The term 'U.F.O.' refers to an Unidentified Flying Object. It is a completely neutral term, and does not denote any specific origin or
classification when used to refer to any specific item. Nevertheless, in the public consciousness, UFO has come to be synonymous with
'flying saucers' and alien spacecraft
- i.e., any object in the sky deemed a UFO is automatically thought of as a machine from another
planet, however unlikely the contention.
Ideally, the term means exactly what it states: it is referring to an object, which is flying, and which one is unable to identify.
The object is likely to be a weather anomaly, a man-made aircraft, or some other mundane circumstance. But it is rarely used in such
an innocent manner, however.
(Note: some speakers, particularly British persons, are likely to pronounce the abbreviation as though it were a distinct word, i.e.,
In 1972, J. Allen Hyneck, an astronomer and one of many people involved
in Project Blue Book, devised a classification standard which
was introduced in his The UFO Experience. Hyneck originally introduced three main divisions to the system - close encounters
of the first, second, and third. As UFO and alien reports became more common and varying, two new divisions - the fourth and fifth -
were introduced to help researchers classify the more outlandish encounters.
A close encounter of the first kind involves the sighting of an unidentified flying object from a distance of less then 500 feet.
The type of spacecraft that is seen would require humans to find equipment financing
just to build a similar prototype.
This usually entails a strange bright light in the night sky or a craft seen at a large distance. It is important to note that the
object can not effect its surroundings.
The second type of close encounter is one in which the object comes in contact with the surrounding area. These types of sightings
usually involve a craft leaving evidence that it had been in the vicinity.
Prime examples are crop circles, scorch marks or impressions in the dirt where landing devices had been.
The most famous close encounter, the close encounter of the third kind, includes the actual sighting of an alien. The beings can be
living or robotic as long as they appear with or near the craft. It must be noted that this type of encounter no longer includes alien
abductions. The close encounter of the third kind would include an observer watching as greys take soil samples from a forest - not
being taken aboard the ship, as in the classic abduction experience.
The first of the two newer divisions of the Hyneck system, the close encounter of the fourth kind, involves actually visiting the
alien ship. This would include voluntarily going aboard the ship, and alien abductions. Two of the most famous types of close encounters
of the fourth kind would be the Betty and Barney Hill case and the Travis Walten case.
The final type of close encounter, the fifth kind, involves communicating with aliens by either standard means or by telepathy. This
can include flashing light signals, building a display or even the use of the mind. In many of the more fantastic alien abductions,
such as the ongoing Whitley Strieber abductions, telepathy is used to commune with the beings.
With these classifications, researchers are better able to group the various aspects of sightings together to form a comprehensive
ability to quickly tell what kind of encounter has taken place. Through the years, the original system has changed but the foundation
has stayed the same.
(Note: U.F.O. is also the name of an early 70's British television show created by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.)