The first reported UFO sighting in modern history happened somewhere above Mount Rainier in 1947. A pilot named Kenneth Arnold saw flying objects that looked like “saucers” or “pie pans” — shadowy shapes against the Washington mountain’s snowy facade.
The US Air Force dismissed the encounter as a mirage, but the press pounced on the incident, coining the term “flying saucer” to describe the sighting.
Since then, over 100,000 sightings have been reported and catalogued by the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), an organization established in 1974 that’s based in Washington state. Earlier this month, the Pentagon even briefed senators that US Navy pilots are reporting more UFO sightings.
To find out where people are glimpsing UFOs most often, INSIDER calculated the rate of sightings by population in every state since 2010, using data compiled by NUFORC.
Vermont topped the list, with five sightings per 10,000 people, while Texas came in last with approximately 0.7 sightings per 10,000 people, or one sighting per 15,000 people.
In general, reports were more concentrated in northern and western states. Vermont was followed by Montana, New Hampshire, Alaska, and Maine respectively — all of which are considered high latitude.
Californians reported the most UFO sightings by sheer number — nearly 6,000 catalogued sightings since 2010 — and D.C. residents saw the fewest.
Some UFO sightings were probably planes
The most recent Vermont sighting, dated June 11, 2019, described seeing a band of yellow and orange lights in the sky, observed after the witness’s dogs began growling at night.
“My best guess is that it was in the shape of a thick disk with lights around the outside,” the anonymous report read.
Northeastern states like Vermont and New Hampshire happen to sit under a tangle of transatlantic flight paths, but many reports explicitly state that their sightings looked nothing like planes.
“I don’t know much about aircraft, but I have seen my fair share in the sky and this did not move like an airplane the lights/structure was completely different,” the latest Vermont report concluded.
Reports are submitted to NUFORC’s database either through an online form, or via a 24-hour hotline that has been operating since the center’s inception 45 years ago. “HOAXED AND JOKE REPORTS ARE IGNORED,” the form says.
Nonetheless, there are likely to be false sightings in the database. “We can never be certain that a report is true and that it is a description of an authentic UFO,” Peter Davenport, NUFORC’s director, told INSIDER.
Davenport relies on informal criteria to evaluate each report, such as how eloquent a report sounds. Sightings submitted by professionals like pilots and military veterans are given more credence, as are reports that contain more detailed documentation, like radar evidence.
Most credible are the sightings that multiple independent witnesses report. The more people who see the same UFO, the more convincing it is.