Every year, hundreds of bystanders claim rare sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in the night sky, most of which are unexplained.
In Canada alone, there were 1,267 reported UFO sightings in 2015, according to a survey released by Winnipeg-based Ufology Research. This meant that Canadians were reporting three or four UFO sightings per day.
This is considered the second highest number since the country's UFO survey began in 1989, but the record-breaking year was 2012 — which was supposed to be the "end of the world" - with 1,981 reported cases.
The Ufology report compiles data from various sources, including Transport Canada, as well as investigative organizations such as Groupe d'Assistance et de Recherche sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiées (GARPAN) and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
But experts wonder: why did Canadians saw an increase in UFO sightings last year?
Well, there isn't really much of a scientific explanation, except that Ufology Research's mention in mainstream media is to blame.
UFOlogist Gilles Milot, perhaps the most prominent of his profession in Quebec, said one sighting had received mention in the press. After the story appeared, calls to the Ufology Research began flooding in.
Milot, whose job is to evaluate and coordinate investigations of UFO sightings across Quebec, had has hands full. He tracked all the calls and responded to them all, and he now keeps a log of sightings that he believes are reliable.
Because of the rising number of sightings, Milot thinks people are becoming more open and willing to discuss the phenomenon without fear of being ridiculed.
During Milot and his team's outreach in 2015, they met people who said they were afraid of talking about UFO sightings because they might get laughed at.
"But when they come to our website, they see that they are not alone," said Milot.
Although Milot considers himself open-minded, he knows some of the claims are pretty hard to believe and that it will take a lot to convince skeptics.
One such skeptic is Dr. Joe Schwarcz, an author and a professor at McGill University's Office of Science and Society. Schwarcz said he believes in UFOs, but in the literal sense.
"You could see something go by your window and it would be an unidentified flying object," said Schwarcz, "until you realize it was your neighbor's Frisbee."
Schwarcz said most of the UFOs could just be a strange cloud formation, a rocket launch, the reflection of light, an unusual view of a planet such as Venus, or just plain fraud. He admits that some require deeper explanations, but it does not immediately mean that it is an alien spacecraft.
When it comes to the existence of terrestrial life, however, Schwarcz is not a non-believer. He says it is arrogant to think we're the only life species in the universe.
The McGill University professor is not alone in his belief. Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, renowned for his work on black holes, and other high-profile names announced plans to send tiny probes as far as the Alpha Centauri to seek interstellar life. If successful, this would open up a whole new world.
Photo : Jonas Bengtsson | Flickr