LAST_UPDATETue, 15 May 2018 11am

UFO Sightings: A Phenomenon That Should No Longer Be Ignored

On July 7, an unidentified flying object (UFO) forced China’s Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou to cease operations. A flight crew preparing for descent first detected the object around 8:40pm and notified the air traffic control department. Aviation authorities responded within minutes, grounding outbound flights and diverting inbound ones to airports in Ningbo and Wuxi. This is one of the many examples of UFO sightings from all around the world.


UFO is the popular term for any apparent aerial phenomenon whose cause cannot be easily or immediately identified by the observer. It was first coined by the United States Air Force in 1952 after the first widely publicised US sighting, reported by private pilot Kenneth Arnold in June 1947 that gave rise to the popular terms "flying saucer" and "flying disc." The term UFO was popularly taken as a synonym for alien spacecraft and generally most discussions of UFOs revolve around this presumption. UFO enthusiasts and devotees have created organisations, religious cults have adopted extraterrestrial themes and, in general, the UFO concept has evolved into a prominent mythos in modern culture. When UFO is mentioned few subjects will come to mind. Area 51 and Roswell are two places  renown to those familiar with the terms UFO and extra-terrestrial.





Area 51 is a parcel of US military-controlled land in southern Nevada, apparently containing a secret aircraft testing facility. It is also known as Watertown, Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, The Farm, The Box, and The Directorate for Development Plans Area, and simply Groom Lake. It is also famed for being the birthplace of many UFO conspiracy theories.





Many people who believe in UFOs also believe “Area 51” is where the US Air Force keeps its stockpile of captured flying saucers and maybe an autopsied alien body or two. Others believe the military base in the southern Nevada desert is the testing grounds for America's most secret military machines, everything from the F-117 stealth fighter to electromagnetic pulse weapons.

There are several theories about how Area 51 got its name. The most popular is that the facility borders the Nevada Test Site (NTS). The NTS is mapped as a grid of squares that are numbered from one to 30 (with a few omissions). Area 51, while not part of this grid, borders Area 15. Many say the site got the name Area 51 by transposing the 1 and 5 of its neighbour. Another popular theory is that the number 51 was chosen because it was not likely to be used as part of the NTS system in the future, in case the NTS expanded later on.

The first documented use of the name Area 51 comes from a film made by the company Lockheed Martin. There are also declassified documents from the 1960s and 1970s that refer to a facility called Area 51. Today, officials refer to the facility as an operating location near Groom Lake when speaking to the public – all official names for the site appear to be classified.

The name alone inspires thoughts of government conspiracies, secret "black" aircraft and alien technologies. Facts, myths and legends weave together in such a way that it can become difficult to separate reality from fiction.





Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a serious scientific enterprise that began in 1959. It  came about after the publication of a paper in which Cornell researchers Philip Morrison and Guiseppe Cocconi discussed the suitability of radio waves as a communication medium, man's newly-acquired ability to eavesdrop on interstellar radio conversations and the optimum frequency at which to conduct a search.


Project Phoenix in California



Nowadays SETI is conducted by dedicated scientists every day. In the movie Contact, Jodie Foster's character, Ellie Arroway, searches the heavens with several large radio telescopes and receives a radio message from a distant star that has profound implications for humanity.

SETI is an extremely controversial scientific endeavour. Some scientists believe that it is a complete waste of time and money while others believe that detection of a signal from extra terrestrials would forever change our view of the universe.

Several SETI projects have been conducted since 1960. Some of the major ones are:



  • Project Ozma - The first SETI search, conducted by astronomer Frank Drake in 1960
  • Ohio State Big Ear SETI Project - Launched in 1973, detected a brief but unconfirmed signal called the WOW! signal in 1977 and was shut down in 1997 to make way for a golf course
  • Project SERENDIP - Launched by the University of California at Berkeley in 1979
  • NASA HRMS (High-resolution Microwave Survey) - Launched by NASA in 1982 and discontinued in 1993 when the U.S. Congress cut its funding
  • Project META (Mega-channel Extraterrestrial Assay) - Launched at Harvard University in 1985 to search 8.4 million 0.5-Hz channels
  • COSETI (Columbus Optical SETI) - Launched in 1990 as the first optical SETI search for laser signals from ET
  • Project BETA (Billion-channel Extraterrestrial Assay) - Launched at Harvard University in 1995 to search billions of channels
  • Project Phoenix - Launched in 1995, SETI Institute's continuation of the NASA SETI effort
  • Project Argus - Launched in 1996, SETI League's all-sky survey project
  • Southern SERENDIP - Launched in Australia in 1998, piggyback project to search the southern sky
  • [email protected] - Available as of 1999, screensaver program for analyzing SETI data using home computers.





Many people would tend to think that UFOs have only been reported since 1947. Although the so- called "modern era" of Ufology began with the Kenneth Arnold sighting in 1947, UFO reports go back to ancient times. Even cave drawings, sculptures, paintings, and folklore of yesteryear show an influence of flying machines on mankind.

One of the very first sightings of what could be a UFO occurred as early as 1865, over 35 years before the first known flight by the Wright brothers. Fortunately, there are still newspaper accounts of this and other early sightings of days long since passed.



Lumely's Discovery (1865)

The Missouri Democrat dated October 19, 1865 gives an account of the sighting of an unknown flying object under the headline of "A STRANGE STORY – REMARKABLE DISCOVERY." The story was reported by one James Lumley, who was a (animal) trapper. The report stated that "if" what Lumley reported was true, it would shake the foundations of the scientific world.

Lumely claims that, in the middle of September, he was trapping in the mountains at a location about 75-100 miles above the Great Falls of the Upper Missouri River. Just after sunset, Lumley saw a "bright, luminous, body" in the skies. This body moved very quickly to the East. After five seconds, the unknown object burst into pieces. He soon heard a thunderous explosion followed by a "rushing sound."

This explosion shook the ground. He could smell sulphur in the air. Though impressed by what he had seen and heard, the next day would bring even more remarkable discoveries.

About two miles from his campsite, he could see a path cut through the forest. Whatever had come through the area had levelled everything in its path. He soon discovered the cause of the great destruction, a giant object which was made of a rock-like material.

This object had been driven into the side of a mountain after ripping through the forest. This was much more than an asteroid or comet: the object was divided into compartments. Also, hieroglyphic-like symbols could be seen carved into the object's surface. He also discovered fragments of what appeared to be glass, and strange liquid-like stains located in several places on the object.

Almost humorously, the newspaper account ascertains that the object "had" to be a meteor which was used by extraterrestrials. Their theory was that these other-worldly beings travelled on meteors and would eventually land on Earth and put mankind into wholesale servitude.



The Roswell Incident (1947)


The most famous UFO case of all occurred near Corona, Mexico in 1947. Rancher Mac Brazel found strange crash debris on his morning rounds and reported his find to local radio station. Soon, the military from Roswell AFB (Air Force Base) was involved, and issued a press statement that the Air Force had captured a UFO. This statement was soon recanted.

During the first week of July, 1947 sheep rancher William W. "Mac" Brazel was making his rounds of the Foster Ranch, located near Corona. Brazel served as foreman of the facility. He lived on the ranch in a farmhouse although his wife and children lived in Tularosa to receive better schooling for his children. Brazel would become a major figure in the Roswell case although he never desired the attention it sent his way.


Newspaper clippings of the Roswell incident



Brazel, home for the night, was listening to a roaring thunderstorm, not uncommon for his location, but this night it seemed worse than ever. He thought that maybe he had heard an explosion. The next morning he was out again checking the livestock and riding fences for any breaks. A seven-year-old neighbour boy was with him. Riding into an open field, the two horsemen noticed a large area filled with some type of debris or wreckage. The wreckage was tiny pieces of shiny, metallic material. This material was unfamiliar to the rancher.

Brazel collected some of the unknown debris, and showed it George Wilcox of the Chaves County Sheriff's Office. Wilcox thought little of the material until he began to handle it. It was not like anything he had seen before. Wilcox was concerned enough to call Roswell Army Air Field. He talked to Major Jesse A. Marcell, and explained the situation of the discovery of the material at the Foster ranch. Marcell left the base to come to Roswell and see the material.

After interviewing Brazel, Marcell was on the way to the debris field, accompanied by Army Counter Intelligence Corps officer Sheridan Cavitt and Brazel. Marcell related the events of the search through the debris in his own words:

"When we arrived at the crash site, it was amazing to see the vast amount of area it covered... it scattered over an area of about three quarters of a mile long, I would say, and fairly wide, several hundred feet wide. It was definitely not a weather or tracking device, nor was it any sort of plane or missile."

This sighting is now referred to as the Roswell Incident.





Malaysia too has its share of UFO sightings, the latest being the one reported to have occurred was in Tuaran, Sabah. On the July 19 this year a UFO was reported have been sighted at a beach resort here. A round blue object, which was said to be hovering in the sky near the Tuaran Beach Resort, was sighted by resort guests and employees.


UFO Sighting in Tuaran



The resort’s restaurant manager, James Dungil, 27, who were among the eyewitnesses, said the object was sighted on Saturday around 4pm.

“I was in the restaurant with some friends and saw some guests pointing up to the sky. We were curious so we went out to see what the commotion was all about and I saw a round transparent object in the sky,” he said.

James said he and some others then ran up to the resort’s family living room, located on the second floor, to have a better view.

“I managed to take one photo before it disappeared out of sight,” he said, adding that there was no sound or shining light when the object vanished.

Several other guests and employees, who claimed to have also spotted the object, said it hovered in the air for a few minutes before disappearing. Some even claimed that their cellular phones “went dead” when they tried to record the object with the devices. This phenomenon is a very familiar and classic description of a UFO sighting where there’s usually communication failure and total disruption of power supply.

Earlier in December 2003, a UFO was sighted hovering over a quiet village in northern Kedah state near the Thai border, the second such sighting there in two years.  A nine-year-old boy saw a slow moving disc-like object about the size of a car emitting a greenish light spinning in the air over Banggol Cicar village near the town of Baling for about four minutes before it disappeared.

Not only have UFO been claimed to be witnessed, there are even witnesses’ account of those who had seen aliens in this country.  In October 1995, a UFO was said to have been sighted at least four times since September that year above forests at the Tanjung Sepat Laut village, south of Kuala Lumpur. Villagers who claimed to have seen the spaceship said it was as big as a football field and several stories high. They said it was encircled by flashing red, orange and green lights. No one has managed to take a photograph of the spaceship or the 60cm (about two feet) tall aliens in which the villagers claimed to have seen.





The subject of UFO sightings is so popular that a UFO Conference was held in 1995. The Conference was held on December 17, 1995 at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The attendance was overwhelming considering the unknown number of UFO watchers in the country and the cost of the event which was high for an average Malaysian. The media too came flocking to see such a strange Conference on a strange subject on a quiet Sunday. The coverage given in the media was above expectation.

With this Conference, the future for UFO researches in Malaysia and the region of Southeast Asia will be greatly strengthened. The general public is curious to know the truth behind the UFO phenomenon. What was being portrayed in the classic Steven Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind might be a reality when we will finally realised the human race is not alone in this universe.


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