Greg Eghigian has been studying the history of supernatural and paranormal phenomena in an academic setting for years, but he says the events of this month are galvanizing UFO believers in historical style.
“There's no question that this has really given new light to the UFO movement, and UFOlogy in general,” Eghigian, a professor of history at Penn State University who is writing a book on UFO sightings, tells Inverse.
The past few years have brought mysterious lights in the sky back into focus: Leaked videos show military planes engaging with seemingly alien aircraft that perform maneuvers far beyond far the standard fighter jet.
But a new video showing triangle aircraft around a Navy vessel off the coast of a base in Southern California has reignited the fervor. It’s left true believers and the curious public impatient for a Pentagon UFO report set to be released in June.
What’s new — The US Department of Defense (DOD) recently confirmed the authenticity of photos and videos of an unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP, the newly-minted term for unidentified flying objects) are legitimate.
They had been circulating around disclosure circles for some time, and UFO documentarian and true believer Jeremy Corbell has been pushing them toward a fever pitch. The videos, taken in July 2019, show mysterious lights encircling the USS Russell and the USS Omaha at the Naval Base San Diego — a major point of operations for the U.S. Navy.
On April 15, a DOD spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that the footage of triangle-shaped flying objects was indeed taken by Navy pilots. Although they did not disclose what those objects were, the defense department admitted that they were unexplained.
The confirmation is the latest in an ongoing conversation on mysterious aircraft as the Pentagon gets ready to release a report on UAPs.
What was in the new UFO video?
In the videos, three mysterious aircraft that look a bit like grainy green Doritos are seen navigating their way through the clouds with pulsating lights. The footage was captured in 2019 by Navy pilots, and confirmed by the government with their statement last week. But DOD spokesperson Sue Gough kept mum on any speculation as to what, precisely, the objects could be.
“As we have said before, to maintain operations security and to avoid disclosing information that may be useful to potential adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examinations of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP,” Gough told CNN.
Gough says that the three objects were shaped like a "sphere," another like an "acorn," and one characterized as a "metallic blimp.”
Why did the Pentagon confirm a UFO video?
Eghigian says that government officials remain fuzzy on these issues, possibly on purpose.
“It seems to me throughout this entire process what they've been confirming is that they are in fact having people and having, in some cases, instruments detecting or spotting actual physical objects,” he tells Inverse. “It’s not clear that they don’t know what these things are.”
Although government spokespeople are confirming footage of recent sightings, they are not disclosing how much information they actually have or what these objects are.
“When you look at the long history of these engagements of intelligence officials and intelligence agencies in this, their interest has always been; is this a national security concern?” Eghigian says. Will the video be part of the Pentagon UFO report?
Pentagon spokesperson Gough also says that the recent video will be investigated by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force.
The task force was created in August to examine unexplained sightings of aircraft. The Pentagon is also set to release a report on UAP on June 1, although it may be earlier or later than that date.
In December 2020, the government enacted the Intelligence Authorization Act, which called for the release of an unclassified and all-sources report on UAP. The report will be presented to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on UAPs.
It is not clear how much of the report will be made public, but the main purpose of it is to lay out what the government knows or doesn’t know about these aircraft.
Why is everyone talking about UFOs?
In April 2020, the Pentagon formally released three videos taken by US Navy pilots that show an "unidentified aerial phenomenon."
The footage captured by Navy pilots shows a cluster of odd-looking aircraft flying with unidentified maneuvers that they could not identify.
The videos were originally leaked back in 2017 and stirred up major UFO rumors at the time. By releasing the footage three years later, the Pentagon essentially confirmed that these videos were legitimate but could not confirm what the aircraft were.
A declassified Pentagon video from 2017 showing military personnel detecting an unexplained aircraft.
After the videos were confirmed by the DOD, a series of events led to the insertion of an amendment in the Intelligence Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2021 which called for a thorough investigation of what the military knows about UAPs. News of that report led to a slew of former government officials giving statements to the press that only further fanned the flames.
The former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe said in an interview with Fox News that the report would contain information on “difficult to explain” sightings.
“We are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for or are traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in March.
Given all of these factors, UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists rejoiced that this was all the proof they needed that aliens occasionally visit our planet riding in their technologically advanced flying vehicles.
Prior to the release of the Navy pilot videos in 2017, Eghigian argues that the UFO community was stuck in a rut as not a lot of new information was coming out. But with the anticipated release of the Pentagon report on UAPs, the community has been revived.
“A significant segment of the community is really putting a lot of their hopes at stake,” Eghigian says. “I see lots of things in chat groups about how this is going to be big, that this has the potential to be a game-changer.”