A university has uncovered secret UK government research into unidentified flying objects (UFOs), showing that defence analysts dismissed most sightings as natural phenomena and not a threat to national security.

Academics from Sheffield Hallam University used the country's freedom of information legislation to force the release of a four-year defence ministry study into UFOs, or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) in defence jargon. The findings attribute most sightings, which have a higher concentration in the UK's Yorkshire region in which Sheffield sits, to electrically-charged gases transforming meteors into aerodynamically-shaped rock plasma in the sky.

The Defence Intelligence Staff conducted a study, dubbed Project Codign, into what security threat UFOs may pose to the UK, between 1996 and 2000. Its conclusion was that UFOs pose no credible invasion threat, but adds that UAPs can be dangerous if pilots perform violent manoeuvres to avoid the phenomena or attempt to chase them. There have been incidents in other countries where pilots have attempted to chase UFOs.

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) in the UK Air Defence Region report was compiled from around 10,000 military and civilian eyewitness reports and runs to over 500 pages. Two of the university’s social scientists, David Clarke and Gary Anthony, requested access to previously-classified report, which is thought to have cost around £100,000 ($173,000) to compile. The report has no author.

The Project Codign concluded work started in 1952 by the defence ministry's Flying Saucer Working Party into the phenomena reported by many military pilots.

The report says super-heated gas, caused by "more than one set of weather and electrically charged conditions" are the most probably cause for flying saucers. One such set of conditions is meteor re-entry when the rock neither burns up completely nor impacts as meteorites. The resulting brightly coloured rock plasma is moulded into saucers and spins at high speed. 

However the study has been criticised by UFO spotters, chiefly for failing to track or capture any rock plasma.

External link:
Read the UK Ministry of Defence's official log of UFO sightings in UK air space since 2001.

Source: Flight International