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75 years of unidentified flying objects [interactive]

In the summer of 1947, a private pilot flying over the state of Washington saw what he described as several pie-pan-shaped aircraft traveling in formation at remarkably high speed. Within days, journalists began referring to the objects as “flying saucers.” Over the course of that summer, Americans reported seeing them in the skies overhead. News quickly spread and, within a few years, flying saucers were being spotted across the world. The question on everyone’s mind was: what were they? Some new super weapon in the Cold War? Strange weather patterns? Optical illusions? Or perhaps it was all a case of mass hysteria? Some, however, concluded they could only be one thing: spacecraft built and piloted by extraterrestrials. The age of the unidentified flying object—the UFO—had arrived.

Explore 75 years of this global preoccupation, with this interactive, multimedia map. The UFO phenomenon extends beyond national borders and beyond civilian sightings. You can also trace the military, government, and scientific communities’ evolving responses to lights in the sky and the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Featured image by Albert Antony on Unsplash.

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