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Have you had a UFO/UAP sighting?

Checking the H-MAP before you post it to social media and doing a little ground work to try to find an explanation first might save you some headaches.  We wish to thank veteran researcher and author Stan Gordon for his contribution to this catalog.  Please visit Stan's Site here for a look at his continuing work. 

We are gathering together some of the most frequently reported misidentified aerial phenomena for you to compare your sighting or report to.  We will update and add to this library with the hopes that the H-MAP will become a go-to resource for many to use.  Daily we see reports posted on social media of UFOs / UAPs most of which can result in huge debates and argument between believers and skeptics that only contribute to damaging the field and dissuading experiencers from sharing their own sightings. 


As an experiencer or researcher you must be skeptical and not be lead solely by your belief system or by others who want to convince you that they are experts.  Remember there are no experts in this field only the experienced and if anyone offers an answer they should be backing up such claims with available data, they and you must practice due diligence, share ideas and opinions entertain all possibilities and put everything on the table no matter how uncomfortable it may be before making any final ruling. 


NOTE: Not all sightings can be explained away, it is up to you as a researcher to weigh the evidence and arrive at your own conclusions.  In our opinion,  it is best to seek peer review prior to any public announcement.

Misidentified Aerial Phenomena

There are many phenomena that are simply honest mistakes that a witness may wish to share on social media for answers or out of actual concern.  These are not mallicious or decietful they are somply misidentified.

Astronomical Examples


Every year we get flooded by reports of bright hovering UFOs shortly after dark or on the drive to work in the mornings.  Some claim this UFO chases them or follows them appearing above their home after they arrive there.  This mysterious visitor however is simply the planet Venus.  Venus is mistaken so much simply because of its incredible brightness in the evening and pre-dawn skies.  Venus is not alone however , Sirius the dog star in Canis Major can be mistaken for a bright color changing UFO.   Depending on atmospheric conditions Sirius can appear to pulse and change colors, it like Venus has fooled many amateur sky watchers. Lets not forget meteorites and bolides (fireballs).  These can be very impressive and a bit scary to the untrained eye.   To look for possible answers always check your star map app or astronomy sites first. 



On December 27, 2019 the last Iridium Satellite was deorbited.  Before this it was not uncommon to see bright star like objects moving across the sky which would sometimes flare up so bright they could even be seen in cities.   Iridium were telecommunication satellites and the flares were predictable.  Other satellites also can "flare".  Flares are caused by the sunlight reflecting off of the surfaces of the satellite.  The most common reported satellites today would be Sky Link. This train of ever growing satellites has been mistaken for UFOs and invading alien fleets since it was launched.  Star Link can be tracked with a web site and can easily be recognized in suspected photos and videos.  It is also worth noting , though satellite tracking apps exist, there are secret military satellites that are not marked on those trackers.

Sun Dogs & Light Pillars


Every now and again especially in colder months we get reports of strange lights associated with the sun, these can be normal sun dogs, halos, and the more rare pillars.  Pillars are very impressive and are seen a lot on posts where they are associated as being from UFOs or space based lasers.  Sun pillars or light pillars form when sunlight (or another bright light source) reflects off the surfaces of millions of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds.  These can be seen at literally any time day or night as long as the sunlight is being scatterd by the ice, night time displays can cause great concern to those unfamiliar with the phenomena.



Often we see clouds reported as being UFOs or alien space craft when in fact they are just clouds.  Lenticular formations are often reported as craft and its easy to see how. The clouds can be lens oe saucer shaped and they are very impresive if you have never seen one before.  Sometimes we see other odd disturbances like holes punched in clouds or circular paterns like the one I took on the left.  This was caused by warm air from the power plant below hitting the cooler air above.  It resulted in a very strange display, this one was even the local news.


UFO_NOTasmania Contrail.jpg

One of the most striking atmosphere displays is caused by jet contrails being lit by the sun.  Like light pillars the effect is far more dramatic at sunset when the white plumes take on the color of the fiery setting sun leading amateur sky watchers believing it to be a crashing object from the sky.  This phenomena is responsible for countless numbers of phone calls to emergency services , airports and even military bases.  

Aircraft Lights


It might seem simple but often times common aircraft lights can be mistaken for UFO activity.  There are apps which allow you to see which commercial aircraft could be to blame for a sighting but keep in mind military traffic will not show on these. Both planes and helicopters are to blame for such reports. 



Often the cause of alarm , drones operated at night and recent drone shows can be quite impressive from a distance.  Most drone movement is pretty noticeable however leaps in technology have resulted in some amazing display properties on these small aircraft.  Hoaxers have also used drones and other remote controlled aircraft to trick witnesses by installing extra lighting onto the vehicles.  There are RC craft designed for night flying but serious enthusiasts compliant with FAA rules know better than to use these over heavily populated areas.

Chinese Lanterns


It's easy to see how Chinese lanterns are mistaken for UFOs and alien fleets at times.  Many researchers have chased these lights down before realizing what they were looking at so it's no surprise when a witness snaps pictures like this and sends them off to the local news channel where they often do get air time.  One way to judge these is to look at the weather for the area and note wind speed, direction and cloud height.  Keep in mind traditional lanterns have a distinct fiery glow and flicker , more modern ones may contain color changing LEDs .  



NIght kites are gaining some popularity and with LED technology they provide an amazing flying light show that can easily be misidentified as a bright zig zagging UFO/UAP.  These kites are just starting to become popular here in the US and we are likely to see a swell in night kite sightings in the spring.  Though most commercial versions of the kites are easy to identify with a quick google search there are kits and modifications that can be made for virtually any kite that could result in a UFO sighting.   Also note there are now RC kites which do away with the string altogether .  These are basically small scale remote controlled para gliders and ultra light wings which use both wind and their own power to achieve flight.  Similar to a basic glider.  The most common shape for night kites is a delta,  flying triangle shape as shown.  

Flares & Fireworks


Not as common but of note are flares.  Brilliant white to golden balls of light slowly dropping to the ground.  Seen more near military bases and training areas but a few have sparked UFO reports.  Check your reported area for any military / Nat Guard training areas as well as airshows.  Also related to this are fireworks which may be harder to identify.  Note if sighting ocured around any holidays also check for events.

Night Jumps


Night time parachute jumps can be mistaken for UFO activity.  If its a video its fairly easy to recognize the back and forth slow zig zag of the lights as the paratroopers float to earth.  The lights are from the flares the jumpers trigger upon leaving the aircraft or more recently high powered lights.   Check your reported area for any military / Nat Guard training areas as well as airshows.

Advertising Blimps


Advertising blimps are often mistaken as UFOs and witnessed by many.  One recent case made headlines when it was reported on social media as a UFO, it was quickly debunked as a blimp after the flight plans were made public. Check to see there were any special sporting events near such a sighting.

Search Lights


Many have seen this.  A fast moving intense saucer shaped light silently moving through the clouds.  If you live near an airport or car lot chances are you have observed this common mistaken UFO.  It is the termination point of a very bright search light.  The main beam is not always visible and it might seem like an easy one but at a distance, these have fooled many sky watchers and researchers.  Check to see if there are any attractions , events or airfields in the area of such a sighting.



Display lasers such as this one have been mistaken for UFOs and some clever hoaxers have used lasers in the past to reflect off of low cloud banks causing great excitement.  This on from October 2020 was from the UK and was a test which was actually cleared through proper channels.  It fired off a wave of UFO sightings and speculation that the beam was being fired down from a craft, it was not. It originated on the ground.  (story here)   

Powerful lasers such as this are often used for outdoor laser shows, a quick search for this will reveal there are lasers which could easily be mistaken for UFO activity.  

Broadcast / Navigation Towers


Multimedia broadcast towers and navigation towers are frequently misidentified as something anomalous.  If seen in the distance it could appear as a blinking or solid hovering light in the sky.  These lights will appear low in the sky and will exhibit a general pattern.  Always follow up such repots with daytime observations of the area.  You can also find towers on google maps street view sometimes saving an actual trip to the site.  

Lighthouses and Other Nautical Lights


Set against the dark sky or ocean as in some cases, lighthouses and navigation lights on ships and buoys can be mistaken for UFOs.  The light from a lighthouse can be seen for up to 20 nautical miles on a clear night and navigation beacons and ship masts can be seen for miles as well.  It's easy to check for a light house using map programs but boat positions might prove a bit more difficult unless it's from a commercial vehicle.   You can try MARINE TRAFFIC.COM for this.

Power Transformer Explosion


On the night of December 27, 2018 our site as well as other groups and pages around the world reported a mysterious blue glow and strange lights in the sky over New York.  Though some jumped to the "alien invasion" headlines, it was clear that this was  a massive display of modern power distribution that had gone horribly wrong.  A car sized transformer at the Con Edison Power Plant exploded sending a brilliant blue flame of plasma arcing and reflecting off of the cloud layer.  Transformer explosions do not have to be this large to cuase confusion, a small pole transformer exploding at a distance can cause some very bizarre lighting that could be mistaken as UFO activity.  This one is pretty easy to evaluate.  Check local power websites for an outage or look for damage the following day. DO NOT APPROACH A DAMAGED OR ARCING TRANSFORMER, THIS IS DEADLY AND FOOLISH.  REPORT IT TO THE POWER COMPANY IMEDIATELY and follow up your investigation only after such damage has been repaired.

Space Debris & Rocket Launches


Reentry of space debris and rocket launches are famous for causing UFO reports.  You can check the American Meteor Society website for any such recent reports.  Generally debris falls a bit slower and breaks apart more than a typical meteorite.  As for rocket launches, they are fairly known in the observable area but still tend to cause a fuss on social media and even local news channels.  Some rockets can leave strange glowing plasma trails and even spiral out of control leaving corkscrew like designs etched in the night sky.  Check for any scheduled tests or launches in a reported area. 

Unacknowledged Aerial Vehicles


A much harder one to explain is secret aircraft which are often spotted and highly debated among ufologists and aviation enthusiasts.  Sometimes there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest this as an ID.  Look for signs of conventional propulsion and blinking navigation lights.  Contrails and the red and green wing tip lights are a good bet it's ours.  Now has it come from reverse engineering of alien space craft?  That's up to others to decide.



From the earliest days of UFO sightings one explanation has been used more than any other and sometimes it is actually accurate.  High atmospheric balloons or weather balloons can easily be mistaken for a UFO.  You can actually track these at times ,  if you like to give it a try then GO HERE



Insects and birds have been mistaken for UFOs since the invention of photography.  The problem is with the slow shutter speed and the subsequent blur caused by the rapid movement of an insect or bird .  At night IR tends to light them up and make them look even more suspect.  However insects and birds can be identified in several ways.  Look for a particular patern, beating of wings or the movement.  There usually is enough evidence to identify the culprit.  It is important to note that there are those who still believe contrary to repeated tests showing the reality of such images,  that these blurry insects are still alien in nature and they have been dubbed as Rods.  Look for any lights near the area of such photo or video evidence.

"Ron and Joe, at Wild and Weird West Virginia, have done a great job of discussing the many sources that could explain some UFO sighting reports. Over the years I have come across some other sources that at times were also determined to be a misidentification for a UFO sighting. Ron has asked me to add these sources to their growing list. I have also submitted some other sources that at times explained other anomalies that I have dealt with as well. I am sure there are other such sources that I have missed.

I hope this information is useful to the researchers and witnesses who have dealt with these interesting incidents."   

Let me be clear. I have investigated thousands of UFO sightings and hundreds of Bigfoot and cryptid encounters. While many of these incidents can be explained, every year very credible witnesses report UFOs, Bigfoot, cryptids and other anomalies that cannot be easily dismissed.

Stan Gordon

 Images used here are for educational purposes only and fall under the FAIR USE doctrine.

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

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