Unidentified Flying Object - Identification of UFOs

Identification of UFOs

Studies show that after careful investigation, the majority of UFOs can be identified as ordinary objects or phenomena (see Identification studies of UFOs). The most commonly found identified sources of UFO reports are:

  • Astronomical objects (bright stars, planets, meteors, re-entering man-made spacecraft, artificial satellites, and the moon)
  • Aircraft (Aerial advertising and other aircraft, missile launches)
  • Balloons (weather balloons, prank balloons, large research balloons)
  • Other atmospheric objects and phenomena (birds, unusual clouds, kites, flares)
  • Light phenomena (mirages, Fata Morgana, moon dogs, searchlights and other ground lights, etc.)
  • Hoaxes

A 1952–1955 study by the Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Air Force included these categories as well as a "psychological" one. However, the scientific analysts were unable to come up with prosaic explanations for 21.5 % of the 3200 cases they examined and 33 % of what were considered the best cases remained unexplained, double the number of the worst cases. (See full statistical breakdown in Identification studies of UFOs). Of the 69 % identifieds, 38 % were deemed definitely explained while 31 % were thought to be "questionable." About 9 % of the cases were considered to have insufficient information to make a determination.

The official French government UFO investigation (GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN), run within the French space agency CNES between 1977 and 2004, scientifically investigated about 6000 cases and found that 13.5 % defied any rational explanation, 46 % were deemed definitely or likely identifiable, while 41 % lacked sufficient information for classification.

An individual 1979 study by CUFOS researcher Allan Hendry found, as did other investigations, that only a small percentage of cases he investigated were hoaxes (<1 %) and that most sightings were actually honest misidentifications of prosaic phenomena. Hendry attributed most of these to inexperience or misperception. However, Hendry's figure for unidentified cases was considerably lower than many other UFO studies such as Project Blue Book or the Condon Report that have found rates of unidentified cases ranging from 6 % to 30 %. Hendry found that 88.6 % of the cases he studied had a clear prosaic explanation, and he discarded a further 2.8 % due to unreliable or contradictory witnesses or insufficient information. The remaining 8.6 % of reports could not definitively be explained by prosaic phenomena, although he felt that a further 7.1 % could possibly be explained, leaving only the very best 1.5 % without plausible explanation.

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