In 2002 the Sci Fi Channel enlisted Roper to poll Americans about UFO's and found that about 48 percent believed aliens have visited Earth and 14 percent said they or someone they know had a "close encounter" with a UFO. Finally, in 2008, Scripps News Service polled Americans about their belief in UFO's. They found that 8 percent of the population had seen a UFO but 20 percent know someone who has seen a UFO. About 30 percent believe aliens from space have visited earth. All these polls show that about half the population believes UFO's are real, although what that means is a matter of debate. More significantly, about 10 percent of all North Americans believe they have seen a UFO.
FBI statement said that “the jurisdiction and responsibility for investigating flying saucers have been assumed by the United States Air Force. Information received in this matter is immediately turned over to the Air Force, and the FBI does not attempt to investigate these reports or evaluate the information furnished.” From this point, the FBI’s cases on UFOs dropped off dramatically. Neither the public nor the Air Force sought our expertise as they had during the first few years of the Cold War. There were a few exceptions. In 1977, for example, the Air Force informed us of the end of their “Project Blue Book” investigation of UFO reports. And in 1988, we were asked to look into the release of what appeared to be a 1952 classified document concerning a UFO-related top secret government group called “Majestic 12”—we determined that the document was a fake.
Initially, it was not clear how UFO sightings should be handled. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover recognized that the Air Force—then part of the U.S. Army—clearly had the lead in such issues, but he did want his agents to investigate any “discs” recovered for their potential impact on FBI responsibilities.
Forty years ago, on Dec. 17th, the U.S. Air Force officially shuttered Project Blue Book, the agency's third and final attempt to investigate extraterrestrial sightings and the country's longest official inquiry into UFOs. From 1952 until 1969, more than 12,000 reports were compiled and either classified as "identified" — explained by astronomical, atmospheric or artificial phenomenon — or "unidentified," which made up just 6% of the accounts. Because of such a meager percentage and an overall drop in sightings, officials axed the program and ended the research. So much for the truth being out there.
The zoological hypothesis, whatever its problems, raises the point that UFO's might be natural rather than mechanical, and the possibility that some inanimate natural process creates them also needs to be considered. Such claims have been made since long before the dawn of the UFO age, of course. Before the UFO phenomenon emerged from obscurity in 1947, unusual lights in the sky were often identified as meteors or comets, and the attempt to identify UFO's with swamp gas - though it landed J. Allen Hynek in a great deal of trouble in 1966 - quite possibly pointed to a significant explanation for some sightings. Still, recent decades have focused attention on another set of natural phenomena: the possibility that stain along geological fault lines might generate light phenomena that could explain at least some UFO's.
Some UFOs have shown up in photos. They typically have been pie tins or similar objects, suspended by a thin thread from a tree branch. But there is at least one good movie of UFOs, showing two bright spots of light flying in the distance. They were air force fighters, reflecting the sun as they came in for landings. Aircraft indeed have often been reported as UFOs, particularly when showing unusual patterns of lights or when seen amid uncommon weather conditions. High-altitude balloons have led to further reports, especially when still lit by sunlight while the ground far below is in darkness. Other UFOs have been identified as large satellites or spacecraft, bright stars and planets such as Venus, flocks of birds, reflections of searchlights from clouds, lend-shaped clouds, mirages, and the aurora or Northern lights. One UFO proved to be a firefly trapped between two panes of glass in an aircraft window. Near Brown Mountain in North Carolina, strange lights above the crest result from atmospheric effects that bend the light from distant locomotive headlamps.
UFO sightings have been officially recorded in Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, Australia and the United Kingdom, but the most complete records were those of Project Blue Book. The earliest UFO sightings in recorded history can be found in 4th century Chinese texts claiming that a "moon boat" hovered above China every 12 years.
In spite of protestations by the Air Force, reports of flying saucers and related phenomena would not go away. In spite of the continued sightings Project Grudge presented the "party line" as stated in December 1949, at each opportunity: UFO's are not extraterrestrial craft because Project Grudge proved that all sightings had been explained. Of course, Grudge had proved no such thing. Nevertheless, even the FBI was not immune to this "party line."
Sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena increased, and in 1948 the U.S. Air Force began an investigation of these reports called Project Sign. The initial opinion of those involved with the project was that the UFOs were most likely sophisticated Soviet aircraft, although some researchers suggested that they might be spacecraft from other worlds, the so-called extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH). Within a year, Project Sign was succeeded by Project Grudge, which in 1952 was itself replaced by the longest-lived of the official inquiries into UFOs, Project Blue Book, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The first well-known UFO sighting occurred in 1947, when businessman Kenneth Arnold claimed to see a group of nine high-speed objects near Mount Rainier in Washington while flying his small plane. Arnold estimated the speed of the crescent-shaped objects as several thousand miles per hour and said they moved “like saucers skipping on water.” In the newspaper report that followed, it was mistakenly stated that the objects were saucer-shaped, hence the term flying saucer.