Historic Congressional Hearing on UFOs Is Live: Watch Now

This should be fascinating.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Monisha Ravisetti Former Science Writer
Monisha Ravisetti was a science writer at CNET. She covered climate change, space rockets, mathematical puzzles, dinosaur bones, black holes, supernovas, and sometimes, the drama of philosophical thought experiments. Previously, she was a science reporter with a startup publication called The Academic Times, and before that, was an immunology researcher at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. She graduated from New York University in 2018 with a B.A. in philosophy, physics and chemistry. When she's not at her desk, she's trying (and failing) to raise her online chess rating. Her favorite movies are Dunkirk and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
Amanda Kooser
Monisha Ravisetti
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An unidentified flying object captured by the US Navy in the "gimbal" video. 

Department of Defense

Few things capture the public imagination quite like UFOs and sci-fi suggestions that aliens might be vacationing on our humble little planet.

At 6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. ET Tuesday, the US House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee will shed some light on UFOs -- more formally known as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP -- with an open hearing.

Among those presenting information on these elusive objects will be Ronald Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, and Scott Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence. In the days leading up to the hearing, others involved definitely haven't shied away from heightening the anticipation.

"Americans need to know more about these unexplained occurrences," Indiana Rep. Andre Carson tweeted on May 10. Carson will chair the proceedings.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California also tweeted on May 10 that "the American people deserve full transparency," saying the hearing "will give the public a chance to hear from experts on one of the greatest mysteries of our time."

There are a few elephant-in-the-room questions surrounding the House's upcoming UFO hearing: Could there be something pressing to discuss? Have we found extraterrestrial life? It seems we're going to have to sit tight and watch the story unravel. Beyond a commitment to transparency for the American public, it's unclear whether there's a specific motivation. 

Plus, in general, when talking about UFOs at all, it's important to remember these entities don't necessarily mean extraterrestrial spaceships. UFOs translate literally to "unidentified flying objects." In reality, that could be anything in the air that we haven't yet identified. Viewers should temper any expectations for an extraterrestrial bombshell.

Start time and how to watch the UFO hearing

The hearing will stream live starting at 6 a.m. PT (7 a.m. MT, 8 a.m. CT,  9 a.m. ET) on May 17 and you can follow along on CNET's livestream, embedded above. After the public portion airs, the subcommittee will hold a closed, classified briefing. 

Why is the hearing being held now? 

There's been a new push to share government information on UFOs. Last year, the Pentagon issued a report highlighting how UAPs may threaten flight safety. The report didn't provide explanations or point a finger at alien visitors, but it did acknowledge the possibility that a few UAP sightings may be due to technical glitches, while others were most likely unexplained physical objects.  

The report also lists an array of possible UAP categories, including airborne clutter like birds and balloons; natural phenomena like atmospheric fluctuations; industry developments like classified airplanes; or devices and foreign systems like technology from another nation. But the final category's probably the one we're most interested in: "other."

Objects in this category, the report writes, are likely "pending scientific advances that allowed us to better understand them."

Notably, though, the report blatantly starts out with bolded letters stating that "the limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP." This urges that we take the document's contents with a grain of salt because there's some uncertainty spilling over into the data. 

In 2020, the Pentagon formally released three US Navy videos that had been feeding into UFO theories for years. The videos show pilots tracking UAPs in the sky. "DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos," the department said. 

Human curiosity at its peak

A few months before the Pentagon's nine-page report was released, John Greenewald Jr., who runs an online archive of declassified government documents called The Black Vault, posted a CD full of 2,780 pages with government information about UFOs. 

Greenewald was able to obtain the trove by exercising several Freedom of Information act requests. To have such a request accepted, you just have to reasonably outline what records you'd like to view and why.

And even though The Black Vault's retrieved government reports may not have led to concrete evidence of alien life or intergalactic rockets, it offered definitive proof of human curiosity. According to Greenewald, shortly after posting, over 622,000 people generated more than 30.7 million hits on his servers and downloaded nearly 26 terabytes of data over the course of just 24 hours. 

Plus, streaming UFO movies, and even documentaries, are nearly endless. 

It's arguably human nature to muse about the unknown and try to make sense of our existence in the universe we call our home. But, again, as you brew some coffee and sit back on Tuesday morning, remember to ground yourself. UFOs are real in the sense that they are flying objects with unknown explanations, but UFOs don't automatically equal aliens. And, as the Pentagon report taught us, there are a lot of questions and not very many answers.