The authors hypothesized that quarantines and social distancing measures may have led to more free time and increased attention to the environment, leading to more UFO sightings.
However, their analysis showed that while there was an increase in UFO reports in 2020 compared to the previous year, there was no relationship between the number of reports and social factors such as the pandemic.
The authors of the study identified the start of regular launches of Starlink satellites as a complicating factor often reported as UFOs. The study suggests that future studies should explore other factors that may influence UFO reports.
Research paper authors Chase Cockrell of the University of Vermont and Mark Rodeguier and Linda Murphy of the UFO Research Center have been trying to understand whether the COVID-19 pandemic is linked to an increase in UFO sightings.
The authors hypothesized that the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to quarantines and social distancing measures, may have led to an increase in UFO sightings.
The rationale behind this hypothesis was that as more people stay at home and spend time outdoors, there may have been an increase in free time, which could lead to more UFO sightings.
In addition, the scientists tested the idea that increased feelings of anxiety and insecurity could lead to increased attention to the environment, which could make people notice unusual phenomena more often and make sense of what they experienced, linking it to UFOs.
The authors analyzed data from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) and Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), two of the most comprehensive UFO reporting sites in the United States, from 2018 to 2020 and compared the number of UFO reports before and after the onset of the pandemic.
To test whether social factors may have affected posting rates, they used publicly available social mobility data from the Google Community Mobility Reports and SARS-CoV-2 cases and deaths, which are proxy indicators of stress and anxiety.
Their analysis showed that in 2020 the number of UFO reports increased from the previous year by about 600 reports in each database.
However, there was no association between the number of reports aggregated across the US or by state with mobility and pandemic health measures, which does not confirm that social factors led to an increase in reports.
The researchers then looked for alternative causes and identified the start of regular Starlink satellite launches starting in late 2019 as a complicating factor.
These launches include up to 60 small satellites at the same time, which are very characteristic and often easily visible. As a result, many people understandably reported them as UFOs.
The analysis demonstrated the relationship between launch and subsequent messages. After deleting these posts, they retested for association with social and pandemic health factors, but again found no association.
It is important to note that after the removal of Starlink reports, there was no statistical increase in the number of posts in 2020, and even the number of posts in NUFORC decreased.
“This study sheds light on the potential influence of social factors on UFO reporting,” said Science Director Marc Rodegier of the Center for UFO Research.
While they found that the COVID-19 pandemic did not significantly impact UFO reports, their results suggest that future studies should explore other factors that may influence reports.
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