The earliest sightings of UFOs, and the majority of reports since, have been of flying objects seen mostly from a distance but sometimes from close up. Convincing as many people found these reports they left behind them no evidence beyond the sightings themselves. Sceptics could claim that the witnesses had mistaken ordinary objects for something extraordinary, or that they might have been hallucinating or even lying.
Then sightings began to take place where the UFO left behind physical traces of its passing. In the terminology adopted by UFO researchers these are Close Encounters of the Second Kind, or CE2s. They do not happen often but when they do they can be dramatic. Studying these CE2s allows us to learn more about the UFO phenomenon.
The importance of Close Encounters of the Second Kind and the traces they leave behind has been of enormous importance to the study of UFOs and suggestions of alien encounters. Sightings alone, even when the witness accurately reports what was seen, are open to all sorts of doubts. The actual size of an observed object depends very much on how far away it was when seen, and judging distances can be notoriously difficult especially at night or when seeing an object in the air. If an object leaves physical traces, however, these can be precisely measured at leisure. Moreover the type of traces left may indicate how the object moved, how hot it was and of what it was composed. For instance, holes cut from soil indicate a mechanical action, while holes burned in vegetation suggest radiant heat. They do also discount entirely that the witness invented or hallucinated the encounter.
As the type and number of Close Encounters of the Second Kind accumulated, investigators tried to make sense of the growing bank of data.
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