Meet J. Allen Hynek, the Astronomer Who First Classified UFO ‘Close Encounters’

When the U.S. government tapped the academic to help investigate UFOs, he was initially a skeptic. But not for long. It’s September 1947, and the U.S. Air Force has a problem. A rash of reports about mysterious objects in the skies has the public on edge and the military baffled. The Air Force needs to figure out what’s going on—and fast. It launches an investigation it calls Project Sign. By early 1948 the team realizes it needs some outside expertise to sift through the reports it’s receiving—specifically an astronomer who can determine which cases are easily explained by astronomical phenomena, such as planets, stars or meteors. For J. Allen Hynek, then the 37-year-old director at Ohio State University’s McMillin Observatory, it would be a classic case of being in the right place at the right time—or, as he may have occasionally lamented, the wrong place at the wrong one. The adventure begins Dr. J. Allen Hynek with Police Chief Robert R. Taylor of Dexter, Michigan going over a county map spotting where the flying objects were seen, 1966. Hynek had worked for the government during the war, developing new defense technologies like the first radio-controlled fuse, so he already had…

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Meet J. Allen Hynek, the Astronomer Who First Classified UFO ‘Close Encounters’

Updated: October 12, 2022 — 10:27 am