Based on data from the National UFO Reporting Center, the map below displays over 90,000 reports of UFO sightings dating back to 1905. Each circle corresponds to a reported UFO, with the size representing the number of reports received. Thanks also to the Mutual UFO Network for allowing me to reproduce images and videos from their website.
>>>>>>>>>> Go to interactive map of UFO sightings
The most corroborated UFO sightings
Assuming more reported sightings = more credible, these are the 10 most credible UFO sightings in recent history in the U.S.
1) Tinley Park Lights, Tinley Park, IL (10/2004) – 77 reports
2) Cone of Light, East Coast (9/2009) – 75 reports
3) Tinley Park Lights, Tinley Park, IL (10/2005) – 72 reports
4) Phoenix Lights, Phoenix, AZ (3/1997) – 65 reports
5) Blue-Green Fireball, the Midwest (7/1997) – 48 reports
6) Tinley Park Lights, Tinley Park, IL (8/2004) – 45 reports
7) Blue-Green Fireball, the Midwest (11/1999) – 43 reports
8) Washginton Fireball, Renton, WA (7/2012) – 40 reports
9) Rockford Lights, Rockford, IL (1/2001) – 25 reports
10) Lights Over NJ Turnpike, Carteret, NJ (7/2001) – 25 reports
Illinois is involved in 6 of the 10 UFO sightings listed above, as well as several other mass UFO sightings further down the list.
I thought that was interesting because when you look at the total UFO reports per capita, IL actually ranks pretty low compared with other states.
Hover over the map to see how the states measure up
My initial thought was that it must have something to do with O’Hare Airport, the busiest airport in the U.S. through most of this period.
Are there many UFO sightings around other busy airports?
The blue markers are the five busiest airports in the U.S.
Aside from Chicago, it does not appear there is much correlation between mass UFO sightings and big airports.
One pattern I did notice was that many of the mass UFO sightings occur particular dates.
Here is what you get if you plot the number of UFO sightings for each day of the year.
UFOs seem to have a penchant for firework displays.
Both #5 and #8 in the list above occurred on the Fourth of July. And in both cases, the UFOs were described as “fireballs.”
Aside from the obvious explanation, it could just be that more people are looking up at the sky on those nights.
Take a look at these three videos of the “Washington Fireball” UFO sighting, which occurred on July 4th of 2012, and see whether you think they are actually fireworks.
Some of the bigger UFO sightings also coincide with large meteor showers or space craft launches. Though when I looked into it, the effect did not come out very strong.
Update: A few people thought it would be interesting to see how UFO sightings match up vs military bases.
Here is a plot of all military installations, ranges, and training areas. Though without an idea of which ones to focus on, I think there are too many to draw any real conclusions.
U.S. Military Bases
A few others asked to see the trend of reported sightings over time.
For the past 20 years, it has been growing at a pretty steady rate of about 350 additional reports each year.
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Attribution and methods:
- Thanks to NUFORC for making their data available, and to MUFON for allowing me to use the images and videos from their website.
- To get the coordinates of the reports, I used Open Geocode and the Google Maps API to geocode each one by city and state.
- To group the reports together by UFO, I used a very simple clustering algorithm, which looked at coordinates and the dates. In general, incidents that occur on the same night within about 50 miles of each other will be grouped together.
- The videos and images were added manually from MUFON’s database and from Youtube.
- For the map, I created the base tiles using Mapbox Studio, and used the Mapbox API for the features.
- The animations were done with D3.
I'm fascinated by data visualization and the ways that data is transforming our understanding of the world. I spend a lot of time with my face buried in Excel, and when I find something interesting I write about it here and as a contributor for the Huffington Post.
More about my background