"We're just a small blue planet in the middle of an infinite universe," UFO researcher Robert Fleischer told DW. "Anything is possible out there."
Fleischer, based in the eastern German city of Leipzig, is running the group, Exopolitik Deutschland. His YouTube channel, ExopolitikTV, has 100,000 subscribers. Although a recent unclassified US intelligence report neither confirmed — nor ruled out — that a series of unidentified craft are of extraterrestrial origin, Fleischer is convinced they are unique regardless.
"We'll see that these aircraft fly around with astounding properties — which we can't explain and are superior to ours," he said.
For Fleischer, Germany is a "valley of cluelessness" when it comes to UFO research. Other countries commit far more resources to researching and reporting unexplained events, he said.
"This only got big in Germany after Barack Obama talked about it," he added.
That is a reference to a May New York Times interview with the former US president, during which he referred to "footage and records of objects in the skies that we don't exactly know what they are. We can't explain how they move, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern."
Satellites and hotlines
Obama's comments piqued others' curiosity in UFOs, Hansjürgen Köhler told DW. After decades of running the Central Research Network for Extraordinary Aerospace Phenomena (CENAP) outside Frankfurt, the hobby astronomer has gone from believer to skeptic.
"Our hotline gets hundreds of tips every year. Most have natural causes," Köhler said. "We can explain 97% of them. The other 3% are open because we don't have enough data."
Köhler's phone has been ringing even more since the end of 2019, which he attributes to Elon Musk's Starlink satellite network. More than 600 of the nearly 900 reports have been linked to Starlink, he said.
A country of clubs — including for UFOs
In Germany, there seems to be an endless list of hobby clubs and nonprofit associations. The Association for UFO Research (GEP) is one of them. Their databank includes 140,000 entries, and 95% of them can be explained. Aside from satellites, strangely shaped balloons is one common answer, as well as weather phenomena and insects that zoom across photos.
The remaining 5% "perhaps also have natural causes, which we just can't explain yet," Hans-Werner Peiniger, GEP's head, told DW.
Members of Germany's UFO clubs — there are at least three — are not blind alien believers, Leipzig-based Fleischer said. They are rational, engineer types who use limited resources to analyze what curious sky watchers send them. The result, however, can be a great deal of information about what is happening above us.
The really interesting cases "are a matter for the military," Fleischer said. "They control the skies and have instruments and radar."
Suddenly not so secret
No military or intelligence service is known for its transparency, however. That US agencies appear to be more forthcoming recently has taken Fleischer by surprise.
"The Americans have spent decades trying to laugh off these phenomena," he said. "Their reporting now is quite the surprise."
For him, the issue is not about convincing people that aliens are visiting earth, but "giving more space to discuss this topic publicly so it gains the importance that it deserves," Fleischer said. "We want it to be investigated in a scientific way."
This article has been translated from German.
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