This animated data viz reveals that aliens don't shy away from cities.

If only this data viz were around when Mulder and Scully were searching for little green men and women. It shows UFO sightings since 1933 in sequence—fittingly, as little blinking lights over a map of the world:

The intergalactic graphic was created by MBA candidate Christian Pearson using web-based software and data from the National UFO reporting center. It's a part of QuantBait, a visualization initiative through which Pearson wants to tell stories about economic, political, and social issues.

This UFO sighting map "was a fun way of conveying the point that beautiful data visualization can provide deep insights," Pearson writes via email.

When you watch the map closely, you'll notice that the number of sightings really picks up around the 1950s and 1960s. In the United States, some of them probably correspond with the C.I.A.'s U-2 program, a Cold War air surveillance initiative active from 1954 to 1974. In this program, the C.I.A tested spy aircrafts at Area-51—the secret Nevada facility at the center of several extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. There's also better data records of more recent sightings, Pearson says.

It's also evident that the assumption that UFO sightings only happen in isolated, rural areas is mistaken. "The map clearly shows large clusters of reporting in urban areas," Pearson writes.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  2. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  3. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

  4. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.
    Maps

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.

  5. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

×