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Universe Today

NASA sets up independent study on UFO sightings

NASA has dipped into the debate over UFOs for decades, but today the space agency said it’s commissioning an independent study team to survey a wide range of what are now known as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs.

“The most exciting things in science are things we don’t understand, and my starting point — I think all our starting points for this — is that there are phenomena that we don’t understand,” astrophysicist David Spergel, who’ll lead the study team, told reporters.

“How do we start to make progress?” he said. “We have a very limited set of observations right now with these UAPs. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions. So we start by trying to figure out what data is out there. We’re going to be working with government, nonprofits, companies, civilians, and try to identify what data is already there, then start to think about what data should we collect in the future.”

NASA’s independent study will start early in the fall and run in parallel to the Pentagon-led effort to analyze UAP reports from aviators, which was the focus of a congressional hearing last month.

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Universe Today

UFO hearing brings a few answers and more questions

For the first time in more than half a century, Congress conducted a public hearing into the state of the Pentagon’s study of unidentified aerial phenomena — which is the new name for mysteries once known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

Scott Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence, told a hearing organized by the House Intelligence subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation that military reports about UFOs — sorry, I mean UAPs — have been “frequent and continuing.”

Today’s hearing follows up on a Pentagon report that was issued last year and listed 144 UAP sightings that have been reported since 2004. The report pledged to take such sightings more seriously than in the past. “Since the release of that preliminary report, the UAP task force database has now grown to contain approximately 400 reports,” Bray said. “The stigma has been reduced.”

However, the hearing also made clear that the Department of Defense is still keeping mum about the detailed workings of its UAP detection and assessment process due to national security concerns. Bray and the hearing’s other witness — Ronald Moultrie, the under secretary of defense for intelligence and security — deferred some of lawmakers’ questions to the closed session that followed the open hearing.

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Universe Today

UFO report lends respectability to strange sightings

After months of anticipation, U.S. intelligence experts have released a report citing 18 incidents since 2004 in which unidentified flying objects — or unidentified aerial phenomena, to use the Pentagon’s term — appeared to demonstrate breakthrough technologies.

The nine-page, unclassified version of the report doesn’t describe the incidents in detail, and doesn’t attribute them to aliens. But it suggests they’re not linked to existing U.S. military technologies.

The point of the report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to a congressional mandate, is to assess the potential threat posed by the anomalous aerial phenomena reported by U.S. military fliers over the years, whether you call them UFOs or UAPs.

Intelligence experts said they didn’t have enough data to get a firm fix on the nature of 143 out of 144 UAP reports that were filed between 2004 and this March. The one case they said they could resolve “with high confidence” was attributed to a large, deflating balloon.

Their conclusion was that UAP sightings should get more attention.

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GeekWire

Navy ‘officially’ releases widely seen UFO videos

The Defense Department has authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos, captured in 2004 and 2015, that purport to show unidentified flying objects — or to use the Pentagon’s preferred term, unidentified aerial phenomena.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

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For UFO fans, ‘Project Blue Book’ rings all too true

“Project Blue Book” turns some of the best-known UFO tales into a TV series, starring Aidan Gillen as investigator J. Allen Hynek. (History Channel Illustration)

“Project Blue Book,” the History Channel TV series making its debut tonight, takes its inspiration from classic UFO cases of the 1940s and 1950s — but for UFO fans who gathered to watch a Seattle preview of the first episode, the show hints at the shape of things to come as well.

“You won’t believe how many productions are coming down the pike right now to basically red-pill the public,” Michael W. Hall, the founder of a Seattle-area group called UFOiTeam, said at the screening. “The truth is out there, and guess what? We’re going to have to ‘fess up to it right away.”

“Project Blue Book” fictionalizes the real-life X-files of pioneer UFO investigator J. Allen Hynek. So it was natural for.Hall — an attorney based in Edmonds, Wash., who styles himself as the “Paranormal Lawyer” — to put out the word to the more than two dozen UFOiTeam members to attend November’s movie-theater preview.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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SpaceX puts on a sonic-boom UFO show

SpaceX Falcon 9 contrail
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted out this picture of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s contrail, glowing in Southern California’s skies after sunset. “Nope, definitely not aliens,” Garcetti wrote. (@MayorOfLA via Twitter)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket executed its first on-land touchdown on the West Coast tonight after sending Argentina’s SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, putting on a show punctuated by a sonic boom for Southern California.

After a trouble-free countdown, the two-stage rocket blasted off right on time at 7:21 p.m. PT from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, leaving a post-sunset contrail glowing in the cloudless skies above.

Minutes after launch, the rocket’s second stage separated from the first-stage booster and continued rising spaceward. The booster, meanwhile, relit its engines to maneuver itself for the return trip to SpaceX’s landing zone, not far from the launch pad. The retro firings slowed the rocket down from supersonic speeds, setting off a sonic boom that could be heard in some areas (but not others).

Cheers went up from SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., as webcams showed the first stage setting itself down on Landing Zone 4. (The other landing zones are in Florida for East Coast launches.)

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Court filings link observatory shutdown to porn

Sunspot Solar Observatory
The Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope is the centerpiece of the Sunspot Solar Observatory on Sacramento Peak in New Mexico. (National Science Foundation Photo)

A federal search warrant indicates that the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico and surrounding homes were evacuated this month not because of alien visitation, but because of a child pornography investigation.

The warrant and an accompanying affidavit lays out the details of an FBI investigation that came to focus on a janitor who worked at the observatory atop Sacramento Peak, which serves as America’s national center for ground-based solar physics.

The details make for a story that has more in common with the police blotter than with the UFO tales and solar doomsday warnings that were spawned by the observatory’s previously puzzling 10-day closure.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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Why was solar observatory closed? (It wasn’t aliens)

Sunspot Solar Observatory
The Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope is the centerpiece of the Sunspot Solar Observatory on Sacramento Peak in New Mexico. (National Science Foundation Photo)

After days of fighting rumors about alien visitations, the managers of the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico say they’re reopening the facility — and have shed more light on the reason for its 10-day security-related closure.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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Sleuth solves Puget Sound UFO mystery

Mystery streak
A webcam picture shows a streak fising in the skies above Puget Sound. (Skunk Bay Weather Photo / Greg Johnson)

Was it an airplane? A missile? An honest-to-goodness unidentified flying object? For a couple of days, a mystery swirled around a long bright streak that was caught by a webcam pointing up from Western Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula.

Now the mystery has been solved. But it wasn’t easy.

It took a couple of days for Tyler Rogoway, a writer who specializes in the hush-hush corners of aviation, to figure out what was in the 20-second time-lapse webcam view, which was captured on Sunday by a camera pointed toward Whidbey Island.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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Aliens? Even Elon Musk has fun with rocket show

Rocket contrail
The contrail left behind by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch looked like a giant fish in the skies over Southern California. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

The bloom of exhaust that blossomed in Southern California’s skies during Dec. 22’s liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket sparked jokes and jitters — with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk joining in.

Was it an alien visitation? A North Korean rocket attack? A stunt involving Santa’s sleigh?

Folks who were following the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base at sunset knew full well what it was: a rocket booster’s contrail, catching the last rays of sunlight high above the California coast.

But for a while there, it was a mystery to unaware residents in Los Angeles, San Diego and locales in between. Such displays, including the infamous “Norway Spiral” of 2009, often spark UFO reports.

Get the full story on GeekWire.