Nasa is to engage a global army of citizen sky watchers to help it solve the mystery of unidentified anomalous phenomena, more commonly known as UFOs, and search for life on other worlds.

The space agency has also appointed its first director of UAP research – a de facto chief of UFO studies – to coordinate its efforts to help explain the unknown, it announced on Thursday, as it unveiled a science-based “road map” to collect future data.

New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be crucial to the effort to advance analytical techniques, officials said at a morning briefing to release a year-long study by an independent panel investigating the phenomena.

Crucially, Nasa says it wants to eliminate the stigma that surrounds the reporting of sightings by the public, especially private, commercial and military pilots.

The goal is to “shift the conversation about UAP from sensationalism to science”, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson told reporters.

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