July 2 marks the anniversary of the so-called Roswell incident, in which some believe a "spacecraft" crashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947 and was covered up by the Air Force.
The U.S. government has maintained the debris was merely the remnants of a high-altitude weather balloon, but speculation about extraterrestrials and government cover-ups has existed ever since, inspiring books, movies and TV shows – and, the celebration of World UFO Day.
As of late, conversations of aliens and UFOs aren’t considered as "far out" as they used to be.
In fact, expert work to identify hundreds of UFOs has accelerated in the last year, underscoring the growing acceptance among scientists and government officials.
Here is a look at what has advanced in the work to identify UFOs in the last year:
Last July, the Department of Defense established what it calls the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), tasked with investigating mysterious flying objects that had been reported over various restricted military airspace over the last several decades.
The objects had been observed by military pilots who had sometimes been reluctant to report what they’d seen due to fear of stigma, creating the need for an official investigation outlet.
The office is coming up on its one-year anniversary and, in that time, has already received "several hundreds" of additional reports – more than 650, in fact, according to the group’s latest Congressional testimony. But, more on that later.
AARO is also responsible for tracking unidentified objects underwater and in space.
They’re working to improve data collection, streamline reporting requirements and resolve cases.
What AARO’s found
In both the old and new cases AARO has been investigating, the majority have been determined to exhibit "unremarkable characteristics," and could be characterized as unmanned aircraft systems or balloon-like objects, an AARO report said in January about its progress.
Then in April, AARO officials went before a Congressional subcommittee on emerging threats to testify more about their investigations and early findings.
AARO shared three recently declassified UFO videos, which were part of the more than 650 new reports they’d been examining.
AARO’s director, Sean Kirkpatrick, did testify, for the record, that AARO had not found any credible evidence thus far of "extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics."
But, he said about half of the 650 cases have been prioritized because they have been found to be "especially interesting and anomalous."
The public hearing was only the second one in the last 50 years in which lawmakers have openly discussed UFOs. The first was in May of 2022.
NASA joins the conversation
AARO isn’t the only high-profile investigation into UFOs.
In October, NASA launched its own independent study into what it’s calling UAPs, or unidentified anomalous phenomena.
NASA identifies UAPs as observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or as known natural phenomena.
The team is made up of 16 experts across a diverse field, including those in astrophysics, astrobiology, engineering – and includes even retired astronaut Scott Kelly, the first American to spend nearly a year in space.
They’ve been looking into how much information is publicly available on UAPs and how much more is needed to understand the unexplained sightings.
The panel is due to publish its findings in a report by the end of the month.
The report will be entirely public, with no classified military data used – certain to draw in even greater attention and scrutiny on some of the sky’s greatest mysteries.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.