2019 in review

The Year in Aliens

Photo: Getty Images

I would argue that every year since 1947 — when an alien spacecraft allegedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico — has been a big year for aliens, but 2019 was one of the biggest, at least in our modern era. The last time I remember aliens being in the news this much was 2006, the year of the O’Hare airport UFO sighting, and before that, 1997, the year of the Phoenix Lights, when it looked like there was a huge triangle-shaped spaceship just hanging out in the desert. While there were no major, widely discussed UFO sightings this year (I certainly hope 2020 is better in that regard), 2019 still saw a number of notable news events having to do with extraterrestrial life. Here, an overview of what aliens were up to this year.

January to March

The aliens were pretty quiet in Q1. Hmm … time to prepare?

April: The Navy announces new UFO reporting process

A quiet start to the year, alien-wise, until April 23, when Politico reported that the U.S. Navy was drafting new guidelines for pilots to report encounters with “unidentified aircraft,” in an effort to formalize and destigmatize the process for personnel. Stopping just short of stating its belief that such encounters are alien in nature, the Navy told Politico: “There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years.”

May: The Times publishes a story on Navy pilots’ UFO encounters

This day was huge: A Times story on Navy pilots’ encounters with unexplained foreign objects included many delightful, chilling descriptions: strange objects like “a spinning top” with “no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes” reaching “hypersonic speed.” Despite the repeated refrain that the Navy was not saying these objects were extraterrestrial, they sounded (and looked! There was video!) pretty freaking extraterrestrial. Still, the story came out on Memorial Day weekend, so most people didn’t really care. For those who did find themselves newly obsessed with UFOs, I offered a reading list.

June: Lawmakers briefed on UFO report

In June, Intelligencer reported that several members of Congress were being briefed on the previously mentioned Navy report, about service members who “frequently saw Tic Tac–looking UFOs flying off the southeast coast of the United States between 2014 and 2015.” A former government official reportedly said that requests to see the report were “coming out of the woodwork,” which makes sense to me, as I would also die to see the full and uncensored report, as well as every other government UFO report I know is out there.

July: Teens hatch plan to storm Area 51

More than 400,000 people RSVP’d yes to a Facebook event entitled “Storm Area 51,” planned for Friday, September 20, 2019, just outside the infamous Air Force base in Nevada. The organizers’ faultless rationale was that “they [the government] can’t stop all of us,” adding that “if we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets.” For anyone who, like me, has worried that UFOlogy will die out with the generation of people who experienced the Roswell incident as it happened, this event came as a moving reminder that Area 51 intrigue is ageless and timeless. (It’s also not the only, or even the coolest, secret government base with an extraterrestrial reputation.)

This is also the month it occurred to my colleague Madeleine Aggeler to wonder: What if the aliens are hot?

August: Bernie Sanders pledges to reveal UFO evidence if elected

In an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast (okay!), the Democratic presidential candidate told Rogan that his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, would demand that he make government UFO records public if he is elected. This is also my most pressing demand on the next elected president.

September: “Storm Area 51” event canceled, and two YouTubers are arrested for trying to break in anyway

After the overwhelmed organizers of Storm Area 51” canceled their event (having briefly converted it to a music festival), citing “a possible humanitarian disaster,” two Dutch YouTubers who had probably planned to attend the event (though they later denied this) decided that since they were there, they might as well still try. The men made it three miles into Area 51 before being detained, despite having posted their intentions to Instagram well before carrying them out. The pair spent three days in county jail and paid fines of $2,280 each.

October: Strange Oregon cow mutilations reported (possible alien ties)

Early in the month, NPR reported that over the summer, five breeding bulls were mysteriously killed on a ranch in Oregon. More specifically, they were found “with every drop of blood sucked from their body, and with their tongue and genitals surgically removed.” Harney County sheriff’s deputy Dan Jenkins told NPR that he’d ruled out death by other wildlife, and noted that the bulls hadn’t been shot. “A lot of people lean toward the aliens,” he told NPR. “One caller had told us to look for basically a depression under the carcass. ‘Cause he said that the alien ships will kinda beam the cow up and do whatever they are going to do with it. Then they just drop them from a great height.” Sounds most plausible to me!

In sum:

Twenty nineteen was the year famed UFOlogist and former Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge was proved right about UFOs. This fall, the actual Navy conceded that three videos previously shared by DeLonge’s UFO research organization, To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science, did indeed depict unidentified phenomena. What could 2020 do to top that? I can’t wait to find out.

The Year in Aliens