A password will be emailed to you.

For more fascinating stories like this one, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Ufology is one of forteana’s toughest nuts. Organizations like MUFON, NUFORC, and others have tons of data winding up as interactive maps and infographics. That’s all well and good knowing where to see saucers, but what does it all mean? Could there be an underlying pattern?

Over at the Toulouse School of Economics some researchers have submitted an analysis of locations known for sightings. They draw upon the UFO reports archived with GEIPAN, a branch of the French Space Program (CNES). French citizens can submit their sightings to the local police, passing the buck over to GEIPAN, who classify each account into one of four categories. Type A sightings have been explained without a shadow of a doubt, B’s are probably identified, and C-class encounters lack enough meaningful data to be of any use. Type D events are the sweet spot. The kinds of reports that, despite a wealth of data, defy identification. Real, unidentified flying objects.

Out of the 1,961 sightings recorded between 1951 and 2013, Thibault Laurent, Christine Thomas-Agnan, and Michaël Vaillant have 381 D-class observations, and their conclusions are provocative. They considered many variables surrounding these events. Population density being a key factor for their models. More people and more sightings mean more reports. But this is only the tip of the iceberg as Thibault and pals note a strong correspondence of D-class reports around nuclear power plants and toxic waste dumps. Also factoring into the mix are rural areas, forests, and wetlands. Either our space brothers are playing guardian angel as humanity self-destructs, or it’s a whole lot of swamp gas.

They lay out all the math in black and white for anyone hoping to crunch the numbers for their own country. A cursory Google search brings up American, Australian, and other world UFO maps, in addition to many public domain records regarding contaminated land, nuclear power plants, population centers, and sacred sites like Uluru and Roswell.

Investigations like Spatial Point Pattern Analysis of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon in France should inspire researchers to apply the same methodologies to their work, broadening our understanding of the phenomenon. Goodness only knows what can be learned by comparing sightings over rich and poor neighborhoods, or if the UFOs appeared after a major event with a profound psychological impact on the population. Bringing us back to Charles Fort’s admonition of “One measures a circle, beginning anywhere”, giving fresh insights on an old topic.

Related stories:

(h/t Norman R.)