Discussion and reports of UFOs — or the more modern term, UAPs (unidentified anomalous phenomena) — have been increasingly thrust into the mainstream in recent years, driven by a push for answers from lawmakers and the public alike.
Some perceive UAPs as a potential national security threat — suggesting that sightings could be experimental craft from rival nations like Russia, China, or other U.S. adversaries. Such fears were heightened by last year’s encounter with a Chinese spy balloon.
Both commercial and military pilots have become more vocal about their unexplainable sightings, marking a significant shift from past decades when discussing such matters openly often led to ostracization.
Zooming in on the data, Nevada’s Lincoln County topped the list for the most reported UFO sightings among U.S. counties between 2000 and 2023, with 820.9 sightings per 100,000 residents, according to the National UFO Reporting Center. This nonprofit organization allows individuals to file reports of unusual phenomena. Following Lincoln County are Arthur County, Nebraska (618.6 per 100,000 residents), and Alpine County, California (594.1). Notably, there are also hotspots on the East Coast, including New York’s Hamilton County (451.9) and Dare County, North Carolina (371.4).
The hotspot locations correlate with areas known for their dark skies, where reduced light pollution enhances the visibility of celestial phenomena. For instance, Hamilton County in the Adirondacks boasts some of the darkest skies east of the Mississippi.
While anyone can submit a report to the National UFO Reporting Center, volunteers there diligently sift through submissions to filter out hoaxes and false reports. Christian Stepien, the center’s chief technology officer, estimates that only about 5% of people who witness unusual phenomena file a report, suggesting that the actual number of sightings could be much higher, especially in areas like Lincoln County, where residents are particularly UFO-aware.
UFO reports notably surged during the initial launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites in 2019 and 2020, resembling a “train” streaking across the night sky. However, Stepien notes that as more people become familiar with the appearance of Starlink, such sightings have diminished.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office in 2022 to investigate UAPs, reflecting concerns among government officials about potential national security threats. A 2023 Pentagon report analyzing 366 UAP cases found that more than half were attributed to balloons, drones, or “airborne clutter,” leaving many cases unresolved.
Despite the growing acceptance of UFO/UAP discourse, concrete evidence of extraterrestrial visitations remains elusive. Many sightings can be attributed to military activities, satellite launches, or natural phenomena. Nonetheless, the quest for truth continues: “The truth is out there.”