The circulation of a leaked photo appearing to show a motionless unidentified flying object, or UFO, has sent military buffs and alien hunters into overdrive.
The image had reportedly been shared around by US defence personnel before making its way into the media this month.
The picture is said to date back to 2018 and was published by journalist Tim McMillian in The Debrief.
It shows what the US government calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) appearing near a US fighter pilot while flying his jet off the country’s east coast.
According to The DeBrief, the picture was included in an intelligence report from the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) official unit that investigates UAP sightings.
Top military officials in the United States have since responded to the leaking of the image.
“In general, regarding UAPs, to maintain operations security and to avoid disclosing information that may be useful to potential adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of reports, observations or examinations of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.
But there was plenty of speculation online about what the object may have been, with some suggesting it was a type of atmospheric weather balloon, or simply a party balloon.
I took another run at the cockpit balloon super-resolution scale. This is cleaner and doesn't give the impression of a clown face print the way the previous job did.
A balloon is still the most likely candidate, although I'm skeptical it's a party balloon as most are speculating pic.twitter.com/Z6yg0LiS1c
— Joel at UAP Research (@uapresearch) December 4, 2020
The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force
In August this year, the Pentagon launched a task force to “detect, analyse and catalog” unidentified aerial phenomena “that could potentially pose a threat” to the country’s national security and its navy and air force personnel.
“The Department of Defense established the UAPTF (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force) to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs,” the US government said in a press release at the time.
It followed a report by The New York Times in July that revealed officials involved with the program believed objects of undetermined origin had crashed to earth and had been taken for study. The story quoted Pentagon astrophysicist Eric Davis on the otherworldly nature of them, saying “we couldn't make it ourselves”.
In 2019, the US Navy acknowledged that three videos released by former Blink-182 singer and dedicated alien investigating enthusiast, Tom DeLonge, did in fact contain “unidentified” objects.
The three videos in question showing the UFOs had previously been published by The New York Times and were reportedly shot in 2004 and 2015. In 2019, US Navy pilots spoke out about the extraordinary capabilities of the UFOs they witnessed while in the air.