UFO sightings not so uncommon

BG News, Bowling Green Ohio/February 12, 2008

Nearly 10 years ago, WBGU radio host Jim Barnes was driving on Route 105 late at night when he saw something odd - a hovering triangle with a light at each corner.

"It was really up there, traveling slow," Barnes said. He followed the mysterious triangle for 10 miles and called his wife to alert her. When Barnes looked back up, it was gone.

More than 30 residents in Stephenville, Texas observed something similar on Jan. 8 - it was flying so low and fast that even Air Force technicians and pilots couldn't dismiss the "UFO."

An unidentified flying object, according to the University astronomy lecturer and former NASA observatory researcher Glenn Tiede, is not necessarily from outer space but is anything in the sky that an average person can't identify.

"Usually, when someone sees something [unusual], they don't know what they're looking at," Tiede said.

Weather balloons, the planet Venus and military aircraft are among the flying objects most commonly mistaken for alien spacecraft, he said.

UFOs have been seen all over Ohio, according to the National UFO Reporting Center Web site. Just in October 2007, Toledo residents reported seeing UFOs on two consecutive days. Their observations are recorded in the site's database after users fill out a report form.

Of course, one of the problems with databases like this is the inconsistency in witness descriptions - and their own beliefs about the UFOs they see, BGSU Astronomy Lecturer Andrew Layden said.

"[Witnesses] make assumptions about how big [the UFO] really is based on their own experience," Layden said.

Unfortunately, most people are "badly equipped" to describe a UFO in an official, legitimate way, even if it is what they think it is, he said.

Astronomers are looking for more compelling evidence than a UFO, Tiede said.

A whole spacecraft, a life form or even a piece of metal that could not possibly have been made on Earth are examples of "pieces of evidence that can't be explained any other way," Tiede said.

Layden said researchers are also watching for radio or light signals that can be decoded into a coherent message. This method of research must be done carefully, Layden said, because signals from Earth echo back and can potentially be mistaken for alien.

While scientists work on ways to contact potential alien civilizations, there is always the possibility they have already made contact with Earth.

There have been conspiracy theories that the government could be hiding evidence of aliens. If aliens have landed on earth, the government may be unable to hide it for long, Tiede.

"There's no way," he said. "The government can't keep secrets."

Barnes said the government may be hiding some evidence of aliens to avoid inciting panic, while other UFO sightings could be nothing more than developing military technologies.

Spacecrafts can be dismissed, but it is a bit more difficult to disprove claims of abduction, Barnes said.

"Peope who believe they were abducted know something strange happened," Barnes said. "A bunch of different analysts find the same story all over the world; same description [of the aliens], same procedure."

Much of the UFO phenomenon and other "evidence" of extraterrestrials can be debunked, but many people think life must exist elsewhere.

Sophomore Mark James is one of them.

"There are other life forms out there," the international relations major said. "There has to be."

Tiede agreed.

"The possibility of intelligent life is really good," Tiede said. "Life is easy to make. We're not an anomaly."

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