NASA creates an independent team of scientists to investigate so-called 'unidentified aerial phenomena'

NASA is going to commission a team of scientists to study for nine months the so-called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (FANI); that is, observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena. The study of what we used to know by the name of 'UFO' (a word formed from the acronym for Unidentified Flying Object) will focus on the collection of available data, on designing the best way to collect data in the future and on how NASA can use that data to advance scientific understanding of the NIAF.

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The limited number of FANI observations makes it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of these phenomena, which are of interest to both national and air security, the US agency said in a press release.

“Establishing which events are natural provides a key first step in identifying or mitigating such events, which aligns with one of NASA's goals to ensure aircraft safety. There is no evidence that the FANI are of extraterrestrial origin”, they add.

"NASA believes that the tools for scientific research are powerful and can be used in these cases as well," said Thomas Zurbuchen, director of NASA's science division at headquarters in Washington. “We have access to a wide range of observations of Earth from space, and that is the lifeblood of scientific research. We have the tools and equipment that can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That is the very definition of what science is. That's what we do".

Scientific tools to shed light on NIAF

NASA is not part of the research teams on the same phenomena that the Department of Defense maintains. However, it has coordinated with other federal organizations in applying scientific tools to shed light on the nature and origin of the FANI.

The study team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, who is president of the Simons Foundation in New York City and formerly chair of the department of astrophysics at Princeton University in New Jersey. Daniel Evans, deputy administrator for research at NASA's Science Mission Directorate, will be the NASA official responsible for orchestrating the study.

"Given the dearth of observations, our first task is simply to assemble the strongest dataset we can," Spergel said. “We will identify what data — from civilians, government, nonprofits, businesses — exists, what else we should be trying to collect, and how best to analyze it.”

The study is expected to last about nine months. It will draw on expert advice from the scientific, aeronautical and data analysis communities to focus on how best to collect new data and improve the NIAF observations.

"Consistent with NASA's principles of accessibility, transparency, and scientific integrity, this report will be shared publicly," Evans said. "All NASA data is available to the public - we take that obligation seriously - and we will make it easily accessible for anyone to view or study."

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