The truth may be out there. To find it you should probably bring this map.
image via (cc) flickr user Jitterousperth
We may not know if there’s life on other planets, but at least now we know where people have seen the most unidentified flying objects on this one.
Created by California-based data analysis firm Find The Best, this interactive map is populated with data from the National UFO Reporting Center (the folks the Federal Aviation Administration refer you to if you call about strange lights in the sky), indexed against county population estimates from the US Census’ American Community Survey. Taken together, the map paints a fascinating picture of the United States—particularly the Southwest—as a hotbed of mysterious aerial activity.
Mouse over each county for a detailed snapshot of its reported UFO activity, and toggle back and forth between total sightings and the per-capita filter to get a full sense of where Americans see the most unexplained sights in the skies.
Take a look:
All told, the map contains nearly forty thousand data points, winnowed down from over sixty thousand UFO reports. As Find The Best product manager Lane Allison told to The Huffington Post, culling accurate data was (perhaps unsurprisingly) a challenge, explaining:
“What we learned through our research is that, in fact, most UFO sightings aren't actually reported, and between 98-99 percent of those that are reported can be explained by natural phenomena, whether by shooting stars or even a flock of birds. So we wanted to give more of a per capita [per person] number, which is why we created the per capita statistics.”
With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out the map’s limitations: It can’t, unfortunately, show differences between UFO sightings. So, based solely on the above, it’s impossible to tell whether the plethora of mysterious aerial objects seen across the Southwest are in any way different from those seen in, say, the Southern tip of Florida.
HuffPo reports that the National UFO Reporting Center does have a detailed proposal for using “passive, multi-static, frequency-modulated (FM) radar" to allow for real-time analysis of ambiguous airborne objects based on size, speed, vector, and other important factors. Real-time UFO monitoring may seem like a kooky pipe dream, but as the above map shows, there are plenty of places across the country for which that sort of textured assessment could probably have come in handy.
There’s no telling when, if at all, the NUFORC will get their passive radar system. For the time being, then, it’s probably smart to just keep watching the skies.