Alien encounters of the absurd kind?

Alien encounters of all kinds have been experienced by humans through the ages; but just-released files released by the UK's National Archives on a defunct UFO-watching department give for the first time some indication of the vast number of 'flying saucer' sightings every year, and how many of them are in the spotter's mind. For more than half a century till it was closed down in December 2009, a unit of the Royal Air Force has been keeping tabs of UFO or unidentified flying object sightings, including scanning radio waves. The defence ministry closed its UFO desk because it served "no defence purpose" and was taking staff away from "more valuable defence-related activities", the files show. The unit was shut down in a year that showed its second highest number of sightings on record. By November, when it closed, it had had 643 reports, treble the number of the previous year (208), and far higher than over the first seven years of the decade, when annual sightings were a relatively stable 150. It was beaten only by 1978, when the release of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind led to a surge in interest - and 750 sightings. The latest tranche of 25 declassified files covers the final two years of work carried out by the UFO desk, from 2007 to November 2009. They show UFOs were reported at several UK landmarks, including Stonehenge, the Houses of Parliament, and Blackpool Pier. But the files show that the unit was inundated by reports from the public about 'Chinese lanterns', the flying lights that have become popular at weddings and parties. This made a strong case for civil servants arguing for the unit's closure. Such sightings are unlikely in India, where loud and garish 'rockets' are preferred to quietly floating Chinese Lanterns on all occasions - apart from the fact that one can hardly see a star in the sky due to the all-pervasive atmospheric pollution. Nonetheless, there are sightings – for example, what can one say about mountaineers atop Kanchenjunga – the world's third-highest peak – sighting a coffin-shaped object in the sky that hovers high above them for a couple of seconds and then zips away? If just one climber, or even two, had seen it one could dismiss it as an oxygen-deprived hallucination. But how does one dismiss several climbers from at least two different expeditions seeing the same phenomenon? One might perhaps conclude with Hamlet that ''There are more things in earth and heaven, Horatio, than meet the eye.'' Source: Article

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