Frequently Asked Questions
What is UFOLOGY?
The acronym UFO - for Unidentified Flying Object - is so prevalent and commonplace today, that it's easy to forget the term is only about fifty years old.
There is even some dispute about the acronym's exact origin. In his classic account of his years spent as the director of Project Blue Book - the Air Force's official UFO "investigation" agency - Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt says unequivocally that "UFO is the official term that I created to replace the words 'flying saucers'" (Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Doubleday, 1956, p. 6). Presumably, this would have been sometime between 1951, when Ruppelt took over Project Grudge, later renamed Blue Book, and September of 1953, when he left the agency and the Air Force. Elsewhere in the same book, however, Ruppelt says of Project Grudge's final 600-page report, released in December of 1949, that it was "officially titled 'Unidentified Flying Objects - Project Grudge, Technical Report No. 102-AC-49/15-100. But it was widely referred to as the Grudge Report." This would mean that some long forgotten anonymous Air Force staffer coined the phrase at least two years before Ruppelt did. But perhaps Ruppelt is only claiming credit for the coinage of the acronym itself?
At any rate, UFO has now entered into common usage and appears in most dictionaries, along with ufology, the study of UFOs, and ufologist, one who studies UFOs.
In many ways, the term is a "loaded" one in that it implies classification or designation prior to a proper analysis or thorough investigation. As commonly employed, UFO has also come to imply a spaceship, or vehicle, of extraterrestrial manufacture and origin. In reality, well over 90 percent of all reported UFOs prove to be IFOs - Identified Flying Objects - upon investigation. IFOs can be anything from distant airplane landing lights to the planet Venus, with ball lightning, weather balloons, and other astronomical and meteorological phenomena thrown in for good measure.
In strictest terms, a UFO is just that - an apparent unidentified flying object, origin unknown.
The best scientifically accepted definition of a UFO is probably that provided by the late astronomer J. Allen Hynek, who said that the UFO is simply "the reported perception of an object or light seen in the sky or upon the land the appearance, trajectory, and general dynamic and luminescent behavior of which do not suggest a logical, conventional explanation and which is not only mystifying to the original percipients but remains unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically capable of making a common sense identification, if one is possible." (The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry by J. Allen Hynek, Henry Regnery, Chicago, 1972, p. 10.) For more than 20 years, Hynek was the Air Force's astronomy consultant to Project Blue Book and its predecessors, up until the former's closing on December 17, 1969. A few years afterwards, Hynek formed the Center for UFO Studies that now bears his name. He also contributed two other terms - one inadvertently and one purposefully - to the popular lexicon: "swamp gas" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Shortly before the UFO there was the flying saucer.
On June 24th, 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold was winging his way near Mt. Rainier in Washington state, when he spied nine, shiny crescent-shaped objects at some distance and traveling at speeds he estimated to be well over 1,000 mph, far in advance of any known terrestrial craft of the time, the new jet technology included. Arnold told Associated press reporter Bill Bequette that the objects behaved like a rock or saucer skipping across water. An anonymous headline writer then coined the phrase "flying saucers" to describe what Arnold had seen, even though the objects he reported were crescent, not saucer, shaped.
By any name, however, flying saucers and UFOs have continued to puzzle us in the half-century since the end of WWII.
Once regarded as almost exclusively an American phenomenon, like hamburgers and baseball, UFOs have now been reported from virtually every country in the world. No classification or category of humanity, from the average man or woman in the street, to physicists and astronomers, is immune to the UFO phenomenon. According to a several-decades-old Gallup Poll, more than ten million American adults alone are estimated to have seen what they believed to be a UFO, a phenomenon that most skeptics routinely dismiss as non-existent by definition. In reality, whatever that reality is, UFOs are arguably the most widely reported unexplained mystery of this or any other century.
Although the modern UFO era is typically dated to Arnold's landmark 1947 sighting, there is tantalizing evidence that the heavens have long been inhabited by similar "apparitions" and manifestations, even when there weren't handy words with which to describe them.
The collected books of Charles Fort (1874-1932), sometimes considered the father of ufology, run to 1062 pages. In the whole, there is but a single illustration, a line drawing on page 280 of The Book of the Damned (his first book) that accompanies an account Fort culled from the pages of the Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. The account was an extract from the log of Capt. F. W. Banner aboard the bark Lady of the Lake, dated March 22nd, 1870.
Sailors had seen a remarkable object, or "cloud," which they reported to the ship's captain.
"According to Capt. Banner," Fort wrote, "it was a cloud of circular form, with an included semicircle divided into four parts, the central dividing shaft beginning at the center of the circle and extending far outward, and then curving backward."
The thing was light gray in color and much lower than the other clouds.
It "traveled from a point at about 20 degrees above the horizon to a point about 80 degrees above," moving from the south, southeast, where it first appeared, to the northeast, traveling against the wind. "For half an hour this form was visible," writes Fort. "When it did finally disappear [it] was not because it disintegrated like a cloud, but because it was lost to sight in the evening darkness."
Aside from the extraordinary duration - most UFO sightings are a matter of minutes or seconds - this 1870 event replicates many of the characteristics common to UFO sightings more than a century later.
These include the circular shape, the gray, metallic color and the ability to travel against the wind, which would seemingly rule out such mundane sources as weather balloons and - the skeptics' favorite - airborne hoaxes of a hot-air nature, i.e., kites or plastic bags with candles attached. Needless to say, any reliable 1870 or earlier sighting would also rule out the easy IFO "explanations" of airplane landing lights, satellites, advertising blimps and so on.
While it is true that rumor, speculation and tabloid sensationalism surround the UFO subject, it is with the collection, analysis and verification, as far as possible, of sober reports like the above that MUFON and other responsible UFO organizations are most concerned.
The phenomenon can and should be approched dispassionately and scientifically from a variety of angles, perceptual, psychological and sociological, to name but a few. If objects from another planet are indeed visiting ours, what form of propulsion system and other technologies are employed? What kinds of biological lifeforms might be onboard? What God or gods will they worship? And how will UFO occupants - now or in the future, immediate or remote - perceive humans: as mental, emotional and spiritual equals or as vastly subpar inferiors? Should the skeptics prove right, in a "worst-case" scenario, and UFOs turn out out to be nothing more than a convoluted space age myth of our own making, surely our perceptions of the UFO phenomenon will tell us much about the contents and inner working, the built-in "plumbing" of the human mind and perhaps consciousness itself? In either event - including other scenarios and potential explanations as yet unformulated - many unanswered questions remain. It can hardly be against human nature, or the scientific method in principle, to ask and to seek answers to those questions. We welcome your assistance!
Dennis Stacy, Former Editor, MUFON UFO Journal
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What should I do if I see a UFO?
Ten Things You Should Do if You Encounter a UFO
(C) Copyright 1994 by Michael Curta. All Rights Reserved.
Every year over 70,000 reports of UFO sightings come into UFO Research Organizations around the world. While it is true that 9 out of 10 sightings are explainable, it is also true that only 1 in 10 is ever reported and each year the number of reports increase. Is this because there are more sightings? Is it because more people are willing to come forward and report their sightings to researchers? Or could it simply be that in the past witnesses did not know where to report sightings. What ever the case may be and you could make a case for all 3, the fact still remains that the number a reports are going up at an incredible rate.
There are far more reports then Investigators and that is where the witnesses must help the investigator. Think of the sighting like a crime! Though the only crime being committed is the one our Government commits by its unwillingness to openly investigate such sightings. I say think of it as a crime because you never know what is going to happen and you need to remember exact details of the event for recall at a later time. The Information that follows is designed to help you to help investigators.
1. The number one thing to remember is REMAIN CALM! But protect yourself from any hazards real or perceived. Be prepared to take evasive (but not aggressive) action to get out of its way. Remember you might be witnessing the event of a life time and will want to remember every detail and you can't do that if you are hysterical.
2. Be objective. Not every UFO is extraterrestrial, eliminate every other possibility (within your means) first. Only after that should you consider the possibility that what you saw might be a true UFO.
3. Use a cam corder or camera to record the event. Try to keep reference points in the field of view, as this will aid researchers in analyzing the film. If you do not have a camera or cam corder then draw pictures of what you saw and the area around it.
4. If you have a tape recorder, record your description of the event as it happens. Include reference points on this tape also. i.e. "I am about 10 yards for the big oak tree and the craft is 30 yards beyond that". If you don't have a tape recorder write down your observations right after the event.
5. If other witnesses are present ask them to also write or record their observations but do NOT discuss the event with them (at least until after your observations have been recorded) as investigators want to know what you saw not what your neighbor saw.
6. If the UFO left some trace of its presence behind do not disturb the area around it and restrict access to the site (its not a crime any more, its now a crime scene). Photograph the area around the site before you enter the area and make note of the exact position of every thing! Take close up photos or video tape of the evidence before touching it. Remember you don't know what your touching, where it came from or what type of hazards might be associated with it!
7. If the sighting is from a distance, at an arms length, what would it take to cover up the object? A Quarter? A Penny? A Dime? an Aspirin? Or would it take something bigger? A Golf ball? A baseball? or a Tennis ball?
8. Try to judge the distance from you to the object, the objects altitude, and its speed. Was it across the street or was it over the next field? Was it tree top level or was it a few hundred feet up? Did it cross the sky in 5 seconds or 5 minuets?
9. Should you encounter some type extraterrestrial being associated with the craft be prepared to take evasive action to protect yourself. From a safe distance, in a concealed position photograph or video tape the being. If you are unable to safely get photos of the being, draw and write down a description as soon as it is safe to do so.
10. Immediately report the event to a UFO research origination for investigation, there are several such organizations around the world. The Mutual UFO Network [MUFON] is the largest and most noted of these organizations, with investigators in all 50 states and around the world. Report a UFO to MUFON now.
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What is MUFON?
Founded in 1969, the Mutual UFO Network, Inc. (MUFON) is a nonprofit corporation dedicated,
through its volunteers, to resolving the scientific enigma known collectively as unidentified
flying objects (UFOs). Our website is www.mufon.com. We have two publications. The
monthly MUFON UFO JOURNAL addresses all aspects of the subject. The International UFO
Symposium Proceedings offers a yearly in-depth analysis of the UFO subject by world-renowned
researchers. Each is available to MUFON members and the public. Our headquarters is located
in Greeley, Colorado. The International Director, administrative staff, a board of directors, and
an advisory board of consultants form the core of our expertise. In North America, states and
provinces have MUFON chapters to investigate reported UFO events and conduct periodic
meetings. Many of these publish a newsletter and have their own website to further inform their
members and the general public.
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How does MUFON conduct an investigation?
We receive UFO reports via contacts with local authorities and news media as well as at MUFON headquarters where an email team is on hand to respond. When alerted, the state or provincial director assigns one or more field investigators in the vicinity. On-site investigations usually entail personal interviews with the witnesses; completion of appropriate sighting forms, written accounts and drawings to depict the scene; and assessment of the immediate environment. Collateral contacts with neighbors, police, air traffic control staff and others often shed light on a possible misperception or uncover more witnesses. Investigators prepare a case report for review by their state/provincial director and MUFON's director of investigations. Any materials needing technical analysis (e.g., photos or soil samples) are sent to experts in those fields. Ultimately, all essential factors are entered into a computerized database for comparative analysis. We thus gain insights into the nature of aerial phenomena. e.
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Are investigators trained?
Indeed they are. The cornerstone of our training is the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual
(Fifth Edition), a comprehensive guide for new trainees and veteran field investigators alike.
Its 300+ pages are divided into 24 sections that cover every aspect of witness reports, from
identifying misperceptions to handling sensitive physical evidence and claims of abduction.
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Can I help in other ways?
MUFON has volunteer positions for those who prefer to contribute their time other than through
investigations or research. These include translators of non-English UFO material, foreign
representatives, journal contributors, amateur astronomers, and ham radio operators who gather
on Saturday mornings for the MUFON Amateur Radio Net (40 meters - 7.237 MHz). Plus, our
local chapters are always seeking capable, reliable people to serve in a variety of functions and
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Can I just subscribe to the MUFON UFO JOURNAL?
Certainly. Lots of people simply want to read about well investigated UFO events without becoming directly involved in MUFON activities. And if you're impressed with the Journal, please consider a gift subscription for a friend or relative.
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Are there major conferences?
Every summer since 1970, MUFON has hosted the International UFO Symposium. Authors, scientists, and other experts from around the world offer their latest research findings in sessions open to the public over a three-day weekend. The Symposium rotates through cities in the eastern, central and western states. "Serious fun" aptly describes these multidimensional affairs. In most years a formal evening reception and informal social gatherings - in addition to UFO-related exhibits and vendor areas - complement the lecture series. Attendees feel at ease to discuss their own experiences and all aspects of the subject at length. Regional gatherings across the continent occur in most months of the year, with MUFON recognition and member support. The Journal always includes a calendar of upcoming conferences.
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Does MUFON operate overseas?
Indeed we do! Apart from our chapters in the provinces of Canada and the states of Mexico and Australia, in alphabetical order MUFON has representatives in: Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe. Many MUFON foreign representatives lead UFO research groups within their own countries and share the information. We utilize the talents of multilingual members for translations as needed. Years before the Soviet Union dissolved, tentative contacts had been established with UFO researchers there. Now their databases are unlocked and show great similarities to the American experience in the numbers, types, and circumstances of UFO encounters.
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Will my efforts be recognized?
Anyone - regardless of position in MUFON or relative experience in the field - has the opportunity to have his/her UFO case summary published in the Journal. Complex circumstances involving high strangeness, physical evidence or other compelling factors are especially welcome to our readers. Solid effort is rewarded in this organization. Also, every year at the Symposium, MUFON bestows honors of three types: " The investigator who submitted the best case report in the previous year is cited. " The Symposium Proceedings are dedicated to a person whose long-term, extraordinary efforts have contributed to resolving the UFO mystery. " Based on member nominations, a person whose research has broken new ground in the UFO field is honored. A monetary award accompanies the selection.
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What is MUFON's relationship to the U.S. Government?
MUFON has federal tax-exempt status as a scientific research organization. That has been the extent of our formal connection with the federal government. We continue our efforts to convince the Congress and administrative agencies to declassify UFO-related military and intelligence-agency documents.
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I've decided to join. What do I do now?
Great! Just go online and join MUFON at http://store.mufon.com/SearchResults.asp?
Cat=3 There are a variety of options and choices for journal subscriptions, but all memberships
include access to the monthly MUFON journal.
If you prefer, you may complete the application process by printing it and mailing it to MUFON
at the address shown along with a check or money order for $50 in U.S. funds. (Intl membership
requires additional shipping fees; please call for current rates.) http://www.mufon.com/PDFs/
MUFON_ApplRenew_form.pdf We'll send you 12 issues of the MUFON Journal.
If you prefer the Ejournal which is posted online every month, please go to Join MUFON and fill out the application through our website. You will be
required to set up a username and password once you have completed our application process.
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