In the 1950s and 1960s, the US Air Force secretly investigated more than 12,000 reports of unidentified flying objects. The findings on the vast majority of those sightings were uneventful: people misidentifying common objects like planes, lights, birds, and comets; hoaxers looking to make a name for themselves; small towns succumbing to hysteria (okay, that one is kind of eventful). But 701 sightings still remain unidentified to this day.
Some of those sightings will be explored in the new History network scripted TV series, Project Blue Book, based on the real-life UFO study of the same name conducted by the US military at the height of the Cold War. The show stars Aidan Gillen (of The Wire and Game of Thrones fame) as J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer hired by the government to serve as the project’s scientific consultant.
Initially a skeptic of flying saucers, Hynek came to believe over the course of the top-secret project that serious investigation of UFOs was a legitimate scientific endeavor. By the time the program was shuttered in 1969, Hynek was one of the few people involved who conceded that some UFO cases could simply defy explanation. Today he’s known as the father of ufology, who coined the phrase “close encounter.”
All of the project’s case files have since been declassified and are available to the public at the US National Archives.