The truth is out there -- and with the right roadmap, perhaps you can find it.
UFOs have been reported in every corner of the country. Of course, some spots are better than others, if you want to see strange objects in the sky. But if you're hunting for a close encounter, this map may only be a starting point to lead you in the right direction.
"We downloaded UFO sightings from the National UFO Reporting Center and took all of the locations and tried to standardize them," said Lane Allison, product manager of FindTheBest, a California-based technology company that collects and interprets data.
The FindTheBest map, seen above, is an attempt to show one version of how UFO sightings -- those that are reported -- might look on a map. The researchers culled information from over 61,000 reports, narrowing it down to nearly 39,000 reports from which they created their map visualization.
If you move your mouse across either version of the above interactive map -- UFO Sightings or UFO Sightings Per Capita -- everywhere the mouse lands will give you very detailed information about that particular place in America.
But is that regional data enough to offer a map that shows accurate numbers and, therefore, reliable clues as to how hot a UFO "hot spot" is?
"After we got latitude and longitude pairs, we could determine the number of UFO sightings that have been reported in counties. Then, we cross-referenced that with the American Community Survey population estimates of those counties, resulting in UFO reports per capita number," Allison told The Huffington Post.
One big problem with any map purporting to show accurate hot spots of UFO activity is that most people simply don't bother reporting their UFO sightings.
This is a crucial factor in trying to collect valid information and, of course, maps of such data -- including various UFO shapes.
And then, of course, there are the large numbers of UFO hoaxes that create stumbling blocks for researchers.
"We have almost 108,000 cases in our database, and approximately 10,000 of those have not been posted on the website because they've been determined as most likely hoaxes and they don't really contribute to the field of Ufology at all," said Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in Washington state.
Davenport's NUFORC was the source of information used by FindTheBest to create the UFO hotspot map in this story. For those UFO spotters who want to report what they've witnessed, they can contact the NUFORC 24-hour hotline. In fact, if you first call the Federal Aviation Administration to describe your UFO encounter, they'll refer you to the NUFORC.
There are two very important factors when considering any UFO observations and subsequent analyses of those events:
Most UFO sightings are easily explained.
"It's impossible for me or any other UFO investigator to separate the incoming cases into definitely UFOs or definitely not UFOs," Davenport told HuffPost. "I would say 60 to 80 percent are cases where all you have is a question mark after you've read the case. Was it a UFO or was it a seagull?"
Most UFO sightings aren't reported.
"The other problem is, all these cases of sighting reports are coming in from different people. They have different standards, different quality vision, different abilities to write clearly in English prose, and so on. Each report has come from a disparate source and that makes comparing one case with another very difficult. Plus, there are so few reports. It's my estimate -- based on 21 years of full-time UFO investigation -- that, out of somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 adult, competent, clear-thinking Americans who see something that they believe almost certainly was a UFO, only one of them will ever submit a written report. Very, very few people, I believe, who see a UFO, ever report it, and that makes our data probably almost useless," said Davenport.
At FindTheBest, Allison acknowledges the difficulty in creating an accurate UFO map.
"What we learned through our research is that, in fact, most UFO sightings aren't actually reported, and between 98-99 percent of those that are reported can be explained by natural phenomena, whether by shooting stars or even a flock of birds. So we wanted to give more of a per capita [per person] number, which is why we created the per capita statistics," she said.
Choose your UFO hotspot destination carefully and remember that just because there appears to be a high concentration of reports from specific sections of the map -- the green-colored areas -- it may be that only one person reported something he or she couldn't explain in a particular region of the country.
Davenport has come up with an idea that might insure more accurate and efficient UFO hotspot maps in the future: Detecting truly unexplained flying objects by using a system known as passive radar. If this becomes reality, it could help researchers and scientists to distinguish between unknown UFOs and known phenomena.
His very detailed proposal "is intended to convey a general concept to a non-technical community of readers in the field of UFO research. Its principal purpose is to alert the UFO community to the fact that new developments in passive, multi-static radar, and in related technologies, will permit, for the first time in the history of Ufology, remote, real-time detection of UFOs in the near-Earth environment."
Now that would be something.
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