NASA has waded into the contentious world of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs), more commonly known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

On 14 September, the agency released a report by an independent study team that looks at how and why NASA might want to be involved in studying UAPs. There’s a long history of US government agencies assessing objects in the sky, stretching back to US military investigations into reports of flying saucers in the 1940s. But the report concludes that NASA is the agency best suited to lead scientifically driven and rigorous studies of UAPs.

NASA has found no evidence to suggest that UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin. But it has appointed a director of UAP research, Mark McInerney, to oversee analysis of reports of mysterious flying things.

Nature spoke to the chair of the independent panel, astrophysicist David Spergel at the Simons Foundation in New York City, about the part scientists might play in assessing UAP reports.

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