A few weeks ago a number of friends visited us at our home and since we had clear night skies I dragged out my telescope so the group could look at Jupiter, objects in the Milky Way, and a few star clusters. We talked about astronomy and space flight and one of our guests asked, “Are there UFO’s?” My stock answer is: yes, there are flying objects that some people cannot identify. But are unidentified flying objects (UFO) space ships from other planets? Probably not; we see articles, pictures, news stories, and television reports of interesting lights and shiny objects in the sky but in most cases, given time and investigation, these objects are usually identified as aircraft, celestial objects (e.g., planets or stars), meteors, Earth-launched spacecraft, or pranksters.
I recall some years ago, a reported large silvery glowing object over the city where I lived, causing anxiety among the thousands of witnesses. It sat motionless in the daytime sky and then slowly moved away. A local television station later reported the event and eventually identified it as a large science balloon floating at 60,000 feet. When I was a teenager riding with my teacher and other students in a car in northwest Oklahoma, we beheld what seemed to be a very strange event. Driving eastbound in mid afternoon we saw several silvery slim-shaped objects moving quickly at low altitude over the fields near Enid. The objects swiftly passed each other, turned, and reversed course. All of us in the car wondered if we, indeed, witnessed a UFO incident. As we approached town it was obvious that the objects were T-38 military training aircraft conducting touch and go maneuvers from Vance Air Force Base.
Project Blue Book , a code name for the U. S. Air Force’s UFO investigation, lists records and analysis of UFO encounters from March of 1952 to January 1970 when the project was closed. Underfunded, the project was relegated to a collection of sightings kept as a database, some of which are in reference  below. Not all Project Blue Book incidents are resolved. I recall a story in the 1960’s that the military blamed UFO sightings, for lack of any other explanation, on “swamp gas” implying that natural gas, released from the ground, somehow ignited creating a bright light. The listed reasons for the Air Force conducting UFO studies are:
1) To determine if UFO phenomena presents a threat to the security of the United States.
2) To determine if the UFO phenomena exhibits any technological advances which could be channeled into Research and Development [sic].
3) To explain or identify the stimulus which caused the observer to submit his report as an unidentified flying object.
The Air Force never confirmed the existence flying saucers or other craft from outer space and further discounted any evidence of their existence . Witness accounts can include remarkable details, but these details may be embellished. The officers and personnel managing this organization included in their public briefings tips on how to identify flying objects and possible common explanations .
An easy excuse for the lack of evidence suggests the government or military is hiding extraterrestrial craft or alien autopsies from public view. Area 51 a secret military facility near Groom Lake, a dry lake, in Nevada where advanced military aircraft are tested  is sometimes used in movies or novels as an covert location for storing alien space ships or alien beings. Of course this is only speculation, but is the military involved in increased sightings of strange flying objects in the past few decades? Possibly; for example, in the early sixties, technology had just advanced to commercial jet aircraft in previous decade with the advent of the Boeing 707 which cruises at 30,000 to 40,000 feet at less than Mach 1. However, in the mid-sixties, the government revealed the SR-71, a very high performance reconnaissance aircraft capable of speeds exceeding Mach 3 and altitudes of greater than 80,000 feet . Indeed, it is not surprising if this and other high performance aircraft accounted for UFO sightings prior to their declassification.
In the Old Testament, there are passages in the book of Ezekiel  indicating strange events that could be translated into evidence of extraterrestrial life arriving in a spacecraft. Given the highly descriptive text it is easy to visualize a spacecraft; and there are such interpretations in Josef Franz Blumrich’s book, Spaceships of Ezekiel. I find it interesting that there are few other similar events described in the Bible until you get to the book of Revelation, and so I take the prophet Ezekiel as witnessing a one time event. If alien spaceships arrived in the sixth century BC then I suspect their interface with humans would have advanced a little further by now.
More recent publications, such as Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods in the early 1970’s, have expanded the UFO culture. There are UFO enthusiasts convinced that an alien spacecraft and celestial beings crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Other speculation has hangers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio supposedly containing spaceships or dead aliens.
Carl Sagan had an excellent viewpoint in his television series, Cosmos: “If we can’t identify a light [in the sky], that doesn’t make it a spaceship”. Some people are devious and love to play pranks based on other’s beliefs. It isn’t difficult to create a flying object glowing in the night sky, or even a group of them. Crop circles are, in my opinion, another hoax, and even though some of the art work is very creative I sometimes wonder about the loss of crops due to this borderline vandalism. A UFO enthusiast will counter with; can you prove that it isn’t a spaceship? Not initially, but it still doesn’t make it a spaceship. When we have an unusual event, we should look for easy answers before we jump to the conclusion of ET finally deciding to make an appearance. The enthusiast will point to the plethora of videos and witnesses. Sagan responds; “Extraordinary claims are not supported by extraordinary evidence”. A video or account by a supposed witness is not extraordinary evidence. Videos and pictures can be faked.
Where are the museums showing real alien artifacts? Where are the credible scrutinized technical papers describing the composition of pieces of space craft or biology of an alien life form?
All of this is not to say that there is no life elsewhere. I believe that one day our species will make contact with other technological civilizations. With all of the stars and galaxies in the seeable universe there probably is life beyond Earth. There may be life forms, likely primitive, on Mars, Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons), and within a few dozen light years from Earth. Life may include animals on livable planets of nearby stars. But so far we have no evidence that aliens nearby are capable of communication, possibly because too little time has transpired between our first radio broadcasts and getting a response from equally advanced civilizations. Stars with planets of technologically developed life may be a hundred or more light years away. In our history explorers crossed vast oceans to lands they never saw before and cautiously interfaced with curious inhabitants. I suspect aliens from other worlds will approach us cautiously, as well, more fearful of potential diseases or perhaps our defensive nature. But it may be risky to predict the thoughts of highly technical alien visitors. If contact with aliens does occur, it will be very interesting, indeed.
 Ezekiel 1: 4-28