2020, The Year Of UFOs (Astronomy)

Between new satellite constellations, a slight decrease in light pollution recorded during lockdowns and perhaps a little more time spent looking at the night sky, the year of the pandemic saw a surge in the number of sightings of aerial phenomena and unidentified curious flying objects – at least not right away

The Ansa had already given the news last January, reporting the data collected by the National UFO Center: 380 reports on the national territory, with an increase of 57 percent compared to 241 in 2019. And now we discover from the New York Times that the phenomenon it has no borders: compared to the previous year, 2020 marks about a thousand more sightings in the United States, where they reached 7,200. Even doubled in the state of New York, according to the National UFO Reporting Center. We are talking about sightings of unidentified flying objects. UFO. Sightings that experienced a real boom in the year of the pandemic. Why?

First of all it is good to clarify what is meant here by UFO: neither more nor less than what the acronym says. Flying objects or aerial phenomena that it is not clear what they are. The hypothesis that the aliens have thought of visiting us more often than usual during the months of the lockdown , defying red zones and curfews, however suggestive, unfortunately remains highly unlikely – to put it mildly. Alternative explanations are not lacking, much more banal but also much less at risk of being sliced ​​by Occam’s razor, and they are roughly always the same – from atmospheric phenomena to sounding balloons.

However, there was some news, more or less positive depending on the point of view, but still able to explain – at least in part – this sudden boom in reports. There was, for example, the publication by the United States Department of Defense, which took place in April 2020 with a certain media echo and resumed just last week by the Pentagon which confirmed the source, of some sighting videos of unidentified objects – or more precisely of unidentified aerial phenomena . Nothing special, looking at them with a minimum of detachment, but that was enough to feed the suggestion.

A second explanation can be traced back to a myriad of new flying objects which are very identifiable for those who know them but which may have understandably aroused curiosity in those who had not been aware of their deployment on the terrestrial skies: we are talking about the satellite constellations, Starlink in the head, which to starting from 2019they have begun to populate – heralded by their unmistakable light trains – the low orbit. “In fact, 41 percent of the reports”, explains the National UFO Center at Ansa, referring to the sightings in Italy in 2020, “are attributable to the passage of the Starlink satellites”, with a peak in March (29 sightings) and April (75). Always among the clearly identifiable objects but in any case at the origin of some reports we must then include airships such as the Blimp of Goodyear , which has chosen 2020 to return to sail the skies of Europe and the world .

However, the pandemic also appears to have played a significant role. You want it because those who could – thanks to smartworking – have moved away from cities to move to places where the night sky is darker. Do you want for the concomitant reduction of light pollution recorded also in 2020, in particular during the months of lockdowns , as reported recently in an article on ” Effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown on Urban Light Emissions ” published last January on Remote Sensing . The fact is that the opportunities to get lost in the starry sky – and therefore also to spot something unusual – may have been more frequent than usual.

Featured image: Still from one of the videos released last year by the United States Department of Defense © INAF

Provided by INAF

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