Metro Morning

78 UFO sightings reported in Toronto last year, but what are they really?

There were 78 reported sightings of UFOs in Toronto last year, and one University of Toronto astronomer is encouraging stargazers to continue sharing what they see.

'I have to reserve judgement because I don't know everything and scientists don't know everything'

There were 78 reported sightings of UFOs in Toronto last year, according to the 2015 Canadian UFO Survey. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

There were 78 reported sightings of UFOs in Toronto last year, and one University of Toronto astronomer is encouraging stargazers to continue sharing what they see.

The 2015 Canadian UFO Survey found that last year had the second-largest number of sightings in the last three decades, with 1,267 reports from across Canada. 
While working in Chile in 1987, Shelton spotted the first super nova visible to the naked eye in nearly 400 years. (Metro Morning/CBC)

Some of those reports end up in the ear of Ian Shelton, a professor of astronomy at U of T who says he's happy to take calls about sightings.

"It's getting hard to find a place to call, the police department might think you're crazy," Shelton said on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "But if you don't make the report then you'll never know for sure what it is you saw."

For his part, Shelton says he reserves judgement when people tell him they think they saw something alien. Although once he's heard them out, the professor is happy to talk down those who are worried at the prospect of UFOs.

"Sometimes there's a very simple explanation," Shelton told host Matt Galloway. "You know that puts your mind at rest, you know I'm not being abducted tomorrow."

Shelton himself has seen some incredible things over the course of his career. While working in Chile in 1987 he spotted the first super nova visible to the naked eye in nearly 400 years. 

"You have to be a good observer," said Shelton. "If you take the few moments to look where you're standing, look how long it took to cross the sky ... if you don't have any evidence, hard details to go on, then it's memorable for you but you can't share it with anyone."

The study from Winnipeg-based Ufology Research, noted the number of reported UFO sightings remains high and suggested several reasons why, including more secret military flights, better access to reporting sightings, or "even that the downturn in the economy is leading to an increased desire by some people to look skyward for assistance."

For his part Shelton provided a couple of explanations for things people might assume are UFOs, including bright meteors. 

"The colour usually shocks them, that the meteor can be bright green and have these terminal flashes at the end," said Shelton. 

Communication satellites can also pack a pretty powerful punch. They "can actually put sunlight right down on the ground and make it daytime for a few seconds at night," said Shelton.

In terms of whether or not Shelton thinks any of these 12,000 plus sightings across the country are actually alien, the astronomer says that he doesn't know everything and neither do scientists. So if any aliens out there want to give him a hand, Shelton is game.

"Exobiology is a hard slog but you know if they would phone me, leave a message or text message me that'd be wonderful and make it easy."

with files from the Canadian Press

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