Astronomy Now Home
Home Magazine Resources Store

On Sale Now!

The October 2014 issue of Astronomy Now is on sale! Order direct from our store (free 1st class post & to UK addresses). Astronomy Now is the only astronomy magazine specially designed to be read on tablets and phones. Download the app from Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Top Stories

Earthshine used to test life detection method
...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...

Solid buckyballs discovered in space
...Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected a particular type of molecule, given the nickname “buckyball”, in a solid form for the first time...

Steamy water-world gets the Hubble treatment
...Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 7 Earth-mass planet find an unusual water-rich world swathed in a thick, steamy atmosphere...

New website aims to identify unknown objects
Posted: October 15, 2009

Bookmark and Share

A new website was launched today to create a forum for astronomers to submit reports of unknown objects. The aim is to two-fold: to educate the public about natural phenomena in the sky that could be misidentified, and collect data that could reveal previously unknown scientific phenomena.

Mysterious lights in the sky have revealed unknown phenomena before. Airline pilots used to report sightings of strange flashes above thunderstorms, which remained taboo until the space shuttle also imaged them in the early 1990s. These ‘sprites’ and ‘jets’ are electrical phenomena – still poorly understood – that flash upwards above a thundercloud.

The new scheme aims to educate people about objects in the sky that they might mistake for flying saucers. Image: B. Fugate (FASORtronics)/ESO.

The new website, which can be found at, has been put together by Philippe Ailleris, an amateur astronomer.

“These phenomena are mainly seen in the night sky, a domain that astronomers have long considered their own, and it is important to collect testimonies from members of the population that are trained observers,” says Ailleris. “We aim to approach this controversial field from a professional, rational point of view and without preconceived ideas. Certainly whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility that scientists could learn something new by further study.”

The website also aims to educate the public about objects in the sky that they might mistake for flying saucers. Meteors and fireballs, bright planets, mirages, even manmade objects such as the International Space Station have all been misidentified in the past simply because the public are unaware of what is above their heads. Local astronomical societies can forward curious members of the public who think they have seen something to Ailleris’ website, and in return scientists and larger societies such as the British Astronomical Association can use the website to gather data on reports of fireballs or aurorae, for instance.

The UAP reporting scheme will collect data on curious sky phenomena.

The project is being launched under the auspices of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), and is timed to go alongside the IYA cornerstone project Galilean Nights, which will see astronomers hit the street for ‘sidewalk astronomy’ sessions, where members of the public will be invited to look through telescopes on their way home from work, or on their way out for the night.

“Many IYA 2009 observers will be scanning the skies with all kinds of technical equipment – telescopes, binoculars, video cameras, cameras with spectrographs – which generates an excellent opportunity to obtain supplementary data,” says Ailleris. “This is also a great opportunity to engage with the general public and discuss some of the challenges astronomers face in determining various parameters such as coordinates, altitude, distance, speed and size.”

The Galilean Nights will occur over 22–24 October, which will then be followed up in the UK by the Autumn Moonwatch (24 October–1 November). For more information on these IYA events visit

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


© 2014 Pole Star Publications Ltd.