What’s that in the sky? Group analyzes local UFO sightings

WASHINGTON — Last month, something strange hovered in the sky just a few miles from the Pentagon, a witness reported.

The witness, who took photos, said whatever it was appeared to rotate and then morph into a group of glowing objects that split apart. The photos are hard to make out, but one does seem to show a set of glittering, airborne lights.

Maybe there’s a good explanation, but the incident is one of the most recent UFO sightings reported in the D.C. region to the Mutual UFO Network, also known as MUFON.

MUFON collects reports of sightings worldwide and investigates them. Another organization, the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC, also accepts reports of UFOs.

“Our first credo is believe the witness. At least listen to the witness,” Susan Swiatek, MUFON’s Virginia director said to WTOP. “That’s a big therapeutic thing we can do for people and get their remarks on the record for hopefully a greater whole that will emerge.”

Swiatek said some people are happy to have a strange encounter, while others are definitely not.

“Just seeing something in the sky that they know they can’t explain, that’s enough to really upset people. And if you can just come alongside them and say, ‘It’s OK, we get those reports all the time,’ then that can help. Conversely, I’ve had people get really upset. They’d rather say ‘I’m crazy, give me a pill,'” she said.

There were more than 100 sightings reported in Virginia last year — up 13 from the number of 2016 sightings reported, MUFON reported.

In 2017, Virginia had more sighting reports than Maryland and D.C. combined. There were 65 reports in Maryland and 11 in the District.

Reports can be filed online, and submissions can remain anonymous.

Tony Angiola, assistant state director of MUFON Virginia and an investigator, has appeared on TV’s “NASA’s Unexplained Files” and “Hangar 1: The UFO Files.”

“Our goal is to take ufology to the point where we’re taking information, giving it to scientists at NASA and being able to do something with it,” he said.

In addition to studying new UFO reports, Angiola and Ben Moss, chief field investigator for MUFON Virginia, also reinvestigate some sightings that were made decades ago.

One reason? It’s easier to fake UFO photos and video today.

Swiatek admits good evidence is hard to find.

“It’s pretty scant. We’re holding on to feathers that are kind of blowing in the wind, and it’s a little tough. But we’re trying to perform science where we can and when we can.”

“I think we are getting somewhere,” she added.

Here are some more interesting alleged sightings from the D.C. area that were reported to MUFON:

  • Christmas night, 2017: From a balcony in Annandale, Virginia, someone reported seeing “an extremely bright light in the sky” that didn’t move or make a sound. But the witness said it stayed there for hours, and at one point more lights appeared and formed a triangular shape near the first light before disappearing. “I go out to my balcony every single night and never saw anything like this,” the witness wrote. A video was submitted with the report.
  • August 2017: A family visiting D.C. took a series of photos in quick succession of the Washington Monument. While looking at the photos later, they say they noticed something odd in one of them.  “The first picture was totally normal, but in the second one, on the right of the Washington [Monument], I saw a little black disc shaped object just hovering next to it,” reported the submitter.
  • July 2017: A submitter in Ridge, Maryland, reported waking up to “very bright pulsating light outside my window.” The witness went outside and recorded video of it. “The object was larger then (sic) a normal star and seemed to be rapidly evolving/transforming as it moved across the sky. Then in an instant it went from the transforming sphere into a tiny bright dot,” which moved back and forth before disappearing.
  • October 2016: A person walking home in Northwest D.C. said they saw something weird hanging in midair, 30 to 40 feet up. “It was a dark, worm-like shape and it hovered in the same position for roughly 3 minutes while I was able to take photos. At first I thought it could have been an unusual entanglement of those narrow balloons used to make balloon animals, however, I don’t believe they could have floated in this position with helium,” that person wrote.
  • April 2016: Someone who took a dramatic nighttime photo of the Washington Monument also reports capturing something unexplained in one image. It looked like four glowing lights floating in formation next to the monument. “I am an amateur photographer and have taken hundreds of night time shots. I know what airplane and satellite trails look like. This is not one of those,” the sighting description reads. “I have no clue what it is nor am I insinuating it is of alien nature. Just strange and thought you might take a look.”

You can browse through MUFON’s sightings database online, using the “Track UFOs” page.

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a three-part series about UFOs, studies into them and local sightings. Read part one. Read part two.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up