Are UFOs Real? What the Pentagon Has Learned

"The most common misconception is that [UFOs] are all the same thing and they're all extraterrestrial, and neither of those are true," said one government expert

<p>Getty</p> Illustration of an unidentified flying object


Illustration of an unidentified flying object

July 2 marks World UFO Day, a day celebrating and creating awareness for unidentified objects in the sky. Though, they have become less of a mystery in recent years thanks to new reports from the U.S. government.

The U.S. Department of Defense and the Pentagon shared in public reports that it has been examining more than 800 sightings of UFOs — which the government calls unidentified anomalous phenomena or UAPs — in order to find explanations for them.

Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, who works at the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), which investigates these flying objects, told ABC News in 2023 that people are quick to jump to conclusions when they see these objects. "The most common misconception is that [UFOs] are all the same thing and they're all extraterrestrial, and neither of those are true," he said.

Related: 4 Shocking Moments from Congress' UFO Hearing, from 'Non-Human' Pilots to Possible Contact with Aliens

Instead, Kirkpatrick noted that a majority of the cases they’ve investigated are "readily explainable," and have been attributed to a full range of items from military spacecraft to birds. "I have a full range of hypotheses: On one end of the spectrum, it's advanced technology that's coming from an adversary,” he said, per ABC News.

He added, “Right in the middle, I have all my known objects — balloons and drones and birds and whatnot. And then on the far end of the spectrum, we have extraterrestrials.”

However, while many of the sightings have explanations, he admitted that there was also a small percentage of cases — about 2 to 5% – that don’t have any. One of the cases that the AARO hasn’t been able to figure out includes a navy pilot’s encounter with a “Tic Tac”-shaped UFO.

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Whistleblowers have also previously made claims to Congress that extraterrestrials exist. Among them is former U.S. intelligence official David Grusch, who claimed in 2023 that “non-human” beings had been retrieved from spacecraft, though he had not seen an UAP.

Kirkpatrick told ABC News that while he “can’t rule” out the chance of intelligent life beyond Earth, he also doesn’t “have any evidence” of it existing just yet.

The Pentagon echoed his statements, saying in a 2023 statement that the AARO “has not discovered any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently."

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The AARO has its own website where people can submit reports of UFO sightings and also learn about the outcome reports of some of the cases that have already been submitted. In its case reports, the office explains their assessments of the unidentified objects.

"A lot of these stories, a lot of these allegations, crop up again and again over history. I'm not going to jump ahead to conclusions until we have more data," Kirkpatrick told ABC News at the time. Though, he added that if they did find evidence of extraterrestrial life, that would "probably be the best outcome of this job."

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