astronomer, whom we knew to be unbiased about the UFO problem and who knew every outstanding astronomer in the United States, to take a trip and talk to his friends. We asked him not to make a point of asking about the UFO but just to work the subject into a friendly conversation. This way we hoped to get a completely frank opinion. To protect his fellow astronomers, our astronomer gave them all code names and he kept the key to the code.
The report we received expressed the detailed opinions of forty-five recognized authorities. Their opinions varied from that of Dr. C, who regarded the UFO project as a "silly waste of money to investigate an even sillier subject," to Dr. L, who has spent a great deal of his own valuable time personally investigating UFO reports because he believes that they are something "real." Of the forty-five astronomers who were interviewed, 36 per cent were not at all interested in the UFO reports, 41 per cent were interested to the point of offering their services if they were ever needed, and 23 per cent thought that the UFO's were a much more serious problem than most people recognized.
None of the astronomers, even during a friendly discussion, admitted that he thought the UFO's could be interplanetary vehicles. All of those who were interested would only go so far as to say, "We don't know what they are, but they're something real."
During the past few years I have heard it said that if the UFO's were really "solid objects" our astronomers would have seen them. Our study shed some light on this point--astronomers have seen UFO's. None of them has ever seen or photographed anything resembling a UFO through his telescope, but 11 per cent of the forty- five men had seen something that they couldn't explain. Although, technically speaking, these sightings were no better than hundreds of others in our files as far as details were concerned, they were good because of the caliber of the observer. Astronomers know what is in the sky.
It is interesting to note that out of the representative cross section of astronomers, five of them, or 11 per cent, had sighted UFO's. For a given group of people this is well above average. To check this point, the astronomer who was making our study picked ninety people at random--people he met while traveling--and got them into a conversation about flying saucers. These people were his "control group," to borrow a term from the psychologists. Although the percentage of people who were interested in UFO's was higher for the control group than for the group of astronomers, only 41 per cent of the astronomers were interested while 86 per cent of the control group were interested; 11 per cent of the astronomers had seen UFO's, while only about 1 per cent of the control group had seen one. This seemed to indicate that as a
group astronomers see many more UFO's than the average citizen.
When I finished my briefing, it was too late to start the question-and-answer session, so the first day's meeting adjourned. But promptly at nine o'clock the next morning the group was again gathered, and from the looks of the list of questions some of them had, they must have been thinking about UFO's all night.
One of the first questions was about the results of photography taken by the pairs of huge "meteorite patrol" cameras that are located in several places throughout North America. Did they ever photograph a UFO? The cameras, which are in operation almost every clear night, can photograph very dim lights, and once a light is photographed its speed and altitude can be very accurately established. If there were any objects giving off light as they flew through our atmosphere, there is a chance that these cameras might have photographed them. But they hadn't.
At first this seemed to be an important piece of evidence and we had just about racked this fact up as a definite score against the UFO when we did a little checking. If the UFO had been flying at an altitude of 100 miles, the chances of its being picked up by the cameras would be good, but the chances of photographing something flying any lower would be less.
This may account for the fact that while our "inquiring astronomer" was at the meteorite patrol camera sites, he talked to an astronomer who had seen a UFO while operating one of the patrol cameras.
Many people have asked why our astronomers haven't seen anything through their big telescopes. They are focused light-years away and their field of vision is so narrow that even if UFO's did exist and littered the atmosphere they wouldn't be seen.
Another question the panel had was about Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds broadcast of October 1938, which caused thousands of people to panic. Had we studied this to see if there were any similarities between it and the current UFO reporting?
We had.
Our psychologist looked into the matter and gave us an opinion--to make a complete study and get a positive answer would require an effort that would dwarf the entire UFO project. But he did have a few comments. There were many documented cases in which a series of innocent circumstances triggered by the broadcast had caused people to completely lose all sense of good judgment--to panic. There were some similar reports in our UFO files.
But we had many reports in which people reported UFO's and obviously