On April 27, the Pentagon, the United State’s headquarters for its Department of Defense, released three videos that they claim are legitimate examples of “unidentified aerial phenomenon,” which is the US government’s term for UFOs.
The videos, originally taken in 2004, were previously released between December 2017 and March 18 by a private company co-founded by former Blink-182 vocalist Tom DeLonge, who has a documented interest in the search for extraterrestrial life.
In September 2019, the US Navy said the videos were legitimate, but they were not officially released at the time. By releasing what they had, US officials sought to dispel any further rumors about the length of the videos or what they showed.
In the videos, which are black and white images taken from infrared US Navy cameras, US servicemen are seen commenting on what seems to be a fast moving, highly maneuverable object.
In an interview last December, Chad Underwood, the Navy pilot who filmed the encounter, claimed that the object, colloquially referred to as the “Tic Tac” based on his reaction to its shape resembling the oval mints, “wasn’t behaving by the normal laws of physics.”
“It would go from like 50 feet off the ground, which when you’re out in the open ocean, you know, off the coast of San Diego, it looked like it was just hovering over the water. But there was no method of propulsion that was keeping it airborne: no wings, no heat, keeping it airborne or aloft,” he noted.
Reactions to the Pentagon’s acknowledgement and release of the videos have been mixed, with some observers arguing it is evidence that humans may not be alone in the universe, while others tried to dampen those speculations.
“Scratches the surface”
According to former US Senator Harry Reid, who pushed for the funding of a now-defunct US Department of Defense program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) that ran from 2007-2012, there is plenty more evidence of unexplained phenomenon that has yet to be publicly released.
“I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available,” he tweeted following the Pentagon’s move. “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”
Not enough evidence
Despite the intrigue, some scientists noted that there could be other explanations for the sightings, claiming that any quick judgments should be viewed with skepticism.
Atmospheric effects when flying, unusual reflections and bugs in the display monitors are some potential reasons why the videos may not seem what they are. For Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist well-known for his contributions to popular scientific media, the videos are paltry evidence that aliens have visited our planet.
“Billions and billions of full-color, high-resolution images & videos are uploaded to the Internet every day,” he tweeted. “If your best evidence for Aliens visiting from another galaxy is monochromatic low-resolution, fuzzy video taken by the USNavy, then there’s more work to be done here.”
While the true nature of the videos may be uncertain, other scientists have argued that the existence of extraterrestrial life cannot be totally discounted, even if it’s uncertain whether any have actually come to Earth.
“Avi Loeb, the Chairman of Astronomy at Harvard, has speculated that brightness fluctuations seen in a distant star may signal the fact that alien civilizations have arranged a capture mechanism and is taking energy out of orbit for the needs of a society on a planet below,” said Rudy Schild, an astrophysicist at Harvard. “My reaction to that is, well, yes that may be true, but it’s not really the only possible answer, not by far.”
In 2018, Loeb also co-wrote a paper regarding the peculiar acceleration of an extremely elongated asteroid-type object that was observed entering the Solar System in 2017, dubbed “Oumuamua,” which is an Hawaiian word meaning “scout” or “messenger.” The paper suggested that its strange acceleration could mean that Oumuamua “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth’s vicinity by an alien civilization.”
“My motivation for writing the paper is to alert the community to pay a lot more attention to the next visitor,” he said.
According to NASA researcher Kevin Knuth, blanket skepticism to alien life is not sustainable in the long term. “There is a great deal of evidence that a small percentage of these UFO sightings are unidentified structured craft exhibiting flight capabilities beyond any known human technology, ” he wrote in an opinion piece in 2018. “This is a topic worthy of open scientific inquiry, until there is a scientific consensus based on evidence rather than prior expectation or belief.”