SPACING OUT: Sticking to science

When I sit down to write this column every week (almost), it’s always tempting to write about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.

UAPs, if you like acronyms.

Or, we could go with the term they are most famously known by: UFOs.

But there is a reason why astronomers don’t like to talk about UFOs, and it’s not because they’re trying to hide something.

Astronomy is a science, therefore astronomers are scientists. And science is grounded on certain principles. Scientists make educated guesses, also known as hypotheses, based on things that we can see, hear and touch. They’re interested in things that are factual.

Make no mistake, UAPs — I’m going to go with the more recent term in this column — are visible. These things are real. I have never personally seen any, but many people have. Sure, some of those people were probably just “seeing things,” but so many others working in our armed forces have witnessed these objects and provided detailed reports, so there is no question something is happening.

Right now, though, we’re still trying to figure out how to study UAPs, and until there is a widely accepted way to do this, the study of these objects falls outside the purview of science.

Despite all this, what’s going on is intriguing. Congress is getting ready for a report, likely ready by the end of this month, that will possibly reveal more about just how much we know about UAPs. Will the report be more of the same — a collection of eyewitness accounts, little speculation as to what they are — or, will there be some definitive conclusions?

For instance, will the report say something to the effect that there is no way humans could pilot these craft (there isn’t, from the way these objects move), basically saying that UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin?

That would probably be the closest anyone gets to any sort of disclosure, at least for right now.

But, as intriguing as UAPs — or UFOs — are, my work is almost strictly devoted to what we already know, and sharing that with everyone is what I enjoy.

But, things could change sometime soon. We’ll see — I won’t hold my breath.

Joe Malan is astronomy writer and presentation editor for the Enid News & Eagle. Email him at

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