During an independent NASA panel studying unidentified flying objects (UFOs) — now categorized as “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena,” or UAPs, by the U.S. government — officials on Wednesday shared new details about the strange orbs.
The panel teased the findings as part of a new study into the presence of UAPs, which, unlike UFOs, can include unexplained phenomena in oceans, space and on the ground. The full study is expected to be released later this summer.
Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), said the “metallic orbs” are the most common type of UAPs and are reported from “all over the world.”
Kirkpatrick said the spherical objects, which are about one to four metres in diameter, are not an “apparent threat to airborne-asset safety.” They are, however, capable of “very interesting apparent manoeuvres.”
The orbs have been spotted flying at several different velocities. Some do not appear to move at all while others have been observed in active flight. The UAPs do not show evidence of “thermal exhaust,” like heat created by a vehicle’s engine.
Based on footage, the orbs can be white, silver or translucent. They are usually observed at an altitude between 10,000 and 30,000 feet, around the same height as most commercial aircraft.
The metallic orbs are not evidence of extraterrestrial life, the panel stressed — despite many theories circulating online — and better data is still required to understand the orbs and the possibility of life beyond our planet.
The 16-member panel of government officials, oceanographers and academics did not have any additional information. As of now, officials said they have been unable to intercept or capture any orbs.
“Being able to come to some kind of conclusion is going to take time, and until we can get better-resolved data on similar objects that we can then do a larger analysis on,” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick was sure to note that many reported UAPs, including ones that seemingly resemble the unknown metallic orbs, can be logically explained. He shared an example of three high-velocity orbs detected by a sensor in the Western U.S. After investigation, the orbs were revealed to likely be far-away commercial aircraft adjusting their flight paths.
AARO receives between 50 and 100 UAP reports every month, Kirkpatrick said. He claimed only two to five per cent of those reports are truly unexplained.
“While a large number of cases in AARO’s holdings remain technically unresolved, this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with those cases,” he said. “For the few objects that do demonstrate potentially anomalous characteristics, AARO is approaching these cases with the highest level of objectivity and analytical rigour.”
A huge, and perhaps unsurprising, challenge in collecting UAP data has to do with the stigma around UFO reports, according to the NASA panel. On Wednesday, several panel members claimed to have been the target of harassment as a result of their research.
“It is really disheartening to hear of the harassment that our panellists have faced online all because they’re studying this topic,” said Nicky Fox, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
She continued: “NASA stands behind our panellists and we do not tolerate abuse. Harassment only leads to further stigmatization of the UAP field, significantly hindering scientific progress and discouraging others to study this important subject matter.”
Wednesday’s panel was not the first time the orbs have been mentioned publicly by government officials. In April, Kirkpatrick appeared before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee where he revealed footage of an orb.
The small, spherical object appeared to shimmer as it quickly zipped above houses and empty fields. The footage was shot during a routine military mission in the Middle East on July 12, 2022, from an American MQ-9 Reaper drone.