WHAT IS UFOLOGY?
UFOlogy is the array of subject matter and activities associated with an interest in unidentified flying objects (UFOs). UFOs have been subject to various investigations over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists. The term derives from UFO, which is pronounced as an acronym, and the suffix -logy, which comes from the Ancient Greek λογία (logiā). It is also the acronym of “Unknown Flying Objects” and UFO is the same as UFO “Unidentified Flying Objects” from which the word “Ovniology” derives.
UFOs have been the subject of numerous investigations over the years by governments, independent groups and scientists. There are numerous evidences that arise about the phenomenon, from photos, sounds, radars, documented reports, among others.
UFOLOGY AND UFO REPORTS
In addition to UFO sightings, certain supposedly related phenomena are of interest to some in the field of UFOlogy, including crop circles, cattle mutilations, and alien abductions and implants. Some ufologists have also promoted UFO conspiracy theories, including the Roswell UFO Incident of 1947, the Majestic 12 documents, and UFO disclosure advocation. Skeptic Robert Sheaffer has accused UFOlogy of having a “credulity explosion”. He claims a trend of increasingly sensational ideas steadily gaining popularity within UFOlogy. Sheaffer remarked, “the kind of stories generating excitement and attention in any given year would have been rejected by mainstream ufologists a few years earlier for being too outlandish.” Likewise, James McDonald has expressed the view that extreme groups undermined serious scientific investigation, stating that a “bizarre ‘literature’ of pseudo-scientific discussion” on “spaceships bringing messengers of terrestrial salvation and occult truth” had been “one of the prime factors in discouraging serious scientists from looking into the UFO matter to the extent that might have led them to recognize quickly enough that cultism and wishful thinking have nothing to do with the core of the UFO problem.” In the same statement, McDonald said that, “Again, one must here criticize a good deal of armchair-researching (done chiefly via the daily newspapers that enjoy feature-writing the antics of the more extreme of such subgroups). A disturbing number of prominent scientists have jumped all too easily to the conclusion that only the nuts see UFOs”.
The modern UFO mystery has three traceable roots: the late 19th century “mystery airships” reported in the newspapers of western United States, “foo fighters” reported by Allied airmen during World War II, and the Kenneth Arnold “flying saucer” sighting near Mt. Rainier, Washington on June 24, 1947. UFO reports between “The Great Airship Wave” and the Arnold sighting were limited in number compared to the post-war period: notable cases include reports of “ghost fliers” in Europe and North America during the 1930s and the numerous reports of “ghost rockets” in Scandinavia (mostly Sweden) from May to December 1946. Media hype in the late 1940s and early 1950s following the Arnold sighting brought the concept of flying saucers to the public audience.
As the public’s preoccupation in UFOs grew, along with the number of reported sightings, the United States military began to take notice of the phenomenon. The UFO explosion of the early post-war era coincides with the escalation of the Cold War and the Korean War. The U.S. military feared that secret aircraft of the Soviet Union, possibly developed from captured German technology, were behind the sightings. If correct, the craft causing the sightings were thus of importance to national security and of need of systematic investigation. By 1952, however, the official US government interest in UFOs began to fade as the USAF projects Sign and Grudge concluded, along with the CIA’s Robertson Panel that UFO reports indicated no direct threat to national security. The government’s official research into UFOs ended with the publication of the Condon Committee report in 1969, which concluded that the study of UFOs in the past 21 years had achieved little, if anything, and that further extensive study of UFO sightings was unwarranted. It also recommended the termination of the USAF special unit Project Blue Book.
As the U.S. government ceased officially studying UFO sightings, the same became true for most governments of the world. A notable exception is France, which still maintains the GEIPAN, formerly known as GEPAN (1977–1988) and SEPRA (1988–2004), a unit under the French Space Agency CNES. During the Cold War, British, Canadian, Danish, Italian, and Swedish governments have each collected reports of UFO sightings. Britain’s Ministry of Defense ceased accepting any new reports as of 2010.