Your guide to the basics of UFOs, UAPs and interstellar alien intelligence

Are aliens real? What about interdimensional craft? And what’s going on with the government?

By Rae Hodge

Staff Reporter

Published September 10, 2023 4:01PM (EDT)

UFOs flying in the sky, illustration (Getty Images/KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)
UFOs flying in the sky, illustration (Getty Images/KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

With Congressional hearings into UFOs currently on the backburner, more than a few questions have been left hanging about alien life and unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), a more formal and accurate term for unidentified flying object (UFO).

In the meantime, however, the U.S. Department of Defense launched a new website last week where the public can report new UAP sightings, and where the department says it will continue to publish new findings as they become declassified. 

While we're waiting for new information from Congress and NASA, here are some of the most frequently asked questions — and the answers we can offer so far — about the continued search for non-human intelligent life. 

What is a UAP?

UFO; PentagonPentagon formally releases 3 Navy videos showing "unidentified aerial phenomena" (US Pentagon)
UAP is an acronym for Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, which is used by NASA to describe events or objects that have previously been referred to as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO). The term Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena is also used in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. 

What is the interdimensional UFO hypothesis?

U.S. Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray explains a video of unidentified aerial phenomena, as he testifies before a House Intelligence Committee subcommittee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2022 in Washington, DC.U.S. Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray explains a video of unidentified aerial phenomena at the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Space is big and it can take decades or longer to travel between solar systems. So if aliens came to visit Earth, they might travel between dimensions instead.


The interdimensional UFO hypothesis proposes that UAP sightings are the result of non-human intelligent life which exists in dimensions that coexist with our own, but which remain largely out of normal human view. The theory stands in contrast to the extraterrestrial UFO hypothesis which maintains that UFO sightings are the result of non-human intelligent life which physically travel to earth from another planet or physical location.


In media interviews, former US Intelligence official and whistleblower David Grusch has suggested that, regarding the origin of UAP, "it could be that this is not necessarily extraterrestrial, and it's actually coming from a higher dimensional physical space that might be co-located right here."


The interdimensional UFO or UAP hypothesis has a considerable history in academia and has been advanced by renown scientists such as Jacques Vallée. Some have theorized that multidimensional non-human intelligent life may be able to exist across dimensions not accessible to the three spatial dimensions typically observable by humans. 


Read more: Why people tend to believe UFOs are extraterrestrial

What does the government say about aliens?

NASA's Artemis I rocket sits on launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 1, 2022, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

At present, U.S. government officials in both executive and legislative branches have acknowledged the existence of UAP and UAP-related government programs, but remain widely divided on the specific nature of the phenomena. In other words, they are very much still "unidentified" and may not be aliens at all.


Former high-ranking government officials and members of the US military and intelligence communities have publicly testified to having either seen first-hand aerial craft, or been made party to documented evidence of non-human intelligent life.


NASA has publicly documented its study into UAP through independent review boards and publicly available reports. Congressional inquiry into the nature of UAP and claims made by former government officials continue to garner interest among lawmakers. White House officials have acknowledged the need for ongoing evaluation of the nature of UAP.


On Sept. 1, the Pentagon launched a public-facing website for UAP reporting, which also contains information about its ongoing investigations into the phenomena as they become declassified. As of September 7, the Defense Department has continued to deny the existence of any UAP crash-retrieval program.


Read more: Pentagon report reveals over 500 new UFO sightings — and experts have no explanation for 171 of them

What is AARO?

The PentagonAerial view of a military building, The Pentagon, Washington DC, USA (Getty Images)Image_placeholder

AARO is an acronym for the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, a body organized under the US Department of Defense which investigates UAP (or UFO). The office is headed by Director Sean Kirkpatrick and was created in collaboration with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under the 2022 National Defense Authorizations Act, following the 2021 release of the UAP Task Force Preliminary Assessment. 


Read more: Whistleblower calls for government transparency as Congress digs for the truth about UFOs

By Rae Hodge

Rae Hodge is a science reporter for Salon. Her data-driven, investigative coverage spans more than a decade, including prior roles with CNET, the AP, NPR, the BBC and others. She can be found on Mastodon at @raehodge@newsie.social. 


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