UFO is the acronym the Air Force uses for any unidentified flying object, but it’s become synonymous with alien spacecraft. There are tons of UFO sightings on record going all the way back to Rome in 214 B.C.E. when there were reports of phantom ships gleaming in the sky. The most famous UFO sighting is the Roswell UFO incident in 1947, when an airborne object crashed on a ranch in New Mexico. Even though there are tons of theories about that object being extra-terrestrial, the armed forces say that it was debris from a crashing weather balloon. Most UFOs turn out to be something along those lines: weather balloons, airplane lights, meteors, and so on. About 5-10% of them never get identified, so are they alien spacecraft? The universe is a big place and we’ve found about 900 exoplanets, which are planets that exist outside of our solar system. According to the Planetary Habitability Laboratory, 12 of those exoplanets are potentially habitable. There could certainly be life there already, but what are the odds that one of those planets not only has life on it, but an advanced civilization capable of space travel?
Radio astronomer Frank Drake created an equation in 1961 to help people visualize how many other civilizations might be in our galaxy that we are capable of communicating with. It takes into account the rate of the formation of stars, the likelihood that those stars will have planets, whether those planets can support life, and so on. Some people have plugged numbers into the equation that say there are probably about 36.4 million civilizations out there to talk to. Others say that it comes out to 0.
The government goes back and forth on the subject about extra-terrestrial life as well. In 1948 a division of the Air Material Command called Project Sign was tasked with figuring out how likely it was that all these UFO sightings were alien spacecraft. Their conclusion was the phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious. They even filed a detailed report of a UFO flying past an eastern airlines flight in view of the pilot and co-pilot as well as the ground crew. The Air Force chief of staff at the time rejected the report for not having enough proof and later the Air Force shut down Project Sign and spent the next decade debunking UFOs entirely.