NASA names 16-person panel tasked with investigating UFOs

Last June, NASA announced that it would convene a panel to study "unidentified aerial phenomena" (UAP), aka UFOs — while saying it doesn't believe they're "extraterrestrial in origin." Now, the space agency has unveiled the 16-member panel that will focus on "unclassified sightings and other data collected from civilian government and commercial sectors."

Chairing the panel is David Spergel, former head of astrophysics at Princeton University. Other members include Anamaria Berea, a research affiliate at the SETI (Search for Intelligence Life) Institute in Mountainview, California; retired NASA astronaut and test pilot Scott Kelly; and others ranging from oceanographers to astrophysicists to science journalists.

The panel is separate from a Pentagon group investigating UAPs reported by military pilots and investigated by US defense and intelligence officials. Now, the US government is effectively running two tracks of UFO probes after keeping such work behind closed doors for years.

Conspicuously absent are special effects experts like Corridor Crew skilled at spotting fake and altered clips. In a recent video, the group debunked a number of famous videos UFO clips, even from the Pentagon, ascribing them to ordinary occurrences like a camera's iris, a bird and an infrared lens flare.

NASA itself doesn't seem to believe there's much going on with these videos and sightings, either. However, it said the panel can still serve an important role in determining how to classify them — even if there are no aliens involved.

"Understanding the data we have surrounding unidentified aerial phenomena is critical to helping us draw scientific conclusions about what's happening in our skies," said NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. "Data is the language of scientists and makes the unexplainable explainable."

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