Reporting UFOs

Website Launched for Astronomers to Report Observations of Unexplained Aerospace Phenomena

Many UFO sightings around the world might be attributed to natural phenomena, such as ‘sprites’ that zip across the atmosphere. Sprites are emitted near the tops of thunderclouds and reach up into the ionosphere (40-95 km range).
Credit: University of Alaska, Fairbanks

A website has been launched giving amateur and professional astronomers a formal mechanism for reporting any unexplained phenomena they observe when studying the night sky. Initiated within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), the Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena (UAP) Observations Reporting Scheme aims to provide a global focus for sightings by astronomers and contribute toward a better understanding of transient phenomena occurring in the atmosphere.

The reporting scheme has been set up by amateur astronomer Philippe Ailleris, who proposes to use the IYA2009’s network of professional and amateur astronomers to collect additional and more rigorous information on UAPs, more popularly referred to as UFOs.

“These phenomena are mainly seen in the night sky, a domain that astronomers have long considered their own, and it is important to collect testimonies from members of the population that are trained observers. We aim to approach this controversial field of UAP sightings from a professional, rational point of view and without any preconceived ideas. Certainly whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility that scientists could learn something new by further study,” said Ailleris.

Ailleris has developed a questionnaire that requests precise details of the sightings, including the location, time, elevation, velocity, apparent size and distance of the UAP, as well as a description of the terrain and weather conditions at the observation point and any sketches, photos, audio or video footage. A short and long version of the questionnaire in English and French can be downloaded from a dedicated website, www.uapreporting.org.

A number of unexplained phenomena are still viewed in the sky at night by amateur and professional astronomers.
Image credit: Till Credner, AlltheSky.comm

The website provides detailed information on common nocturnal and daytime misidentifications, such as sightings of satellites, weather balloons, rockets and natural phenomena such as meteors, planets, ball lightning, sprites and mirages. There are also links to relevant websites where people can further check charts and details.

“As well as allowing people to double check their sighting against explainable causes, we hope that the website will be a useful tool for the astronomy community to redirect enquiries from the general public and to help engage with the public in discussions about the science behind what is seen in the sky. Many professional and amateur astronomers are scanning the skies with all kinds of technical equipment — telescopes, binoculars, video-cameras, cameras with spectrographs — which creates an excellent opportunity to obtain supplementary data related to UAP sightings. This is also a great opportunity to engage with the general public and discuss some of the challenges astronomers face in determining various parameters such as coordinates, altitude, distance, speed and size. I hope we can use this opportunity to enthuse young (and not so young) people and prompt them to start looking upwards and outwards to make sense of their place in the Universe,” said Ailleris.

This story has been translated into Portuguese.