A little fun with UFO sightings data


As a kid, I was always intrigued with UFO sightings and I guess I'm still a little that way ... therefore how could I not jump at the opportunity to explore some UFO sightings data!

I guess "UFO" doesn't necessarily imply that something is an alien space ship - just that it's "unidentified". And lately, with all the remote controlled drones, I'm wondering if they might be responsible for some of the UFO sightings? I guess my favorite drone-prank would be the flying reaper. Here's a picture of my friend David's drone (not sure if he's played any pranks yet).


But anyway, back to the main topic - UFO sightings! I found some data available online at  www.nuforc.org, and found the report for the sightings in North Carolina.

I wrote some SAS code to read in the html text for the report, and parse out the data into a format that I could programmatically analyze and plot. The toughest part was the data cleaning. The data entry apparently had no spell-check, etc, and allowed users to enter things like the location in free-form-text. And the various people entering their reports weren't consistent (and some weren't the best spellers). Therefore I had to scrutinize many of the locations manually, to deduce a valid city name which I could then use in Proc Geocode (to get a latitude/longitude to plot on the map).

Once all that was done, I created the following map using Proc Gmap with annotated markers. Click the image below to see the interactive map - it has html hover-text on the markers (UFO pun intended!), and you can click the city markers to drill-down to a table of all the sightings for that city, and then click the links in the table to see the actual sighting reports.


Have you ever seen a UFO, or do you have a theory about UFOs? Feel free to share in a comment!


About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.


  1. Really neat application of SAS, great way to get the general population interested in SAS. Thank you for sharing Robert!

  2. My husband and I were just finishing putting up Christmas decorations in December and we saw this orange sphere light going across the sky. It went pretty level and then sunk down out of sight. We get airplanes a lot and they are loud...and blinking lights, which this didn't have. It went over kind of in the direction of the airport though but was silent and fast. We were a little freaked out wondering what that could be.

  3. "Occurred : 6/25/2001 21:15 (Entered as : 06/25/01 21:15)...Reported: 7/26/2001 08:33..Posted: 3/21/2003...Location: Ocracoke Island, NC" This might have been one that I reported. I do think it was related to some sort of weapons test... and it came from way in the upper atmosphere. Anyway, I went to the rangers station, and said I was sober & a tea-tottler, and had a degree in astronomy. ha ha... and that I don't think we will get visitors before we get radio signals.

  4. This is fun data. I did a SASGF paper using this data several years ago ... SAS EG: More than a gift from Outer Space [http://support.sas.com/resources/papers/proceedings13/410-2013.pdf].

    My findings were that most observed UFOs were in there early part of July that lasted 2-3 minutes and were bright blasts. Hmmm ... makes me feel patriotic.

  5. Very cool map Robert. You know the US Gov/Air Force now use the term UAP , Unexplained Aerial Phenomenon.

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Hmm ... UAP just doesn't have the public-appeal that UFO does, eh!?! :)

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