NASA forms new team to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena

lights from UFO
Photo credit Getty Images

NASA is launching a new independent study team to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena.

The 16-member team will investigate UAPs, now the formal name for what were previously called UFOs, over the course of nine months as it seeks to lay the groundwork for future studies.

"Understanding the data we have surrounding unidentified aerial phenomena is critical to helping us draw scientific conclusions about what is happening in our skies," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement. "Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA."

The independent study began on October 24 and will focus solely on unclassified data. The team will identify how data gathered by civilian government entities, commercial data, and data from other sources can potentially be analyzed to shed light on UAPs. The team will then recommend a roadmap for potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward.

"NASA is going in with an open mind and we expect to find that explanations will apply to some events and different explanations will apply to others," the agency said. "We will not underestimate what the natural world contains, and we believe there is a lot to learn. Data is the language of scientists, so we are excited to see what the independent study team discovers."

NASA says the study aligns with one of its goals to ensure the safety of aircraft, as unidentified aerial phenomena are of interest for both national security and air safety.

One of NASA's key priorities is the search for life elsewhere in the universe. NASA has not found any credible evidence of extraterrestrial life and there is no evidence that UAPs are extraterrestrial. However, NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to help us answer fundamental questions, including whether we are alone in the universe.

Most UAP sightings result in very limited data, making it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of UAP. Without access to an extensive set of data, NASA says it is nearly impossible to verify or explain any observation -- thus the focus of the study is to inform officials on what possible data could be collected in the future to scientifically discern the nature of UAP.

"NASA has brought together some of the world's leading scientists, data and artificial intelligence practitioners, aerospace safety experts, all with a specific charge, which is to tell us how to apply the full focus of science and data to UAP," said Daniel Evans, assistant deputy associate administrator for research at NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "The findings will be released to the public in conjunction with NASA's principles of transparency, openness, and scientific integrity."

A full report containing the team's findings is expected be released in mid-2023.

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