NASA’s task force on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs) – UFOs and other unexplained objects in the sky – has released its final report. There is no sign of any alien craft, just benign terrestrial phenomena such as balloons and weather events.
The team was formed in 2022 with the task of gathering and analysing all the available data on UAPs, and developing a path forward for NASA to continue studying them. Now it has done so. The final results were released in a report and press conference on 14 September.
“We find no evidence that UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin,” said team lead David Spergel at Princeton University during the press conference. “Most events are explainable as planes, balloons, drones, whether phenomena and instrument features.”
Some of the events remain unexplained, but that is largely because of the limited amount and low quality of the data available on most UAPs. Military data is largely classified because the US government keeps the nature of the instruments capturing the data secret, and civilian data often comes in the form of blurry mobile phone pictures and vague recollections.
“While there are numerous eyewitness accounts and visuals associated with UAPs, they’re not consistent accounts, they’re not detailed and they’re not curated observations that can be used to make definitive scientific conclusions about the nature and the origin of UAPs,” said Nicola Fox, the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
One of the recommendations in the group’s final report was that NASA begin a programme to use actual scientific instruments for UAP detection, as well as enhancing its communication and data gathering within and beyond the government. Within NASA, the hope is that the agency’s involvement will help reduce the stigma around reporting apparent UFO sightings – often seen as unscientific and even unserious – so we can better characterise strange phenomena in the sky.
Part of that is a focus on transparency, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in the press conference. “There’s so much concern that there’s something locked up, classified, and that the American government is not being open,” Nelson said. “Well, we are the American government and we are open and we’re going to be open about this – but we don’t know what these UAPs are.”
NASA has appointed a director of UAP research “to centralize communications and leverage NASA’s extensive resources and expertise to actively engage in the whole-of-government UAP initiative”, according to the report. During the press conference, NASA officials declined to name this official. They also declined to share any information regarding budgetary allocations towards UAP studies.
For now, there is no evidence of alien technology in our skies. The overall conclusion of the UAP team’s study is that if we want to find any evidence of that, we need to observe and study objects in the skies much more rigorously. “In a process like this… you need to know what typical regular things look like under all conditions,” said Spergel. “You need to know what balloons look like when pilots see them under unusual conditions.”
Otherwise, it will remain difficult – sometimes impossible – to tell the difference between a weird balloon and an alien craft.