The release of a report by the Pentagon, detailing what the US government knows about what it calls “unidentified aerial phenomena”, is being seen as a moment of validation by members of the UFO community.
Researchers and investigators, for so long mocked as conspiracy theorists and worse, say the revelation that a “UAP Task Force” has been collecting evidence for the Department of Defence for more a decade confirms their suspicions.
“The phenomenon has just been validated by the papers coming out that, yes, there’s something out there. No, we don’t know what it is, but it’s worth looking into. And that’s what we’ve been doing for decades,” said Chris Jones of the Mutual UFO Network.
The government task force has been investigating dozens of reported sightings and encounters between US military personnel and unidentified flying objects.
Among the most striking evidence are cockpit videos recorded by US Navy pilots of objects appearing to defy the rules of physics.
Sean Cahill was serving about missile cruiser the USS Princeton in 2004 when he was one of many to witness what has become known as the “tic-tac”.
The white oblong-shape, the size of a small aircraft, showed no outward signs of conventional propulsion and darted around alarmingly at high speed.
At the time, Mr Cahill said, he assumed the military’s nonchalant reaction to the sightings was evidence the object was part of a secret US programme.
Now, he believes, there are serious national security concerns.
“I feel that I was I was pulling something out of the future,” he said.
“This was not just another flock of birds or a balloon or a or swamp gases, we knew that this was a craft that was outstripping our arsenal, and that was in 2004.
“I did feel it was historical then. Now I’m positive of that fact.
“But I think that there’s even more out there that we need to we need to see and understand.
“I hazard to say that if we don’t pry this out into the daylight right now I fear that it’ll go right back into the black and it’ll be another 70 years before we actually find out what this is.”
But some of those who have been in space are doubtful the sightings are of alien spacecraft.
Leroy Chiao, a former commander aboard the International Space Station, said: “Although I think there is life elsewhere in the universe, the distances are so vast that I don’t think we’ll ever find each other.”
The Pentagon report is the culmination of a push by politicians, including former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid, for greater openness.
He told Sky News: “This goes back 70 years and we know initially the government did everything it could to cover it up. I think the new technology we have has made it more difficult for the government to deny what is going on.
“The government has got to be part of it and no longer be part of a cover-up, they’ve got to be transparent in everything they do.”
The budget Mr Reid helped secure created the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme.
Now defunct, its former director has heralded the publication of the report.
Luiz Elizondo told Sky News: “We’re at a critical mass where at least the conversation has moved forward and I don’t think we can go back.
“We now recognise that these things are real, whatever these things are, and I don’t know how you can rewind the narrative of that.”