NASA is putting a team together to study unidentified aerial phenomena, popularly known as UFOs, the U.S. space agency said Thursday.
The team will gather data on “events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena — from a scientific perspective,” the agency said.
NASA said it was interested in UAPs from a security and safety perspective. There was no evidence UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin, NASA added. The study is expected to take nine months.
“NASA believes that the tools of scientific discovery are powerful and apply here also,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
“We have access to a broad range of observations of Earth from space — and that is the lifeblood of scientific inquiry. We have the tools and team who can help us improve our understanding of the unknown. That’s the very definition of what science is. That’s what we do.”
The team will be led by astrophysicist David Spergel, who is president of the Simons Foundation in New York City.
NASA said the limited number of observations of UAPs made it difficult to draw scientific conclusions about the nature of such events.
“Given the paucity of observations, our first task is simply to gather the most robust set of data that we can,” said Spergel, professor emeritus and formerly chair of the department of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey. “We will be identifying what data — from civilians, government, non-profits, companies — exists, what else we should try to collect, and how to best analyze it.”
A first step for the team would be to attempt to establish which UAPs are natural, NASA said.
In May, lawmakers held the first congressional public hearing on UFOs in decades. The hearing was a high-profile moment for a controversial topic that has long been relegated to the fringes of public policy. Government officials warned that UAPs must be investigated and taken seriously as a potential threat to national security.