Read More: Science Alert
You've probably seen more than your fair share of stories about UFO sightings. An astronaut on the ISS just has to catch footage of a fireball shooting across Earth's skies, and conspiracy theorists have a field day. Whether it's clouds that look like spaceships or rogue meteors, the internet loves a good alien conspiracy. But former NASA engineer James Oberg has taken it upon himself to trawl through all the sightings and stories out there and politely debunk them, using science. The conclusion? Most of your "insane UFO sightings" are little more than 'space dandruff', or your brain misunderstanding of what space travel actually looks like, says Oberg. As Cara Giaimo from Atlas Obscura reports, after working at NASA mission control in the late '90s, Oberg went on to become a space journalist and historian. It wasn't until a few years ago that he started to take UFO sightings seriously. His goal isn't to simply crap all over true believers - he calls that "stomping on dormice" - instead he's interested in teasing out exactly what's going on in these images and videos, and trying to figure out why people are reacting so strongly to them. His hypothesis? Our human senses are so used to focussing on relatively slow-moving objects, as well as certain light and atmosphere conditions, that when things change, our brains get confused. "Our sensory system is functioning absolutely perfectly for Earth conditions," Oberg told Giaimo. "But we're still a local civilisation. Moving beyond our neighbourhood has been visually confusing." Some of the most common sighting he has to debunk are to do with NASA astronauts reportedly seeing UFOS and being forced to keep silent, which Oberg says is a result of us watching too much sci-fi and not really understanding what space really looks like. "I've had enough experience with real spaceflight to realise that what's being seen in many videos is nothing beyond the 'norm' from fully mundane phenomena occurring in unearthly settings," Oberg writes over on his site.