What is it about UFOs that we can’t stop looking for them?
Is it true that we are not alone in the Universe? When will we be certain about the existence of extraterrestrial life forms? Will “they” contact us someday? Interrogations of this nature had been made since the beginning of humankind. Different cultures have attempted to explain the existence of life as we know it outside the planet. In most cases, their closest guess has been through those famous sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) that occur from time to time. These particular events have proven to be reason enough for thousands of people around the world to obsess with this topic since ancient times. Even as we speak, there are lots of people trying to capture a UFO sighting and prove non-believers wrong.
This global UFO obsession can be traced back to ancient Egypt, around 1480, BCE. An ancient document called Tulli Papyrus (even though it’s not a papyrus per se), which belonged to the pharaoh Thutmose III, describes the sighting of “fiery discs” in the sky.
Being that Ancient Egyptians were experienced astronomers, it seems unlikely that they could’ve mistaken this with an astronomical or weather circumstance. Yet it was so long ago, that even by reading the document’s translation, we can’t be sure what they really saw:
“In the year 22, of the third month of winter, sixth hour of the day […] among the scribes of the House of Life it was found that a strange Fiery Disk was coming in the sky. It had no head. The breath of its mouth emitted a foul odor. Its body was one rod in length and one rod in width. It had no voice. It came toward His Majesty’s house. Their heart became confused through it, and they fell upon their bellies. They [went] to the king, to report it. His Majesty [ordered that] the scrolls [located] in the House of Life be consulted. His Majesty meditated on all these events which were now going on.
After several days had passed, they became more numerous in the sky than ever. They shined in the sky more than the brightness of the sun, and extended to the limits of the four supports of heaven […] Powerful was the position of the Fiery Disks."
In Ancient India, they also had their own version of UFO sightings. Among the Indian Vedic literature, there are multiple descriptions of “flying machines” that were eventually named Vimanas (sanskrit word for "measuring out, traversing"). These aircrafts also were found in 3000-year old temple carvings. These documents haven’t been completely translated, so we can’t fully understand what Ancient Indians were talking about. Fortunately, the limited documents available (translated by Dr. Ruth Reyna from the University of Chandigarh) do reveal very interesting facts about these mythical writings.
It seems that some of these documents contain directions for building an interstellar spaceship called Astras. According to Dr. Reyna, these aircrafts were anti-gravitational, and could be used with laghima (an ancient unknown power within the human condition strong enough to make people levitate). These texts also suggested the key to being invisible (antima) and becoming as heavy as lead (garima).
Fast forward to the Renaissance. In 1561, the city of Nuremberg witnessed one of the most intriguing sightings at that time. A “celestial phenomenon” lighted up the German sky, which was later described by diverse authors as an extraterrestrial battle. After the shocking event, a news article describing the event was spread. The text included an illustration with a woodcut engraving by Hans Glaser:
"(...) At first there appeared in the middle of the sun two blood-red semi-circular arcs, just like the moon in its last quarter. And in the sun, above and below and on both sides, the color was blood, there stood a round ball of partly dull, partly black ferrous color. Likewise there stood on both sides and as a torus about the sun such blood-red ones and other balls in large number, about three in a line and four in a square, also some alone. In between these globes there were visible a few blood-red crosses, between which there were blood-red strips, becoming thicker to the rear and in the front malleable like the rods of reed-grass, which were intermingled, among them two big rods, one on the right, the other to the left, and within the small and big rods there were three, also four and more globes. These all started to fight among themselves, so that the globes, which were first in the sun, flew out to the ones standing on both sides, thereafter, the globes standing outside the sun, in the small and large rods, flew into the sun.”
It’s no surprise that even at the hardest times, UFOs were messing with people. During World War II, metallic spheres and lights were spotted in more than one occasion by bomber crews in the European and Pacific area. These aerial mysteries were later called "foo fighters," a term that turned out to be commonly used for UFO sightings at that moment.
The first sighting of this kind occurred in November 1944, when the Bristol Beaufighter crew and intelligence officer Fred Ringwald were flying along the Rhine north of Strasbourg. These pilots reported “fast-moving round glowing objects” that were suspiciously following them. These mysterious objects were described as fiery and glowing. Pilots reported that the aircrafts never displayed hostility, but seemed to be flying in formation for a while, and then took very interesting turns in the air before vanishing. This sighting (alongside other similar cases at that time) gained popularity but couldn’t be fully explained.
UFO obsession has clearly reached the contemporary world. A very particular case occurred four years ago in Houston, Texas. People registered on their cell phone a ring of lights that flew during a thunderstorm. The photographs revealed an object formed with lights that seemed to be supporting a bigger structure, but the video footage states a different story. The lights that originally were arranged in a circle start to move independently in and out of formation
Dr. Carolyn Sumners, vice president for Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, shared a very intriguing opinion on the matter: “I think the trick in UFOs is figuring out what else they could be… It’s easy to say that could be the aliens.” Also, former FBI Special Agent Ben Hansen had some interesting insights to share:
"One of the most intriguing aspects of the case is that a series of still photos began appearing on the Internet the next day from different Instagram and Twitter users. Allegedly, the photos were taken by different people from different parts of the city. The nature of social media makes it difficult to track down the original posters of much of the content we receive, but it does further support the claim that there were many witnesses to a spectacular UFO event that evening."
Did all of these cases really happen? Are these documents proof of something we’ve been waiting to answer for a long time? Or are they just manipulated footage that keep believers happy? Either way, UFO sightings will probably still happen in the future; hopefully, we’ll find a clear explanation to them.
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