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The New York Times

They’re not alone: ​​UFO reports have exploded in the pandemic

In the years since she said alien beings took her from her suburban yard outside of Rochester, New York, Virginia Stringfellow has kept her story mostly within a tight-knit community. of people who say they have also encountered UFOs. But over the past year, that pool has grown: Each of his monthly UFO encounters for locals only has an average of five new people who believe they have seen a mysterious object in the sky – not counting about 50 people from outside who tried to join. “I have to turn people away,” Stringfellow, 75, said. Sign up for The Morning New York Times newsletter Sightings of unidentified objects in 2020 nearly doubled in New York City from the previous year, to around 300, according to data compiled by the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC. They have also increased from around 1,000 nationwide, to over 7,200 sightings. But according to ufologists (pronounced “yoof-ologists”), as those who study the phenomena call themselves, the trend is not necessarily the result of an alien invasion. On the contrary, it was probably caused in part by another invader: the coronavirus. Pushed to stay home by lockdown restrictions, many found themselves with more time to look up. In New York City, many city dwellers fleeing the virus have taken up residence in places such as the Catskills and Adirondacks, where the skies are largely free of light pollution. About a quarter of nationwide reports arrived in March and April last year, when lockdowns were most severe. The flickering lights in the sky have gone viral on TikTok, racking up millions of views. Longtime UFO enthusiasts say the pandemic clearly has more people scanning the night sky. But there’s another reason the public might be newly receptive to the flicker on the horizon worth noting: The Pentagon revealed over the summer that it will be summoning a new group soon. working to investigate the so-called “unidentified aerial phenomena”. observed from a military plane. Last year, he declassified three videos of such sightings. In addition, the $ 2.3 trillion credit package signed late last year by then-President Donald Trump includes a provision that the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence collaborate on a UFO report and make it public. “It is encouraging for many of us in the field of ufology that the government is ready to confirm that it is aware of these circumstances, that it concedes that people are reporting these events,” said the director. from NUFORC, Peter Davenport. Previously, he said, the government seemed to have believed “that people like me are just crazy – and we are not”. Davenport and his peers are quick to point out that any increase in sightings does not mean a peak in flying saucers. Unidentified flying objects are just that – aerial phenomena that have not yet been identified. The vast majority of sightings called to the notification center are quickly determined to be things like birds, bats, satellites, planes and drones, he said. A number of sightings last year were quickly identified as satellites launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration initiative that conducted tests in northern Idaho last year. A viral TikTok video of an object hovering in New Jersey last year turned out to be a Goodyear airship. “A specialized UFO investigator is one of the most skeptical people,” Davenport said. Only a small fraction of the reports reviewed by NUFORC, which is based in Washington state, are really not identifiable. That proportion has not changed, although more and more calls have poured in, according to Davenport. Ufologists are often thorny about the subject of apparent increases in UFO sightings, warning that bumps occur with regularity over the years, and are a favorite subject of reporting. The blanket itself can also increase sightings, they warn. In New York, as city dwellers tried to escape the virus by moving to the countryside, they increased sightings in rural areas, said Chris DePerno, deputy director of the New York State branch of the Mutual UFO Network, a non-profit organization that uses civilians. investigators to study UFO reports. In the absence of urban light pollution, he said, transplants are taking new attention of the night sky and anything in it. “They’re going up to the Hudson Valley – it’s beautiful up there, you’ve got a clear sky and then all of a sudden you see this thing spinning up in the sky, that’s stopped at a dime, goes back up. straight ahead, start again, stop, come back. We’re talking about incredible speeds, ”said DePerno, a retired police detective. “With the COVID thing, more people are looking up.” The apparent rise in reports has come as a relief to some who say they have seen mysterious floating craft but fear being alone. “Due to the Pentagon disclosure, there is more news now, there is more reporting now,” said Stringfellow, who goes by Cookie. “People aren’t too afraid to say, ‘Oh, fuck, I was in the woods now, or I was by the lake, and this stuff fell.’” But for a state park of Retired New York, 65-year-old police officer from Granville (along the state border with Vermont) who asked not to be named because he feared going public about his belief in UFOs and extraterrestrial life, full acceptance still seems a long way off. The lingering fear of ridicule may suppress the actual number of UFO sightings, he suggested; it might, in fact, be over there. He urged the townspeople to stay calm if they saw a UFO, as he did one evening about 30 years ago, when, he said, he spotted an object long off the ground. ball floating next to the Taconic State Parkway as he completed a patrol shift. . And most importantly, he said, people shouldn’t let the fear of being ridiculed prevent them from reporting what they see. If enough people report UFOs when they see them, he says, the world will believe they are telling the truth. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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