UFO Sightings in North America Increased by More Than 75 Percent in the Last Year

This is not a photo of Area 51.
This is not a photo of Area 51.
ktsimage/iStock via Getty Images

In 2018, a modest 3395 people in the U.S. and Canada submitted their accounts of UFO sightings to the National UFO Reporting Center. In 2019, that number jumped to 5971.

Apparently, aliens are especially fond of flying their aircrafts over California, Florida, and Washington; according to ABC News, they were the three most popular states for UFO sightings in 2019, with 485, 385, and 222 reports, respectively. Nevada, home of the infamous Area 51, totaled only about 70 for the year.

Peter Davenport, director of the Washington-based organization, told ABC News that he didn’t have any insight as to why the number had jumped nearly 76 percent in just one year.

"One of the mysteries of ufology is there is a fluctuation in the number of reports over the years," he said. "Some years it’s been low, but it’s gotten higher recently."

American Astronomical Society spokesman Rick Fienberg, on the other hand, offered a few ideas to ABC News: Not only were Jupiter and Venus extra-visible last year, but SpaceX sent a total of 180 new satellites into space. Since the National UFO Reporting Center simply catalogs reports—it doesn’t investigate them—it’s likely that many are actually planets, satellites, or other easily explainable phenomena. As Fienberg pointed out, the u in UFO stands for unidentified, not unidentifiable.

"If you’re not keeping up with the news and not familiar with the skyline, you might mistakenly see an unidentified flying object. It may be unidentified to you, but known to others," Fienberg said.

We’re not ruling out the possibility that extraterrestrial beings are getting more careless about concealing themselves and their vehicles as time goes on—they’ve supposedly been slipping up as far back as 1400 BCE. Find out about 12 notorious UFO sightings from history here.

[h/t ABC News]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail

ESA
ESA

It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]