A picture of the UFO sighted in Hillsdale in 1966.

While UFOs have been around for decades, recently they have started playing by dif­ferent rules.

Uniden­tified flying objects, also called uniden­tified aerial phe­nomena or flying saucers, have made a lasting impact on popular culture. Often, talk about them has con­no­ta­tions of extrater­res­trial life. Strictly speaking, a UFO is just what the name says it is: an uniden­tified flying object. The idea of UFOs entered the common con­sciousness after the invention of rockets fol­lowing WWII. Since the ear­liest days of UFO sightings, people have always spec­u­lated whether alien life is behind their appear­ances. The first well-recorded UFO sighting was in 1947. Kenneth Arnold, an avi­ation hob­byist, wit­nessed nine high-speed flying objects while he was on a joyride in the moun­tains of Wash­ington state. He acci­den­tally coined the term flying saucers after he said the objects moved “like saucers skipping on water” and the press mis­in­ter­preted his words. Arnold’s sighting cat­alyzed the world’s interest in UFOs, which perhaps peaked in the eighties but is still far from dying out.

Lately, UFOs have begun to play by dif­ferent rules. John Rat­cliffe, the former director of national intel­li­gence, said in a Popular Mechanics article that a recent UFO broke the sound barrier without cre­ating a sonic boom. A sonic boom occurs when an air­craft flies faster than the speed of sound in the air and causes a sudden change in pressure. Sci­en­tists have never observed any data implying an object can move faster than sound without a sonic boom.

“While engi­neers can take steps to try and reduce sonic booms, physics says it’s impos­sible to out­right elim­inate them,” Senior Editor Andrew Daniels wrote for Popular Mechanics.

But this UFO did just that somehow. Addi­tionally, its movement was dif­ferent from any other UFO ever sighted. It not only traveled at remarkable speeds but it also moved in bizarre ways current tech­nology cannot achieve.

“In short, there are things we are observing that are dif­ficult to explain,” Rat­cliffe told Popular Mechanics.

Whether or not aliens are behind it, the reports about this UFO could be the first taste of an influx of infor­mation to come in 2021. Last year, the US Navy released three videos con­firming the authen­ticity of UFO sightings. This summer, the Uniden­tified Aerial Phe­nomena Task Force, an oper­ation of the Department of Defense, is set to release even more infor­mation on the same subject. A bill signed in December of 2020 required that the UAPTF dis­close what they know about UFOs to the public by June 25th of this year, and there is spec­u­lation that it could be very sig­nif­icant. While the Navy released its videos of UFO sightings, the Air Force has been quiet on the topic. Rat­cliffe con­firmed to Popular Mechanics, however, that Air Force pilots and satel­lites have also spotted UFOs. Thus, the Air Force could be on the cusp of adding to the UFO con­ver­sation as early as this summer.

With this exciting news ahead, it is important for Hillsdale stu­dents to know their roots as early con­trib­utors to UFO culture. In 1966, a UFO was spotted over Slayton Arboretum by res­i­dents of McIntyre dorm. Many wit­nesses reported seeing bright lights over the arboretum for a number of minutes, before the object moved and faded into the horizon. Fas­ci­nat­ingly, this was just one of many sightings in Michigan at the time, others occurring in Ann Arbor and Dexter. But it was Hillsdale’s UFO that caught the media’s eye and caused an explosion in UFO stories.