spaceSpace and Physics

What Was The World's Earliest Documented UFO Sighting?


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

66 What Was The World's Earliest Documented UFO Sighting?
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away. DragonRal/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

UFOs – Unidentified Flying Objects – are real. Of course they are: Hundreds of people see mysterious objects in the sky all the time. However, some are considered by a more eccentric few to represent something more enigmatic and alien. Either way, there have been reported sightings of these levitating blobs and lights for years. Now, a historian has revealed that he has uncovered evidence of what may be the first-ever documented UFO sighting – which was made in Hull, England, way back in 1801.

Although the earliest UFO image was taken from the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, in 1870, sightings of these mysterious objects may have stretched back even earlier, with some evidence only put down in writing. Mike Covell, an author and historian, perused through newspaper archives from the beginning of the 19th century, and discovered a written description in the newspaper, the Northampton Mercury, of a huge, moon-like orb that appeared over the city at roughly 1:00 a.m. on July 11, 1801, accompanied by a weird blue light.


The “immense moon” also had a black bar running across it. According to the Mirror, the report said: “It seemed then to form itself into seven small distinct moons or globes of fire which disappeared for the space of a few seconds. Its reappearance was equally brilliant, at first showing itself like the face of the moon, afterwards in five circular balls, and lastly like several small stars which gradually faded away, leaving the whole atmosphere brilliantly illuminated.”

Image credit: That’s no moon. Ursatii/Shutterstock

Another local newspaper, the Chester Chronicle, described the weird blue light emitted by the object – but a week later, on July 17.

It isn’t immediately clear that a UFO sighting older than this hasn’t also occurred – perhaps the records haven’t been checked yet. In fact, according to TIME, the earliest UFO sighting in recorded history can be found in 4th century Chinese tomes, which claim that a “moon boat” hovered above the country every 12 years.


“There is a lot of portraits showing stuff flying about in the sky from Biblical times. But it is all open to interpretation – whereas this is real evidence,” Mr. Covell told the Mirror.

We’re not particularly convinced that a written report about a strange light in the sky is conclusive proof of what is inferred to be an alien UFO. Distressingly, the description of the moon-like UFO makes it sound somewhat like the Death Star. Perhaps it did come from a galaxy far, far away after all.


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