maintain a comprehensive record of UFO reports and investigate those with potential scientific merit.

If you want more information on the subject, you can check the National Archives and Records Administration which provides access to government records on UFOs. And if you are into conspiracies, you may be interested in the Illuminati.

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