By Tim Binnall
Despite the coronavirus pandemic understandably dominating the news over the past year, UFOs managed to remain a hot topic of conversation in the mainstream media and among the general public in 2020 as the phenomenon strengthened its grasp on the zeitgeist with several headline-making stories, sightings, and strange incidents. There were a number of developments surrounding what some contend or hope is an incremental march towards official UFO disclosure, prominent international figures and pop stars alike offered what might best be described as endorsements of the tantalizing topic, and, as always, the phenomenon itself made all manner of appearances in the skies while continuing to remain maddeningly out of reach.
On the disclosure front, April of 2020 saw the Pentagon officially release the three UFO videos captured by Navy pilots, the most famous of which being the 'Tic Tac' footage, which had been the subject of considerable speculation and discussion over the last few years. Alas, when asked about the videos, President Trump offered little in the way of answers, instead marveling at their fantastic nature and strangely musing "I just wonder if it's real." And, later in the year, what may turn out to be the most significant UFO event of 2020 occurred when the Department of Defense announced that they had created a UAP task force that would "detect, analyze and catalog" unidentified aerial phenomena "that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security."
Internationally, the Pentagon's decision to release the UFO videos prompted the Japanese Ministry of Defense to issue new reporting guidelines for pilots who may encounter unknown aerial phenomena. Meanwhile, the former director of France's foreign intelligence agency, Alain Juillet, raised eyebrows when he hinted that UFOs may have an off-world origin and advocated for revealing this to the world. His intriguing thoughts were exceeded in early December by the former head of Israel's space security program, Yediot Aharonot, who made the bold claim that America had already been in contact with aliens and that disclosure had been thwarted by a Galactic Federation of extraterrestrials.
No doubt owing to the fact that so many people were housebound due to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, UFO sightings appeared to be on the rise in 2020. One trend which emerged over the course of the year were reports of clusters or trios of unidentified lights. Such curious groupings were spotted in Texas, Washington, Nevada, and New Jersey as well as in Mexico, South Korea, and Siberia. Other noteworthy cases from 2020 included a pilot who filmed something anomalous while flying over Utah, a video of 'space guests' shared by a Russian cosmonaut aboard the ISS, and an official UK report on an incident in which a plane nearly collided with a UFO.
As is often the case, there were several instances in which UFO reports turned out to be prosaic events such as a rocket re-entry over Hawaii which sparked alien jokes on social media, an Iron Man balloon that was mistaken for an alien invader in India, and a viral 'mass sighting' in New Jersey that generated a lot of media attention until it was determined that the unidentified craft was, in fact, the Goodyear Blimp. Additionally, there were occasions in which a UFO sighting made news not because of what was seen, but who the witness happened to be such as when pop stars Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato detailed their own experiences with the phenomenon.
More mysterious moments from the past year included a purported UFO landing caught on film in Colombia, an odd balloon-like object that sparked a frenzy in Japan, and a series of eerie flashes that filled the night sky over Utah. Also in 2020, fans of classic UFO cases were treated to some surprising new insights when it was revealed that a heretofore unheard recording from the legendary Pascagoula abduction event of 1973 had been furnished by a former police officer who investigated the event and a diary belonging to Roswell witness Major Jesse Marcel had been unearthed. And, unsurprisingly, the UFO phenomenon provided a fair share of wacky moments this past year such as when a Mexican research group claimed that an underwater alien base thwarted hurricanes and a man in Utah was arrested while stealing a truck in order to get to a rendezvous with extraterrestrials.
Ultimately, perhaps the most profound story of the past year when it comes to the UFO phenomenon may have simply been the surrealness of 2020 in general. Given the bizarre events of the last twelve months, the prospect of aliens existing and visiting the Earth seems far less fantastic than it did before a global pandemic emerged out of nowhere to bring the world to its collective knees. And while it remains to be seen whether or not we are on the precipice of some new understanding regarding the enigma, should such a revelation be made in 2021, it might very well be met with a collective yawn after the year we've just had.