By Juliette Goodrich & Molly McCrea
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- A special Pentagon task force is expected deliver an unclassified report to Congress by June 25th that will summarize what the U.S. government knows about unidentified flying threats to the nation.
The report was mandated by the U.S. Senate and tucked into an appropriations bill. There could be an annex to the report that will be classified.
While the release of the report mars a significant step in accounting for unexplained aerial phenomena, Bay Area scientists who have looked for extraterrestrial life told KPIX they doubt they will see anything conclusive.
The pandemic was a banner year for UFO sightings. Nationally, these incidents spiked nearly 50% from the previous year.
A CBS News poll conducted in March 2021 found most Americans believe there is intelligent life on other planets. KPIX 5 found the same sentiments with young adults attending an after-hours event known as Night Life at the California Academy of Sciences.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Defense authenticated three videos captured by Naval Pilots.
Each one is a bizarre encounter with an unidentified aerial phenomenon or UAP for short. We used to call these events "UFOs".
This is what we know so far from leaks in the media: in the past 2 decades, the U.S. government has catalogued more than 120 incidents involving UAPs. But what are they?
"This report will be simultaneously encouraging and discouraging for almost everyone," noted senior astronomer Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute.
The institute is a nonprofit research group. SETI stands for "Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence."
The group's goal is to find evidence of life elsewhere in the universe whether it's microbes or alien beings.
SETI uses 42 huge antennas located in Shasta County called the Allen Telescope Array. They seek out signals emanating from distant star systems and "eavesdrop" on them. So far, no alien civilizations have been detected.
In the report, leaks identify some details, including how the UFOs are not U.S. military or created using U.S. Technology
The report found no evidence the craft sighted were alien spacecraft, but it does not definitively rule out the possibility they are extraterrestrial vessels.
Dr. Shostak is far from convinced.
"They are not to me compelling evidence that we're being visited," said the astronomer.
Shostak is not alone in his doubts.
"I don't want you to think that I'm skeptical about life in the universe. I'm just skeptical they've come to earth," said astrobiologist Dr. Doug Vakoch,
Vakoch is president of METI International. METI stands for "Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence."
The Bay Area non-profit is also searching for extraterrestrials, but not by passively eavesdropping. They are actively sending signals to distant star systems as well.
"If we're going to believe that we have discovered life out there, we need compelling evidence," explained Dr. Vakoch.
At both SETI and METI, the scientists would require replication, verification and validation of their data before they claim proof.
"When we look the pentagon videos, we see it once, but it never replicates," explained Dr. Vakoch.
In the hills of Oakland, there is replication of a different kind of extraterrestrial threat. The threat is real and can cause catastrophic damage to the planet. They're known as near Earth asteroids.
"There's about 26,000 that we know of now. But that number increases every month," explained Gerald McKeegan.
McKeegan is an astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center. The center is part of a global network of observatories actively tracking near earth asteroids.
"The main concern obviously with near earth asteroids is whether or not any of them are going to hit earth," said McKeegan.
The astronomer explained to KPIX 5 if scientists can determine whether an asteroid will impact earth, they have time to evacuate the area or attempt to change the asteroid's path. But these calculations take a lot of math and repeated observations.
"We need to have multiple observations over long periods of time and preferably from several different observatories," noted McKeegan.
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