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Believe or not? UFO spottings intrigue us

   Follow the link for this week's account of an August UFO sighting in the Ivy Ridge subdivision.

     Whether you’ve giggled at our front page stories the past few weeks regarding UFO sightings, or have been excited by the possibility that something unexplained happened here, we’ll bet you’ve at least been curious.
    Based on numerous calls and e-mails, we can safely say members of this community have strong opinions on whether strange lights in night skies are just military aircraft or something more “far out,” even alien in nature.
    Since the first story ran about the strange sky sightings back in November,  we’ve had a steady stream of phone calls, visits and emails from readers willing to share their thoughts with us,  and some who only wanted to tell us privately about the time they saw that strange thing in the sky. Several wanted to let us know that aliens simply don’t exist and there was no way a flying saucer crossed our sky.
    Our conversations, either face-to-face or by e-mail, have ranged from someone with a professional science background who has personal evidence that UFOs of the alien type do exist, to a person who said the whole idea of life elsewhere is absurd because of religious reasons.
    Whatever the reason the UFO stories have struck such a nerve, we have enjoyed the discussions and interactions with readers.
    We enjoy input from readers on the serious subjects like taxes and government spending, and we certainly appreciate that people take the time to comment on weighty subjects (as they have this week on the letters page regarding our campus security editorial last week).
    But this UFO subject is different because it’s fun -- so far no one claims to have been abducted and probed. One couple told us at the chamber meeting  this Tuesday that they certainly don’t believe in aliens, but have enjoyed the stories as a chance to lighten up during the cold winter weather.
    And we agree. Whether you believe in ET or War of the Worlds scenarios or whether you think those ideas are better left to crazed retirees travelling the country in RVs, it’s entertaining to talk about aliens.
    These type of “sightings” are nothing new, however.
    Back in 1947, an amateur pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported a “flying saucer” near Mount Rainier in Washington. Arnold reported seeing a chain of nine objects shoot across the sky, glinting in the sun as they traveled. Arnold told reporters at the time that he gauged the objects to be about 45 to 50 feet wide and flew between two mountains spaced 50 miles apart in just 1 minute, 42 seconds. If Arnold was right the objects reached a speed of 1,700 miles per hour, or three times faster than any manned aircraft of the era.
    The folks who saw the sky light up in Pickens County back in November may not have seen alleged spacecrafts breaking new sound barriers or shooting aliens out of pods to invade, but the question remains, “What did they see?”
    The nation’s opinion of “flying saucers,” a term coined in 1947 by Arnold, may not be what you expect. Last year’s survey of Americans  found 80 million of us, or 36 percent of the population, believe UFOs are real.  A full one in 10 of us say we’ve personally witnessed an alien spaceship, according to a survey commissioned by the National Geographic Channel.
    UFOs, like Bigfoot, ghosts, psychics and urban legends, are often viewed with complete skepticism, yet dedicated viewers tune in to reality shows on these subjects every week to scoff at the people on camera.
    OK, maybe studies have established that the majority of UFO observations are misidentified conventional objects or natural phenomena like aircraft, balloons, clouds, meteors or just bright planets, or even well-planned hoaxes. But what if some aren’t? Most investigators acknowledge that between five and 20 percent of  reported sightings remain unexplained, and therefore can be classified as unidentified in the strictest sense.
    When astronauts like Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell return from the moon willing to say he believes in aliens, why can’t we explore the possibilities?

 

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