I Want to Believe: UFO Sightings Around the World

Do Aliens walk among us?

The National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) is “dedicated to the collection and dissemination of objective UFO data,” and keeps careful logs of all UFO sightings worldwide. This post is restricted to 20th century encounters: a total of 104,947 events since 1905.

Sightings are at an all-time high!

Encounters before the Internet were entered retroactively from historical documents.

One of the first recorded UFO sightings comes from Portland in 1905 (of course, seeing UFOs before it was cool), where a “buzzing,” sphere-shaped UFO descended from the clouds. Other shapes began cropping up later, with Saucers dominating the scene until the 1990s, when mysterious lights became the most popular.


The plurality of post-Internet sightings take the form of strange lights in the sky. Why lights instead of tangible shapes? Maybe claiming to see “lights” is less likely to make your friends and family react skeptically than claiming you saw an actual UFO up-close, especially now that everyone walks around with a handy picture-taking device in their pocket.

What could it be??

Or maybe the mysterious lights are actually fireworks. Sightings of UFOs spike in the USA on July 4th! Strangely though, this “July 4th effect” only gets huge starting in 2008.

Other explanation: Aliens like fireworks.

I couldn’t find anything obvious about fireworks in 2008. Maybe that’s the year someone invented a new type of glowing, floating sphere firework.

So how do sightings differ around the world? Each event is logged with its location, so matching the text entries to longitude and latitude lets us plot the events on a map.

The median (50th percentile) is white: countries with lower-than-median sightings are colored blue, while countries with higher-than-median sightings are colored red. Countries with no reported sightings are gray.

I capped the heatmap at 25 sightings per 10M, but as you’ll see in a second, that’s because people in the USA are hilariously more likely to report a UFO sighting than anyone else. If I let the scale be free, it pretty much makes the rest of the map the same shade of blue.

In fact, people in the USA report about 2500 sightings per 10M, a number almost 300 times greater than the global median. Why are Americans obsessed with UFOs? Maybe it’s related to Internet access. You have to have Internet access to submit a report, after all.

The outlier USA making trouble for my axes again. Here we have sightings predicted by the internet access (linear and quadratic effects).

But there’s only a weak positive relationship between the amount of Internet access in a country and the number of UFO sightings its citizens report online. Taking into account Internet access leaves a large amount of variance left unexplained (94%). Weird. Here’s a Quora thread on this topic if you want to do more digging.

Now that we’ve seen the USA to be such an outlier, let’s take a closer look at it broken down by state.

Keep Portland weird?

As you can see, the most likely places for a UFO sighting are the West in general, and the Northwest in particular. Honorable mention goes to the Northeast: Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire rack up a good number of sightings per capita even as New York lags behind. (Per capita graphs are always interesting to interpret because they are influenced so heavily by the number of people in each state… well, duh.)

To close out this post, look at this interesting and totally not coincidental effect I found. The number of undocumented immigrants (called “illegal aliens” by some) is inversely related to the number of extraterrestrial aliens. It seems there’s only so much space in each state for outsiders.


Thanks for reading!

Want more data visualization? Check out my other posts at: https://vizthis.wordpress.com/


136 thoughts on “I Want to Believe: UFO Sightings Around the World

  1. Has nothing to do with internet access. As you can see sightings spiked after 1990 when the triangular stealth bomber was created. Clearly majority of the sightings are top secret military aircraft.


      1. Yes. Research.
        Dr. Michael Aquino – abovetopsecretdotcom
        My name is Michael Aquino Ask Me Anything. According to this prestigious veteran. About 90% of sightings are US craft. Apparently we have had them for some time. That still leaves 10%.

        Also. Tom Delonge: Gods Book I
        Tom Delonge apparently has been chosen as the gatekeeper. Disclosure, one controlled drip at a time.
        Because people are reactionary and dangerous. The rest of us that have figured it out already, and accepted this as fact, want nice things. Unfortunately religion and science has alot of explaining to do before that can happen. As evidenced in the replies.


    1. I was on 3 UFOs….go to my Webpage on Facebook ,search,, ,the cure for any cancer, ,its free, the cure itself is so easy you can do it yourself at home, and it works 100%, cost 2-3$…..People spending over 100.000$ for a cure, at the end they still DIE….. plus many more information you never heard of. GOD created Human Beings 1+billion years ago out there in our Universe, learn how they live and travel, they are far, far ahead of us, why 1/3 of the Angels rebelled against GOD, no Man has seen GOD, I did, find out what happen, it is a must read, you will be glad you did


  2. UFOs lol, why must everyone think that a UFO is some sort of alien craft lol, its as its says…. U= unidentified…..F = flying ……O = object. so comical.


  3. Let me help you out on the July 4th data – white sky lanterns started to become more popular in the mid 2000s as an alternative to traditional fireworks, drones started to become more mainstream in the mid 2000s among the techies and, of course, many more people in the US are actually looking up in the dark on the 4th of July. A convergence of these factors, theoretically, could account for an increase in night lights on the 4th and night lights in general.


    1. I live in Cape Coral Fl, on July 4th about 3 years ago I went outside and saw 2 orange objects going east as if they were going down my street but above it.I called my sister and my neighbors outside and while we were there watching fire works 3 of the orange objects just appeared over the neighbors house and came down like a roller coaster and paused in front of us..they were beautiful in color and there was no sound and we were not afraid as we felt no feeling of danger coming from them. They left and went east over Ft Myers. They were visible in the sky and would appear then disappear then appear somewhere else, circling each other as if they were having fun. The fireworks ended and I saw one of them come back going in the direction of the Ft Myers airport..it just seemed to stay in stationary there.. A plane came from the northwest going to Ft Myers airport and I swear they had to see this object in the sky tho I saw no mention of it which wasn’t surprising. I realize you will probably think this is made up but it is not. This is a for real event. How fortunate we were to have this incredible experience. These objects have been reported all over the planet….believe it…they are out there and you cannot see them until they appear as they did by us.


  4. i think there is a more advanced race out there more superia than ours with more tecknolagy than we have at the monent at the monent they can probaly fly many many times faster than sound


  5. Since everybody now has a camera with them, where are all the photos and videos of these many recent UFO sightings? Oh, I get it, alien spacecraft have a special stealth feature. They only show up on film cameras, not the digital type. How clever of them.


    1. Well, most people have smart phones. But haven’t you ever tried to take a picture of a full moon without fine tuning camera settings? Try it pull your phone out & take a picture next time. So that you are prepared when you see a UFO. Not to try to photograph it. But to observe it. Never to loose sight of it. Entities have been spotted AROUND US by a newly invented telescope, even observed these entities over highly important military establishment in TAMPA, FL . Screw what we can see its simply a distraction of reality as you know it. IFR,NIGHT VISION & THE NEW SCOPE are all 21st century technology USEEEEE ITTTTTT


  6. Interesting. How about trying this in analyzing UFO reports: 1. Use two or more sources for comparison. MUFON, CUFOS, and the one used in this study to see if there is a consistent pattern. 2. Use the US Air Force Project Blue Book sightings as a source. 3. Compare the UFO Blue Book “unknowns” (about 500 sightings) and see how they plot out on the graph. 4. Plot out locations in relation to the proximity to military installations and nuclear weapons locations from 1945 onward. The Blue Book unknowns appear to have a significant relationship. 5. It may require a FOIA request to get sightings reported to the FAA by pilots. 6. Again another FOIA request may be needed to see get reports from military pilots using the CERVIS/JANAP 146 report formats. That would probably be a lot of work: https://www.nsa.gov/news-features/declassified-documents/ufo/assets/files/janap_146.pdf


  7. I had a close up, daylight sighting of three silent, metallic discs that flew over the vineyard I was walking next to at about 30 mph, fifty feet off the ground. After they passed over the orchard, they accelerated so fast that all I saw was a red streak in the sky. My father was an anti-aircraft gunner in WWII, and one of his favorite hobbies was observing aircraft at Adams Field in Little Rock. I was taking flying lessons at the time of my sighting. They were metallic discs, in the shape of truncated cones. They sure as hell were not built by human beings.

    And here’s a fact for all the floating lantern people: A candle powered, floating Chinese lantern has one candle power of illumination, floats with the breeze, and lasts only for a brief time. A moron can tell a candle lantern from a bright light, especially if the light is changing color.

    People who like to make jokes about UFOs and infer that the people who report them are laughable cretins are not more intelligent than the observers of UFOs; they’re just more closed minded and pretentious.


  8. Drones have become quite fashionable in the last five to 10 years. Fixing a light to a drone is trivial. I’m curious as to how these sightings numbers compare to the sales of drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles.


  9. Is Gary an Aliens ? his description of seeing UFO LOL- “I was walking next to at about 30 mph, fifty feet off the ground”. Gosh Gary does walk fast and in thin air too LOL


  10. MUFON if you want the FACTS and detailed info on UFO phenomenon. MUFON is in over 29 nations worldwide. We search for the scientific reasoning, logical reasoning and most of all the need to obtain more detailed info on any sighting, landing, of any UNKNOWN object
    http://WWW.MUFON.COM See for yourself. We DO NOT judge….we evaluate.


  11. I’ve often wondered if UFOs are actually not of alien origin at all; but rather, humans from a far distant future who have cracked the time barrier and are coming back to watch “historic” events. The lack of any traces of evidence suggest that time travelers can clean up well after themselves, except of course for the occasional brief sighting. I wonder how much a time traveling cruise costs in the year 2579?


  12. It might helpful in future articles to have a detailed discussion of the role of reporting bias. The topic should be “reported sightings” that is likely the tip of the iceberg. My impression is that the USA is fairly open compared to many other nations in terms of a willingness to discuss this topic. Although the authorities’ level of ridicule and denial in the US is a factor here, in my experience it has less effect in terms of completely preventing people to make reports.


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