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Why are UFOs back in the news?

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    TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — No longer limited to sci-fi blockbusters and conspiracy theories, unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are back in the spotlight in the United States, spurred on by an upcoming report to lawmakers.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, for those who may not be subject matter experts. UFOs are not synonymous with extraterrestrial visitors.

To ufologists – the name given to those who study the phenomenon – and military officials, an unidentified flying object is exactly what its name describes: something that is flying and that cannot easily be identified by the person who spots it.

Most of the time, further investigation results in a straightforward explanation for what was witnessed. According to the latest edition of The Canadian UFO Survey, there were 1,243 UFOs reported above Canada in 2020, nearly 1,100 of which were later determined to be common aircraft, stars, fireballs, or other easily explainable phenomena.

That still leaves about 10 per cent of reports without any obvious explanation – as accurate a percentage in 2020 as it is most years, ufologists say.

It’s this pool of unsolved UFO encounters from which Hollywood scriptwriters draw their most outlandish epics, and true believers search for proof that aliens are among us – and it’s from this pool that UFOs have caused a stir over the past week, with even former U.S. president Barack Obama asked what he does and does not know about them.

It all started May 16, with a report from the American newsmagazine show “60 Minutes,” which spoke to four former U.S. military officers about their experiences with mysterious objects in the air.

Lue Elizondo, a former director of the Pentagon team tasked with investigating UFOs, told the program that he had seen evidence of aircraft capable of flying at more than 20,000 kilometres per hour and evading radar detection, without any obvious sources of propulsion.

The program Elizondo ran was shut down, then resurrected last year as part of what seems to be a renewed American political interest in UFOs.

Even the U.S. military has started speaking more publicly about what it refers to as unidentified aerial phenomena. In 2019, it confirmed the authenticity of some long-circulating videos purporting to be declassified evidence of close encounters. Last year, the Pentagon released the same videos itself.

A U.S. Senate committee has ordered the national security apparatus to release an unclassified report by June 25 detailing what it knows about unidentified aerial phenomena.

The “60 Minutes” report led to renewed social media chatter about UFOs – some of it serious, some of it less so – and also may have prompted a question to Obama during his appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on May 17. Asked about his knowledge of UFOs, the former president did not reveal any secrets but did genuinely engage with the question.

“What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there are, there’s footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don’t know exactly what they are,” he said.

“We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is.”

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