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‘X-Files’ revival brings UFO sleuths into the light

Image: Alien visitation
Alien visitation is a big topic for “The X-Files.” (Credit: Fox)

UFOs are back in style, thanks in part to the return of “The X-Files” to television this weekend, almost 13 years after the last episode had its original airing. And while Mulder and Scully are delving into new anomalies in prime time, the folks who deal with UFO reports in real life are gearing up for renewed attention as well.

“X-Files, Y-Files, No-Files, I get calls from people who say they have evidence of alien visitation,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. “Either they’ve seen something, they’ve photographed something or they’re in touch with something.”

The calls generally come in at a regular rate, but Shostak does recall that there was a noticeable uptick while the original “X-Files” show was on TV.

Don Lincoln, a physicist at Fermilab who’s the author of “Alien Universe,” notes that attitudes toward UFOs tend to reflect depictions in popular culture, ranging from flying saucers and little green men to mysterious “Men in Black” and alien conspiracies. The original “X-Files” told tales of gray extraterrestrials and government coverups, and he’s curious to see whether the new series will follow the same path.

“It could well be that what the new X-Files will ultimately accomplish is to introduce a new generation to the mysteries of Area 51 and the unsettling idea of the Men in Black,” Lincoln wrote in an email. “I have said enough. They’re watching…”

One expert who won’t be watching is Peter Davenport, who’s the director of the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC. He doesn’t even own a television.

“I try to avoid addressing works of fiction, because I am a scientist,” he told GeekWire from his home base in Harrington, Wash. “I collect data that is appropriate and accurate. … I find [fictional UFO tales] to be unsatisfying, seeing that I deal with the real thing, all day, every day.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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