In August several people in Carlsbad reported something unexplainable illuminating the night skies of the rural desert area.
They reported red lights appearing in a line, disappearing and reappearing and flashing unexpectedly. The Air Force later took credit for the events, explaining them away as aircraft testing operations at nearby Holloman Air Force Base.
But the initially unidentified flying objects captured the imagination of the community lighting up social media with videos and subsequent theories as to the origins of the mysterious lights.
New Mexicans’ interest in UFOs appeared to grow in recent years, according to recent data from the National UFO Reporting Center compiled by MyVision.org, with a spike in the number of reports from the Land of Enchantment observed in the last five years.
In total over all time, New Mexico ranked 28th in the U.S. with 1,578 UFO reports filed in the database, read the study.
California was the top state of all time when it came to UFO sightings, the report read, with 15,401 sightings reported.
The study compared UFO sightings with states’ population, compiling total UFO sightings per 100,000 residents to account for increases in rural states like New Mexico or Idaho.
Higher populations states like California and Texas were believed to have the most reports as they have the most people, but the study hoped to illustrate a rise in the overall interest of a state’s people in reporting UFOs.
California fell to 41st place in the last five years with a reporting rate of just 2,661 reports per capita.
Idaho was the state with the highest rate of UFOs reported in the last half-decade with 420 reports per capita, accounting for 32 percent of that state’s all-time reports.
“Recent years have shown a surge in UFO sightings, especially when you compare the number of reports to the state’s population,” read the report. “There’s a rise in sightings in the Pacific Northwest, Mountain West, and New England states, with Idaho sporting the highest amount of sightings in the last five years.”
Using that methodology, New Mexico climbed to fifth in the nation with 391 per 100,000 residents reported in the last five years.
That’s about a quarter of all UFO sightings reported in the state, read the report, a place known for a history of some of the most talked-about sightings in U.S. history.
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Roswell, New Mexico in the southeast corner of the state was known for one of the earliest reports of UFO sightings to gain national attention in 1947.
What became known as the “Roswell Incident” entailed a local rancher on the city’s outskirts reporting that he found materials he believed were not of this world.
Federal investigators initially labeled the discovery a UFO, later recanting and claiming it was a weather balloon.
Questions lingered in the decades since, and the city is known as a hotbed of interest in UFOs and for gatherings of enthusiasts.
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The MyVision.org study also conducted a national survey showing 78 percent of Americans believe aliens exists and one in 10 claim they’ve seen a UFO or something from another planet.
Another 33 percent, per the report said they believe the government has captured an extraterrestrial being.
Growing interest in UFOs was reflected in recent actions by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) convening a panel this month to conduct an independent study on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), a government term for UFOs.
The study began Oct. 24, gathering data from civilian entities like the National UFO Reporting Center, along with governments and commercial organizations, planning to release a report in 2023.
The 16-person panel made up of scientists, astronauts, professors and other experts will endeavor to use data already in existence to draw “scientific conclusions” as to the causes of the reports, said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate.
“Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA,” he said. “Understanding the data we have surrounding unidentified aerial phenomena is critical to helping us draw scientific conclusions about what is happening in our skies.
“Data is the language of scientists and makes the unexplainable, explainable.”
Director at the UFO Center Peter Davenport said he’s not convinced NASA’s recent efforts were in good faith after decades of cover-ups Davenport said the U.S. government perpetrated over the years.
“The government has been lying to the American people about the UFO phenomenon for 75 years. From my vantage the UFO phenomenon appears to be real. It appears to be what it claims to be,” Davenport said from the center near Spokane, Washington.
“Intelligent creatures have managed to somehow to get to our neck of the woods. They appear to be coming to earth now and then.”
He said as time has gone on, people have become more comfortable talking about their experiences with UFOs, and more coverage in the media has led to more willingness to report.
“People have seen other people talk about it. It’s the herd mentality,” Davenport said. “Usually only one or two people will come forward unless those first people go to the press. Then people come flooding forward.”
If someone does spot a UFO, Davenport said the first step is to write it down and report it to the Center on its website.
He said meticulous, initial notes are essential to documenting the experience before it can be influenced by conversation or input from others.
“Talking is a feel-good exercise. It risks embellishing the story,” he said. “The more you talk about a complex experience, the more likely you’re going to change your story. We like to get a report that’s unbiased as much as possible. We encourage people to write out a factual statement.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.