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Reports of UFO sightings in the Washington, D.C., area had been occurring long before the White House drone and U.S. Capitol gyrocopter incidents of 2015 made headlines. The flashing lights and saucer-shaped silhouettes that people have claimed to see over the last century may or may not be as real as the quadcopters that the FAA is currently trying to ground, but that hasn’t stopped the National UFO Reporting Center from keeping track of where they occurred – or digital cartographer Levi Pearson from mapping those reports over time.

Pearson took the NUFORC’s data and integrated it into an animated map that displays various types of UFO sightings since 1933, noting their durations with the use of colored dots. The District doesn’t seem to have nearly the same frequency of reports that nearby Gaithersburg and Rockville have experienced, but keep an eye on things and you will spot some activity in the Bethesda-Friendship Heights area.

As for the legendary 1952 UFO sighting above the U.S. Capitol, I’m not sure why that doesn’t seem to be documented here. But maybe that cluster of alleged alien reconnaissance vessels just didn’t get reported to the right people at the right time. I’ll be the first to admit to you here that I’m not an expert on what is or isn’t accounted for in this data set.

The map does, however, represent a great use of location-based data – and CartoDB. And it provides a nice snapshot of where and when sightings have surged and dipped over nearly 100 years, as Pearson noted in his blog post:

The first thing that jumped out was the increase in sightings during the 1950s and 1960s. It turns out that the CIA’s U2 program may be responsible for several of these report. In late 2014 the CIA took to Twitter to take credit for nearly HALF of the UFO reporting in the 1950s.

So do with this information what you will. And know that if you if ever want to go UFO-watching, you may want to venture out into the suburbs or beyond. It looks like that is where most of the action is at.