Year in review: Data shows Central Texas reported highest number of 2017 UFO sightings in Texas

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On the morning of May 5, an Austin resident reported to a nationwide agency that they witnessed an unidentified flying object descend at a rapid pace before apparently landing near the nature trail in Austin’s Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park.

“The craft… looked like it could have had a diameter of maybe 50 feet, but I didn’t see the top of it clearly. It was shaped like an upside-down saucer and it had a clearly metallic surface, like brushed aluminum,” the witness wrote in the report.

The witness chose to remain anonymous “unless other people come forward with having seen something,” they wrote.

The report was one of dozens that Central Texas residents submitted to the National UFO Reporting Center, a nonprofit organization based out of Davenport, Washington, that collects and maintains reports of UFO sightings from across the world.

In 2017, Austin residents submitted nine written reports of UFO sightings to the National UFO Reporting Center, second only to San Antonio, which had 10 reported UFO sightings.

Central Texas as a whole, however, had the most reported UFO sightings of any region in Texas with a total of 27.

We’re not Alone Star State

The National UFO Reporting Center was founded in 1974 and was one of the earliest organizations to establish a 24-hour UFO reporting hotline.

“It has been the core of my life for the past 23-and-a-half years,” said Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center. In that time, Davenport stated that the organization has collected approximately 127,000 written reports of UFO sightings. The group has received many more reports over the telephone.

The group also predictably receives prank phone calls – tens of thousands every year – according to Davenport.

“The best way whether to confirm if it is true is to listen to them. If someone has seen a UFO they’re going to be emotionally charged,” he said.

The National UFO Reporting Center makes its data available to the public, a sprawling trove of information on reported UFO sightings from Texas to Newfoundland, Canada, to the United Kingdom.

Texas has a low number of UFO sightings in comparison to other states despite its geographic size and substantial population, with the Lone Star State far behind places like California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Washington.

“There are places that just happen to have more of these sightings every year,” said Jane Kyle, founder of TexasUFOsightings.com.

Kyle launched the website in 2012 and has fielded phone calls, emails and video submissions of UFO sightings and alien visitations ever since.

Despite the relatively low number of UFO sightings reported in Texas in recent years, the state has a unique history of reports of foreign spacecrafts and alien visitors.

In 1897, a UFO reportedly crashed on farmland near Aurora, north of Fort Worth. The crash allegedly killed the pilot of the aircraft and its body was buried in a grave at the local cemetery. A historical sign at the Aurora town cemetery makes note of the incident to this day.

A “Close Encounter of the Third Kind” incident near Houston resulted in one of the few civil court proceedings filed due to a UFO sighting. Betty Cash and Vickie and Colby Landrum sued the U.S. government over injuries sustained from an unidentified aircraft they encountered on FM 1485/2100 near Dayton.

More recently, Davenport took a written report from an alleged former NASA astronaut that described a potential UFO sighting in Athens, Texas.

“He said ‘I don’t know what those objects were, but I guarantee you they were not manufactured on our planet,’” Davenport said.  “That’s a pretty tall statement for a former astronaut. That was quite an interesting case.”

Austin’s nine UFO sighting reports range from descriptions of familiar saucer-shaped flying aircrafts, to reports of homologous formations, to more vague accounts of bright lights. One account described an ominous black rectangle that floated above the city and then flew away in the direction of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The sightings in Austin were just a portion of Central Texas’ 27 reported UFO sightings in 2017, however, and the rest of the region had similar variations in its descriptions of the unidentified objects and the experience of the observer.

One account out of Chappell Hill described a huge, bright light that suddenly vanished in the sky.

A Hutto resident submitted a report of witnessing a formation of red lights above the sky before they quickly disappeared.

In one particularly ill-fated report, a Lakeway resident recounted an aircraft they captured on film in great detail, claiming that the object moved in a manner foreign to the conventional knowledge of military aircraft or man-made satellites. “Space rocks and satellites do not maneuver like that, it’s against the laws of physics,” the entrant wrote.

In a note below the entry, Davenport wrote his own findings after viewing the video that accompanied the Lakeway report: “We suspect that the anomalous object is an insect in flight.”

Stargazing in Central Texas

“In general, we can explain most of things that we see in the night sky,” said James Lynch, a local astronomer.

Lynch offers multiple earthly explanations to alleged UFO sightings, including fireflies or bush pilots that failed to register their flight path with local authorities.

“The most common thing that might be mistaken for a UFO is a satellite flare,” Lynch said.

According to the astronomer, it is common for sunlight to reflect off of the metal body or panels of a man-made satellite and since the object is moving at close to 20,000 mph, it can give the appearance of a fast-travelling, foreign light.

“The flare will only last a few seconds, but it can be the brightest thing in the sky for those few seconds. To someone on the ground the object appears, moves quickly then either fades or disappears,” Lynch said.

Lynch is the outreach chair for the Austin Astronomical Society, a nonprofit astronomy advocacy and engagement group that was founded in 1969. Its members probably look at the skies more than any other Central Texas resident.

The organization coordinates several events every year for citizens who want to engage in stargazing activities. The Austin Astronomical Society even maintains Eagle Eye Observatory, a dark-sky observation facility with two large telescopes located outside of Burnet.

Central Texas residents can look forward to an eclipse of the moon in early 2018, according to Lynch. On Jan. 31, Texans have the opportunity to watch the beginning of the total phase of an eclipse of the moon as it sets and the sun rises.

“The best places to see this would be anywhere with a clear view to the horizon in the west, preferably to the west of Austin, but a hilltop with a view to the west works also,” Lynch said.

Lynch said that he “absolutely” believes in the presence of other life in the universe, but the astronomer is more lukewarm to the assertion that intelligent life has visited Earth.

“The distances involved in interstellar travel are huge,” Lynch said. “For aliens to make a round trip they would have to live for at least 6,000 years.”

Even still, Davenport receives phone calls and written UFO sighting reports to his website on a daily basis, and Kyle continues to receive reports from across Texas about alien visitations, abductions and every kind of UFO imaginable.

“If you just look up in the sky long enough you’ll probably see one,” Kyle said.

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Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. He additionally worked with an investigative news organization where he reported on environmental topics and was a featured writer for Epicast Network, a Pittsburgh podcast company. Iain has now transitioned full-time into covering Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto.
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