Astronomers in No Rush to Toast Pentagon’s UFO Footage


(CN) — The Pentagon made history this week when it released three grainy, black-and-white videos of unidentified flying objects, saying the footage was real and had been taken by U.S. Navy fighter-jet pilots.

No one has been able to confirm what the objects in the videos are, but skepticism in the scientific community is almost as high as the hopes of others.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, astronomer Daniel Fabrycky called it telling that he had not been aware that the Pentagon released the clips on Monday.

“And I would have been if they were plausibly aliens, given how much scientists like to talk about this among ourselves,” the associate professor at the University of Chicago said.

As an astronomer, Fabrycky is part of a group of people who have found many thousands of planets around other stars, with more than a dozen that may have liquid water on the surface, an assumed minimum requirement for hosting life. 

“No one knows if any life is actually there,” Fabrycky said referring to the other planets, “but most of my colleagues believe there are likely lower life-forms whose effect on the atmospheres of those planets may be remotely detectable in a few decades from now. We have no idea if any life forms are advanced enough to visit Earth, but as a group, scientists do not see any evidence of any previous visits.”

The Pentagon footage is not new to the public: The New York Times and a group called To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences first released them in 2017.

Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge co-founded the To the Stars Academy that year with mission of looking into UFOs and other fringe science projects. The outfit’s director of programs, Luis Elizondo, previously ran the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a secret government-funded investigatory effort to study UFOs and UAPs, an abbreviation for unexplained aerial phenomena.

The Pentagon acknowledged in 2017 that it ran this program and that it had ended it in 2012.

Elizondo applauded the Defense Department for finally authenticating the videos shot in 2004 and 2015.

“In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that governments speak the truth to their citizens, as it is the most important pillar of a Democracy,” Elizondo said Tuesday, noting he was hopeful the government would “continue to share more information transparently as it becomes publicly available.”

“At To The Stars Academy, we do not fear skepticism and will continually work to decrease doubt around the topic of the existence of UAPs,” Elizondo continued. “We are fueled by the Pentagon’s significant actions and hope this encourages a new wave of credible information to come forward. We acknowledge and stand by those who have the courage to always speak the truth, no matter how difficult or complex the issue is.”

The Pentagon said it released the footage to certify that there is nothing else behind the curtain, and because doing so would not threaten national security.

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Pentagon statement said. “DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’”

One video in the UFO collection shows a fast-moving oblong object that flies off-screen to the left and an object moving above the clouds.

“There’s a whole fleet of them. Look on the ASA,” a pilot says to another, who responds that the objects are going “against the wind,” at 120 knots.

Retired Navy pilot David Fravor, one of the witnesses, told CNN in 2017 of the encounter: “As I got close to it … it rapidly accelerated to the south, and disappeared in less than two seconds.”

“What the fuck is that,” a pilot can be heard exclaiming in the other 2015 video. The video from 2004 does not contain dialogue.

George Fritz Benedict, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory, called it common for people to be unable to identify flying objects.

“Humans and their machines are easily fooled,” he said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Benedict noted that he was a UFO skeptic and that the low-quality video footage had not swayed his stance.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” he said. “Two to four more separate incidents with even better video quality could change my mind.”

One U.S. official, former Nevada senator Harry Reid, whose state hosts the top-secret Area 51 Air Force facility, indicated that there may be more videos coming out soon.

“I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available,” Reid tweeted Monday. “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”

The videos are available at the Naval Air Systems Command FOIA Reading Room.

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