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Is it a UFO? Canadian expert shares tips to identify objects in the sky

In 2022, there were 768 UFO sightings in Canada.

From meteors to drones to Starlink, there are many objects flying around in space.

Canadian science writer Chris Rutkowski has devoted his career to writing extensively on UFOs and thinks the objects should be explored more closely. 

“It's a type of subject that everybody seems to have a story, or they know somebody who's seen something,” he says. "Everybody seems to have a fascination with UFOs.” 

Ever since a Chinese spy balloon was destroyed off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, there has been a heightened curiosity around space activity.

As recently as Saturday, a ‘cylindrical object’ was shot down over central Yukon but it’s not clear if it was a UFO or another Chinese spy balloon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Twitter that he had ordered for it to be taken down. A U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Canadian Armed Forces personnel were working to recover the wreckage of the object.

Four objects have been shot out of the sky over North America this month.

What is a UFO?

By definition, a UFO is an unidentified flying object. 

"We do have proof that people see a lot of UFOs in the sky that can't be identified and there are many hundreds every year,” says Rutkowski.

Rutkowski created Ufology Research, which found that there were 768 UFO sightings recorded in Canada in 2022. That's at least two UFO sightings a day.

"The number of UFO sightings reported in Canada in 2022 was the fourth-lowest over the past 20 years,” states a survey by Ufology Research, which has been collecting data since 1989.

In 2021, there were 722 sightings recorded, much lower than the 1,243 in 2020.

Most of the UFOs in the sky turn out to have a simple explanation, says Rutkowski, but not always. 

"Although there are a few every year that are sort of puzzling, and we don't know what those are, but we can't say that those are the aliens,” he says. 

In 2022, about 52 per cent of all UFO sightings were of simple lights in the sky. Witnesses reported seeing triangles, spheres and boomerangs. 

"Many witnesses are pilots, police and other individuals with reasonably good observing capabilities and good judgment,” states the survey. 

Does B.C. get a lot of sightings? 

Rutkowski notes if a location has more people in the area, then the number of reported UFOs increases. 

In 2022, British Columbia came in third for most UFO sightings. Quebec led all provinces with about 29 per cent of all Canadian UFO reports, edging out Ontario’s 28 per cent and B.C.'s 14 per cent. 

“You can go around the country and just see which areas have more population, although there are some little holdouts,” he says. 

The Maritimes have more UFO sightings per capita than they should, according to Rutkowski.

"Why this is? We're not sure, but it's interesting to see that,” he says. "Although the numbers belie population, there are some glitches here and there.”

Typically, more UFO reports happen in the summer, which is the best time to see them. 

“More people are outside, staying up late looking into the sky to see what's up there and they'll be seeing things because if there's something in the sky to be seen, someone will report it.” 

What else is flying in the sky? 

If the experts can’t identify the object, it will be called a UFO.

Rutkowski explains that UFOs can actually turn out to be meteors, planets, satellites, Starlink or even drones. 

When it comes to determining what the object could be, he suggests seeing if the object follows a straight path. If you’re near an airport, it’s likely a plane. If it’s stationary, it could be a planet, he says. 

“We sort of go through a list of things that it could be, and when you're left was something that you can't explain, then you've got to something that you can really sink your teeth into,” says Rutkowski. 

Based on Ufology Research's 2022 report, some of the sightings were military exercises and overflights occurring in populated areas.

“People are often unaware of the nature of conventional or natural objects in the sky, such as Starlink satellite constellations and large meteors,” states the report. 

Is it common to see a UFO?

The United States has the most reported UFO sightings, according to Rutkowski, who adds one in 10 people believe they’ve seen a UFO in North America. 

“In Canada, you're talking four million people who have seen a UFO. That's a lot of people,” he says. "I think it's important to say that seeing a UFO is actually quite common." 

Are there aliens or extraterrestrial activity?

Rutkowski often gets asked if he believes in aliens. 

"I have to say that with a background in astronomy, I can say that there probably are aliens out there somewhere,” he tells Glacier Media. 

While there is no tangible proof, he says it shouldn’t be disregarded. More and more scientists are opening up to the possibility that there is ‘alien life’ out there, he says. 

"I think it's time for science to take a closer look and anyone who sees UFO can help us better understand the phenomenon,” says Rutkowski.

After talking to hundreds of people, air traffic controllers and pilots, he has yet to see a UFO himself. 

"I'm fairly confident that people with some decent chops have seen some UFOs,” he says. “It's just a matter of time, statistically... the chances are you will see a UFO in your lifetime if you simply look up.”