There have been hundreds of UFO sightings reported on Long Island over the past decade, and Suffolk County recently made a list of UFO hotspots around the country.
Cheryl Costa, one of the authors of UFO Sightings Desk Reference, is a retired aerospace security engineer and a military veteran. While she was going through the data for the book, she says she eliminated any ambiguous reports that could have been fighter jets or blimps or simply lights in the sky.
What she was left with were reports of flying cubes, floating lightbulb-like objects and other oddball shapes.
“We’ve been led to believe for the last 20 years, these things were always just an illusion, they were mistakes in identification, they’ve been declining. We set out to prove they were not declining. What we set out to prove is guys this thing is real, it’s happening, it’s happening a lot.”
UFO investigators research sightings from across the country, to separate the hoaxes from the potentially real reports.
Organizations like the National UFO Reporting Center and the Mutual UFO Network have hotlines, where people can call in UFO sightings to add to a growing database.
Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center, receives thousands of calls every year.
“Most hoaxes are fairly overt, and easily detected. There are several categories of reports we receive: sincere reports, hoaxes, frivolous reports, cases of mistaken identity.”
Long Island residents reported more than 800 UFO sightings between 2001 and 2015.
Areas with temperate weather and a lack of severe light pollution tend to have more reports.
Michael Shermer, editor-in-chief of Skeptic, a science magazine that explores pseudoscience and irrational beliefs, doesn’t doubt people are seeing things in the sky, but he doubts they’re UFOs.
“Wherever there is a lot of air traffic, you know that’s where you get these little clusters of UFO sightings because people are describing things that they do see in the air. ”
Volunteer organizations began collect their own data and start investigations after the government stopped researching UFOs in 1968. This was after the government had commissioned a report that said UFO research didn’t contribute to scientific knowledge.