NASA can always depend on the Phoenix area for UFO reports.
Our clear skies and large population apparently make the Valley number one when it comes to hysterical cries of alien invasion every time a research balloon goes up.
Following yesterday's media reports about the earthly origins of a spherical, translucent object in the sky, we called Bill Stepp, head of operations at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, to ask how many times NASA balloon launches spurred UFO reports, and why people were so stupid. He didn't bite on the second question, but you can read his answer to the first question in this excerpt from his e-mail:
We launch between 15 - balloons a years from several different sites in the world. Generally, we will launch 4-6 balloons from Fort Sumner that will track over central Arizona. The only launch site that does not generate UFO reports is Antarctica. Typically, the location that will have the largest number of reports is the Phoenix area. Finally, we do not contact the various media, local law enforcement agencies, NOAA Weather Service, or the FAA to find out if reports have been made, nor do we keep trrack of the reports that are forwarded to us.
Without any official talley, I would personnaly not be surprized to hear someone guess that we were the subjects of several hundred reports each year.
Reports? Heck, in Phoenix, we don't just call in a report -- some of us make careers out of this kind of stuff.
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