September 20, 2023

NASA UFO group highlights need for better data at first public meeting

An independent group of scientists and experts convened by NASA to study unidentified abnormal phenomenaknown as UAPs or UFOs, Wednesday said there is “absolutely no convincing evidence” of extraterrestrial activity in sightings to date.

That doesn’t mean the panel ruled out aliens, military adversaries, or any other explanation — just that of the 800 or so sightings of strange flying objects or other phenomena that defy easy explanation, the data just isn’t enough to draw any definitive conclusions. .

Yet.

The 16-member panel stressed the need for better data on the encounters at its first and only public meeting on Wednesday. The group was established last October to “lay the groundwork for future research into the nature of UAPs for NASA and other organizations,” the agency said at the time, and will prepare a report of its findings.

NASA defines UAPs as “observations of aerial events that cannot be identified from a scientific perspective as aircraft or known natural phenomena”.

Widely replayed Video from a Navy fighter pilot of strange objects maneuvering at high speeds in a way no known aircraft can, along with other unexplained sightings in recent years, have added fuel to the UFO fire, sparking widespread public interest and strong feelings on both sides.

Panelists said they have faced online harassment since the study was announced by NASA last year from those who believe UFOs in the traditional sense are in fact behind some of the unexplained incidents, and similar concerns from those who believe the research complete. waste of time.

“We’re steering between the rocks and the cyclone,” said panel chair David Spergel, a widely respected cosmologist. “We have a community of people who are completely convinced of the existence of UFOs. And we have a community of people who think it’s ridiculous to answer this question, everything is explainable.”

Nicola Fox, director of NASA’s Space Science Directorate, said, “It’s really disheartening to hear of the harassment our panelists have faced online, all because they study this topic.”

“NASA stands with our panelists and we will not tolerate abuse,” she said. “Harassment only leads to further stigmatization of the UAP field, significantly hindering scientific progress and discouraging others from studying this important topic. Your harassment also hinders the public’s right to knowledge.”

Spergel said one of the goals of the panel is to help reduce that stigma to encourage airline pilots and others to come forward if they see a UAP, not fear ridicule or embarrassment.

“Despite NASA’s extensive efforts to reduce the stigma, the origin of the UAP remains unclear,” Spergel said. “And we feel like a lot of events go unreported. For example, commercial pilots are very reluctant to report anomalies. And one of our goals, and NASA has a role to play, is to remove stigma and get high quality data .

“In fact, if I were to sum up in one line what I think we’ve learned is that we need high-quality data.”

The Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Independent Study was chartered by NASA to review available detection techniques and technology and develop recommendations for improving the detection of UAP, ensuring the collection of reliable data needed to better understand what they could be are.

Unlike the Pentagon’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, which has access to classified UAP data and focuses more on national security, NASA’s investigation relies on unclassified reports and observations to enhance transparency and inter-agency communication. to improve.

“Observations of unidentified anomalous phenomena themselves are not classified, it is often the sensor platform that is classified,” Fox said. “If a fighter jet took a picture of the Statue of Liberty, that picture would be classified not because of the subject in the picture, but because of the sensors on the plane.”

The panel plans to release its report later this summer. As for what might be recommended, Spergel presented an interesting opportunity: a mobile phone app that allows users to collect and transmit valuable data.

“There are three to four billion cell phones in the world,” Spergel said. “Cell phones don’t just record images. We’re all used to cell phone cameras. But they measure the local magnetic field, they’re gravity meters, they measure sound, they encode an enormous amount of information about the environment around them.”

Not to mention GPS location data and accurate timestamps. He said someone who captures a UAP can then use a custom app to send that data to a central website, where it can be compared against similar observations.

“If you’ve seen something through multiple cell phones, with good timestamp data, from multiple angles, you can infer the location and speed of that object,” Spergel said. “Usually that will tell you it’s an airplane, it’s a balloon, whatever. And if it’s something new, you have uniformly selected, high-quality data that can be used.”

That data can be combined with radar and information collected by other sensors to “eliminate the normal,” leaving the real UAP for analysis with more detailed data than is currently available.

“I think that’s how a number of us feel about how we could handle this,” he said.

As for aliens, David Grinspoon, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Houston, put it this way:

“We haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that UAPs have anything to do with extraterrestrial phenomena,” he said. “Obviously if the data makes us realize that’s the case…we’re going to be enthralled and fascinated by that and we’re going to want to pursue it. But right now we don’t really have explicit data to suggest that there’s a connection between UAPs and extraterrestrial life.”

Stefan Becket contributed reporting.

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