NCPA June 24, 2024

On this day in 1947, private pilot Kenneth A. Arnold was flying past Mt. Rainier en route to an air show in Pendleton, Oregon, when he saw a bright flash to the northeast. More flashes appeared, says the National Air and Space Museum, which Arnold claimed emanated from nine shiny objects flying in an echelon formation about five miles long. “Arnold described each object as circular, about 100 feet across, and with no discernible tail. The objects periodically flipped, banked, and weaved side-to-side, ‘like the tail of a Chinese kite.’” Whether he said it himself when talking with reporters or it (more likely) was misattributed to him, the term “flying saucer” was coined and quickly spread across the nation. “Unidentified flying objects” or “unidentified anomalous phenomena” are the terms generally used today when talking about observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural objects—sightings that continue being reported and, of course, continue attracting interest.