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This article was published 11/8/2009 (3889 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The truth is out there, people. Whether or not it includes spaceships and aliens is still up for debate, but according to a 20-year longitudinal study of Canadian UFO reports released Tuesday, nearly 15,000 of us have had reason to suspect we are not alone.
The reasons ranged from thousands of sightings of star-like lights manoeuvring oddly in the night sky, to hundreds of sightings of "fireballs" in the sky, to one where dozens of people saw a huge, lantern-shaped object flying slowly over a lake in the Yukon.
Most of the 8,601 UFO sightings reviewed by Winnipeg-based Ufology Research had two witnesses, involved a white object -- even triangles were much more common than your stereotypical saucer or cigar shape -- and lasted an average of 17 minutes.
And we're not just talking about folks who just stumbled out of a bar or those who like to wear tin foil hats here: Reports were filed by witnesses with government and military agencies, police, civilian UFO groups and online UFO websites, says the study's co-author. And report they did. The number of UFO sightings has increased from 141 (in 1989) to more than 1,000 per year.
"It's a persistent phenomena," says Winnipeg ufologist Chris Rutkowski, who co-authored the study with Geoff Dittman. "People are witnessing something in the sky. Whether it's aliens or not is a matter for further study, but there's a small but significant percentage (of sightings) every year that we simply can't explain."
Out of those 8,500-plus UFO cases, only about 14 per cent were labelled as unexplained after review by investigators. And less than four per cent were classified as "close encounters" -- meaning someone claimed to have seen something (or some being) up close.
But Rutkowski, who has degrees in astronomy and education and describes himself as an "open-minded skeptic," says even if one report proves to be valid, it'll be a very important scientific discovery. After the United States Air Force ended its Project Blue Book study of 12,000 UFO cases in 1969 and concluded that UFOs were not a threat to national security, many people assumed the "fad" had passed, he said.
"Here we are 40 years later and not only is the phenomenon not going away, the numbers are increasing. This is hard scientific data and there isn't a comparable study anywhere," said Rutkowski, who presented the 20-year study to UFO researchers, many of whom are scientists, across North America during the recent Mutual UFO Network in Dallas, Texas. "But we're no closer to the truth, in some ways."
Rutkowski currently receives around six UFO reports each week. The most recent and noteworthy, he says, came last Friday from six people who reported seeing a large orange light moving along the shoreline of Dauphin Lake, 15 kilometres east of Dauphin.
"It stopped and then moved away from them. They said it 'moved at a speed we've never seen a plane move at,' and there was no sound at all," Rutkowski recalled.
To view the study, check the web at www.tinyurl.com/canadaUFO.