When the Chinese spy balloon was shot down on Feb. 4 by the U.S. Air Force, you might have thought that was the end of it. Just another odd geopolitical quirk that popped up before we all moved on to the next diplomatic crisis. Little did anyone know, it was actually just the beginning of what would become a brand new trend of mysterious flying objects in our skies.
Over the weekend, three unidentified objects were discovered and shot down in as many days over Alaska, the Yukon Territory in Canada, and Lake Huron off the coast of Michigan. The government has been mum about what exactly these objects are, fueling the fires of speculation that they could be anything from more Chinese spy balloons to visitors from other planets.
But what are they exactly—and should we be worried about the burgeoning alien vs human wars going down above our heads? Let’s break down a few questions you might have about the UFOs.
How many objects were shot down?
Four objects have been shot down over U.S. airspace since last weekend. The first, of course, was the Chinese spy balloon, downed on Feb. 4 by an F-22 fighter jet off the coast of South Carolina. But the identity and origins of that aerial object were clear—a far cry from what we’d see just a week later.
On Feb. 10, an unidentified object was shot over Alaska. The White House noted that it was roughly the size of a small car, and the Pentagon said that it broke into pieces after being shot—which suggests it was likely not a balloon.
Then, on Feb. 11, Canadian President Justin Trudeau announced that another UFO was shot down over the Yukon Territory. This object was cylindrical. Like the others, it’s still a mystery as to what it was exactly.
And finally, on Feb. 12, a UFO was shot over Lake Huron near Michigan. The object flew over Montana on Saturday before reappearing on Sunday flying at roughly 20,000 feet. Intriguingly, the Pentagon said that this object was octagonal shaped and had strings hanging off of it.
What the heck are they?
No one really knows yet. U.S. and Canadian officials are currently working to recover any pieces left of the objects that were shot down. Afterward, they’ll work on reverse engineering them in order to learn their origins and purpose.
Recovery efforts are being hampered due to extremely low temperatures in Alaska, with the temp dipping to roughly -55 degrees Fahrenheit. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have also warned residents in the Yukon Territory not to approach the debris.
On Feb. 13, the White House announced it would be forming a task force in order to dig into what exactly these objects are and where they came from.
“The president, through his national security adviser, has today directed an interagency team to study the broader policy implications for detection, analysis, and disposition of unidentified aerial objects that pose either safety or security risk,” John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said in a statement.
Is any other country experiencing these UFOs?
Yes. China reported on Feb. 12 that they spotted an object flying over the northern coastal town of Rizhao and are prepared to shoot it down. This comes on the heels of Beijing alleging that the U.S. has sent upwards of 10 spy balloons over China throughout the years—no doubt a bit of retaliatory finger-pointing after we shot down their spy balloon last week.
Meanwhile, South America is also experiencing its own UFO issue—Uruguay announced on Feb. 11 that it had seen “flashing lights in the sky” and is planning to potentially scramble jets to deal with it.
Are these UFOs aliens from another planet?
Probably not. National security officials told reporters on Sunday that objects flown over North America weren’t alien visitors. However, General Glen D. VanHerck, the commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Northern Command, said at a press briefing that “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point.”
So, there’s a slight chance that they could be aliens from another planet. If that’s the case, don’t expect the government to outright say it anytime soon.
Are these UFOs from China or another country?
Probably yes. Some national security and defense experts have speculated that these new UFOs could be a part of a concerted effort to test out the U.S. military’s response to flying objects. This could help inform future spying efforts—or even warfare.
After all, if you know how quickly we’d respond to something like a balloon, it could give you insights into how we might respond to, say, a fighter jet or an incoming missile.
Why so many now?
There could be a variety of different reasons we’re seeing so many instances of UFOs appear now. In fact, there’s a slight chance that the UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomenon, as the U.S. government officially calls them) that have been reported in the past few weeks aren’t terribly out of the ordinary—especially when you consider the fact that UFOs have been a fairly common occurrence with the military personnel.
Just last month, U.S. national intelligence officials released a new report on UFO sightings—saying that they had reports of 366 UFOs in 2022 alone. On Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that unidentified objects have been flying over the U.S. “for years,” which is part of the reason he helped form Congress’s UAP task force.
So why are we seeing so many of them being publicly acknowledged and shot down by the government now? Part of it is likely due to the fact that tensions are high between China and the U.S. Everyone is on edge ever since the spy balloon was discovered last week. It could be a way for the U.S. to show that it won’t take matters like spycraft lightly.
The U.S. government more broadly has made a more concerted effort in recent years to be transparent about the UFO phenomenon. Letting the public know about these sightings and when we take military action on it might be a consequence of that increased transparency.
Part of it could also be attributed to the psychological phenomenon known as the “frequency illusion.” This is a type of cognitive bias that causes people to notice things more after learning about them for the first time. Think of when you learned a new word, for instance, and started hearing it everywhere. We could be seeing a type of frequency illusion being played out on a geopolitical scale.
Whatever the case may be, it’s no doubt unsettling that we’re starting to hear more about UFOs in the air—and them being shot out of the skies. It’s certainly unsettling too that it doesn’t seem like anyone knows what they are. Then again, we might not be all that comforted if we did know their origins. Think about it: Would you rather these objects be from an adversarial nation with a sizable nuclear arsenal? Or from aliens with a far more technologically superior civilization that we’ve maybe started a war with?