What Is A UFO? - A
Beginners Guide To
UFO Spotting
Edited by Jim Hickman <>

This article will cover the details of conducting a scientific investigation of UFO and UFO- related phenomena.
Parts of this report have been derived from the J. Hynek UFO Classification System. Due to much advancement in the field of Ufology, numerous changes have been made, which includes changing wording, and the deletion and insertion of subject matter.
I want to thank the crew at The J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, especially John Timmerman, thanks guys for keeping this important information open for the public,s use, the truth is so hard to find.
UFOs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are only small spots of light that move in strange patterns across the night sky. These are called nocturnal lights (NLs) and are the most commonly reported type of UFO. Nocturnal lights are not really very interesting because the witness can see little detail; without details, ufologists cannot learn anything new. Faraway objects, often disk- or saucer-shaped, seen in the daytime are called daylight disks (DDs). When UFOs approach much nearer to witnesses (within 500 feet), these sightings are called close encounters. There are three types of close encounters, designated as CE-1, CE-2, and CE-3. (Abductions are sometimes referred to as CE-4s.) During close encounters, witnesses report seeing UFOs that are shaped like saucers, boomerangs, spheres, diamonds, cigars, triangles, or other strange shapes. They have bright lights, sometimes white or red, other times multicolored. The reported speed of UFOs varies dramatically. UFOs can hover silently for a long time then instantaneously fly off at great speeds--certainly much faster than conventional aircraft. They can move slowly across the sky, or perform unbelievable maneuvers, such as right angle turns, at incredibly high speeds. We do not know what powers UFOs, or why they have such maneuverability.
There are few unquestionably authentic pictures of UFOs. Many so-called UFO photographs are really natural phenomena (such as strangely shaped clouds) or are light leaks in the camera or flaws that were introduced when the film was developed. Some photos are deliberate hoaxes made by people who want you to believe they have seen UFOs; for any number of reasons, such as fame, money, or to promote a religious or philosophical viewpoint. Some of the best UFO photos were taken in McMinnville, Oregon, in 1950; in Rouen, France, in 1954; off the coast of Brazil in 1958; and in Lubbock, Texas, in 1951. There are also videotapes of UFOs taken in the Hudson Valley region in New York, and in Belgium. These pictures can be seen in many UFO books available in your local library. Photos are not sufficient proof for the reality of UFOs because they are easily hoaxed.
What is a UFO?
UFOs are unidentified flying objects, but no one really knows what they are. Many researchers (called "ufologists") have theories about what UFOs might be, but because no one can examine a UFO in a scientific laboratory, all of these ideas are really only educated guesses. We can offer a definition of UFOs, however, that you may find useful when you study the subject:
A UFO is the reported sighting of an object or light seen in the sky or on land, whose appearance, trajectory, actions, motions, lights, and colors do not have a logical, conventional, or natural explanation, and which cannot be explained, not only by the original witness, but by scientists or technical experts who try to make a common sense identification after examining the evidence.
What is an IFO?
An IFO is an Identified Flying Object. In essence, it is a natural or man-made object that people reported as a UFO. About 90%-95% of all UFO reports prove to be IFO,s, after an examination of the evidence by a trained investigator. People report natural or conventional objects as UFOs because they do not recognize them as such, due to unusual environmental conditions, ignorance, or the rarity of a natural event. For example, people have reported the planet Venus as a UFO, unaware of how bright the planet can appear at certain times of the year. Stars near the horizon are sometimes reported as UFOs because atmospheric turbulence and thermals (columns of warm air) cause them to twinkle rapidly in red and blue colors. Stars may also appear to dart back and forth because of auto kinesis. This is a psychological phenomenon in which a person,s eye movements create the illusion that a bright object seen in the dark without a frame of reference is moving.
In order to distinguish between UFOs and IFO,s, an investigator must find as much information about a sighting as possible, without leading witnesses into giving false details. It is also important that UFO reports are investigated soon after the sighting, so all-relevant information about possible IFO explanations can be considered.
Who sees UFOs?
All kinds of people see UFOs. It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old. In fact, many people who report seeing UFOs were not even looking for them when they had their sighting. The chances for seeing a UFO are greater for those people who live in small towns or in the country and are outside late at night. Although most of us at CUFOS have never seen a UFO personally, some colleagues of ours say that their interest in UFOs was sparked by seeing a UFO when they were children or young adults.
Obtaining Reports of UFO Sightings and Events
The first step in the scientific method is to collect data. The data on phenomena is not only collected, but is organized by a system of classification. UFO sighting data comes from individuals who make reports.
In order to make a report a witness must have a line of communication available to him or her. In a lot of cases most witnesses do not know where to make a report or who to call so they usually call the police. It is best for groups to set-up a local number for witnesses to call then let the police and local radio and television stations record the number for referral. From time to time local media will carry a story on a sighting or encounter and this is a good source to follow up on. For the most part reports will come from establishing a network of sky-watchers who will phone the contact number and report a sighting or encounter. An investigator should follow up on these reports as soon as possible while the experience is fresh in the mind of the witness.
It is important to obtain
1) A narrative description of the event and record this by any media available. Then a detailed report should be filled out so specific descriptive information can be captured for future analysis. 2) The witness should draw a sketch. The sketch should show date, time, and compass directions. It can show other detail and colors can be marked on the sketch.
This is the basic classification system used by Dr. Allen J. Hynek for UFO reports:
Strangely behaving lights in the night sky are the most commonly reported sightings and are called, "Nocturnal Lights." This does not include any light that puzzles the observer, but that which the experts find puzzling, because the behavior of the light does not fit the pattern of a light from known sources. An object is known as unidentified when it is unidentified to all, not just to the witnesses.
UFOs sighted in the daytime are usually called, "Daylight Discs." This is because most of those sighted in the daytime have an oval (disc) shape. The appearance is often reported as metallic looking. A majority of daytime UFO photographs show such disc shaped objects. Nocturnal Lights observed in the daytime could appear, as Daylight Discs, but it is unknown.
This category is for radar indicated UFOs. An important subdivision in this category is radar findings that are supported by visual observations. If it can be established with reasonable assurance that a radar sighting confirms a visual sighting, or vice versa, then obviously this sighting is of major importance.
There is an important broad category, which consists of those UFO sightings, that occur within a few hundred feet, or at a distance where the witness is able to use his unaided vision (glasses and contacts permissible), and be able to distinguish details. This type of sighting becomes a personal UFO experience.
This broad category of UFOs is called "Close Encounters." There are at least three kinds of Close Encounters. They are defined separately. The distinction is in what is observed rather than in any certain fundamental difference.
This is a close encounter with a UFO, where there is no interaction of the UFO with either the observer or the environment. The object must be close enough so that it is in the observer's own frame of reference. Details of the object must be seen. This will help to eliminate identifying Venus or an aircraft as a UFO. Further elimination of a false sighting is when the object is seen by several persons who are of the same conclusion, providing again, that the object is questionable even to the experts.
A UFO that is seen interacting with the environment and frequently with the witness as well, is known as a CE II. Such interaction can be with inanimate matter, as when holes, rings, burn marks, or depressions are made on the ground, or even tree limbs that appeared to have been broken off or away by contact with the object. Interaction can be with animate matter, such as when animals are affected. Animals can become aware of the UFO before humans. (It would appear that cattle mutilations would fit into this category of encounter, but perhaps at a higher level, somewhere between a CE II and CE III. This is, as the other evidence is caused by the craft, cattle mutilation seems to be performed by those in the craft. Therefore, we have a closer encounter.)
People can be affected by a close encounter. There have been cases reported of burns (including radioactive in nature), temporary paralysis, nausea, conjunctivitis, memory loss, and other maladies. For a CE II to have occurred, the UFO must be shown to have been at the same location where the physical effects are noted. If a burnt ring on the ground is noted, it must be at the exact place where the UFO was sighted hovering. If a vehicle's ignition system is interfered with, such interference must have occurred at the time and place of the UFO sighting.
Observed physical effects in these cases are usually called "Physical Trace Cases" and which cannot be explainable in another obvious way. For example, if landing marks are found, they must be unique and not like marks found elsewhere in the vicinity.
Close Encounters of the Second Kind are of particular interest to some scientists, especially those who are becoming interested in the field of Ufology. That is due in part to scientific principals that can be called into play. Samples of burnt grass and of disturbed soil can be tested in an attempt to determine what caused the burn, what pressures were necessary to cause imprints on the ground, to find what chemical changes occurred, and even more.
This is an encounter, that is not only with the UFO, but with its apparent "occupants." A CE III encounter brings us more into the presence of intelligence other than our own.
UFOs seem to demonstrate intelligent action that appears to be planned, not just random actions. UFOs have buzzed airplanes and cars. UFOs seem to prefer the lonely hours of the night. They usually, but do not exclusively avoid crowds and urban areas. They make singularly "local" appearances rather than moving about a wide area of the country.
In CE III, where the occupants make their presence known, or are discovered, we find creatures reported to resemble humans, robots, or reptiles. There have been reports of abductions of humans, apparently for "testing purposes." Abductions have usually been recalled through regressive hypnosis. This is because the abduction experience has usually been so traumatic to the witness, that the conscious memory retains only a portion of the experience. The details must generally be obtained from the subconscious. Aliens have been reported to appear in a room and to go through walls. This leads to a belief by some of interdimensional travel.
Note: Close Encounters of the: Fourth Kind ----- Abduction Fifth Kind ------ Communication
Jacques Vallee has proposed another classification system of four groups with five categories in each group. This forms a matrix that could possibly be combined with the Hynek system.
The four groups are:
AN Anomaly
FB Fly-By
MA Maneuver
CE Close Encounter
Within these four groupings are five categories:
1) Sighting
2) Physical Effects
3) Living Entities
4) Reality Transformation
5) Lasting injury
An example would be FB1, which is a simple sighting of a UFO "flying by" in the sky, the category most frequently reported.
There are other strange events that may or may not be associated with a UFO sighting, but nonetheless are targets of UFO research. There are categories of cases that may not fall neatly into the above systems of classification. In the future as we gather more data, these systems of classification may be extended or new systems of classification may come into use.
Other, possibly related, phenomena are:
1) Animal mutilations
2) Crop formations
3) Paranormal or psychic phenomena
In most cases one is collecting eyewitness testimony. In addition to eyewitness testimony, data gathered from reports may lead to researching corroborative data such as weather conditions or the phase of the moon on the night of sighting. This background research helps in evaluating a case in question. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND (IV)
Eyewitnesses have reported encounters with non-terrestrial life forms that we simply call aliens.
You should be prepared not only to interview eyewitnesses, but to do an on-site investigation. As MUFON suggests, you should carry a field kit.
Pen and pencil and paper
Containers for samples
Measuring devices
And other desirable equipment as you might need to conduct a field
This is one of the most important aspects of field investigation. It is a formal way of asking questions when someone makes a report to you. In this case, you want to faithfully record all the details without leading the witness. That takes an objective approach. One has to be aware of many factors, but foremost is gaining the trust and confidence of the witness. A course in psychology would help, but one can also ask policemen or reporters to demonstrate how they conduct interviews and how you can maintain sensitivity to the witnesses, experience. We have the added dimension of a witness who has possibly experienced something extraordinary. The field investigator must also see to it that he schedules the interview as soon as possible after the occurrence of the event while it is still fresh in the witnesses' mind.
My good friend Chris O'Brien has gained a lot of experience working with witnesses in the field who report strange aerial lights and objects as well as unusual animal deaths. He has submitted the following as a guideline to interviewing witnesses:
Have you ever seen/experienced anything you couldn't explain before?
Has anyone in your family seen/experienced anything they couldn't explain
Did you believe in the existence of UFOs prior to your (current) sighting/experience?
Has this (current) sighting/experience changed your beliefs in regards to UFOs? How?
Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrials?
Has this (current) sighting/experience changed your beliefs in regards to extraterrestrials? How?
A short section to ascertain the witnesses' immediate environment and the extent of the dissemination of their experience:
Who have you told about your sighting/experience?
How many LOCAL articles or LOCAL TV segments on UFOs (or the phenomenon they experienced) have you seen in the past year? -1 to 3
-3 to 5
-5 to 10
-10 or more
Did you notice any animal reactions before, during or after your sighting/experience? Describe
-Did you notice any sounds or sub-audible noises or sensations before, during, or after your sighting/experience? Describe -Buzzing?
Do you consider yourself, or any family members, to be "sensitive" or psychic? Have you noticed any unusual occurrences since your sighting/experience? -Describe
Where is the closest military facility to your sighting location?
How often do you see military flight activity in your environment?
The Field Investigator should (ideally) prepare a package of information, which generally includes:
a) A narrative of the investigation
b) Sketches done by the witness(s)
c) Any photos or videotape with a completed description of the camera
d) Any field measurements on a separate sheet
The following is information that can be used in the case of detailed sightings: How to Calculate Altitude and Speed
With your position as the base, estimate the angle by pointing one arm at the area underneath the object and the other arm pointing at the object (for example: 35 degrees). Using a scientific calculator, enter 35 (for degrees) and depress the "tan" (tangent) button. The tangent is displayed (0.7002075382097). Estimate the distance from you to the area directly below the object. We will use 300 feet. Now times the distance by the tangent and you will have the estimated altitude. The result is 210 feet.
35 DEGREES TANGENT = 0.7002075382097
0.7002075382097 x 300 = approx. 210 feet
To calculate the speed an object is traveling, first find the distance. For example, an object travels from point A to point B, a distance of 120 miles. Then the time of travel is 1 hour and 45 minutes. The time is converted into minutes, providing a result of 105 minutes. Distance is divided by time and the result is multiplied by 60 (60 is used because it is the minutes in an hour), which gives the speed as about 68 mph.
120 (miles) divided by 105 (minutes) = 1.142857142857
1.142857142857 x 60 = 68.57142857143 mph
When time is in seconds and distance is in partial miles, the miles are converted using the decimal system. An example would be that a distance of 1 & 1/2 miles becomes 1.50. A travel time of 3 seconds is divided by 60, which equals 0.05.
1.50 divided by 0.05 = 30. 60 mph x 30 = 1800 mph.
The report should include time, date, location, weather conditions, direction/orientation, distance, and size. Make note of any symbols, markings, lights, and sounds. Photos or a video are a plus. The report should be made right away to keep evidence and memory fresh. Recent reports may be the most valuable, but older ones, which have possible value, are welcomed. Strange lights in the sky usually do not make a good report unless accompanied by video, and/or having moved in ways inconsistent or impossible for known phenomenon or objects.
In case of abduction, please seek out professional help if you feel the need. But please be aware that there are mental health professionals who will not consider the extra-terrestrial possibility.
Crop Circle reports and Cattle Mutilations should be reported as soon as possible to assure a fresh situation for scientific study. Photos and observations of the site are crucial to a good report. Cattle mutilations should be reported as soon as found. Please do not handle animal remains for health reasons. Please do not walk inside the circumference of a crop circle.
Of prime importance is the collecting of corroborative evidence for an event. This might involve the collection and analysis of physical evidence such as ground traces, photographic evidence and analysis, videotape evidence and analysis or the photographing of injuries or strange body marks.
How can you recognize a UFO hoax?
A faked ufo photo
Although tens of thousands of UFOs have been reported over the past forty years, less than 1% has been shown to be hoaxes. For the most part, competent UFO investigators have been able to recognize hoaxes almost immediately. The most common type of UFO hoax is a prank balloon, which involves tying a flare or candle to a helium-filled balloon. On rare occasions elaborate hoaxes have been perpetrated, necessitating a more extensive investigation.
To eliminate the possibility that a UFO report is a hoax, one must examine the credibility of the witnesses, the details of the report, and any physical evidence, especially photographs. The reliability and validity of these factors must be ascertained before a researcher can have confidence in the data. A witness's reliability can be checked by interviewing neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, and other associates. In particular, an investigator is interested in determining whether the individual has a reputation as a sincere, responsible person, or as a practical joker, prankster, or hoaxer.
The researcher also examines the UFO report to determine if there are any unbelievable claims or glaring inconsistencies. For example, are there elements in the report similar to those found in science fiction or so unusual that they do not appear in other UFO accounts? Does the witness claim to have seen the UFO many times, although other witnesses cannot be found? Does the witness claim that important evidence is mysteriously missing or taken by unknown "government agents"? While such facts may not prove a hoax, they can cast doubt on the report and must be considered during the investigation.
Finally, the UFO investigator must examine the evidence to check if it has been altered, falsified, or hoaxed. If the evidence looks faked, or if it can be explained by more prosaic methods, doubt is cast on its validity.
Often an experienced ufologist can determine that a UFO photograph is a hoax upon first viewing. Clues, such as a noticeable difference between the sharpness of the UFO image and that of foreground and background objects, can indicate a hoax. Computerized photo enhancement can also be used to prove a hoax. Enhancement techniques can reveal supporting strings or wires and can provide information about an object's actual shape, material, and density.
Remember, in any investigation you must critically and thoroughly examine the evidence. The more evidence that is proven to be unreliable, the greater the doubt to be cast on the validity of the UFO event. A rule-of-thumb to consider when investigating any UFO case is if something appears too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true." (This is also true in life, not just ufology.) So--investigators beware, and never let you,re critical thinking skills down.
Jim Hickman
Director-Aerial Phenomena Research Group
Host-The Hickman Report
"All warfare is based on deception"
General Sun Tzu-The art of war- 500 BC


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