Close encounter

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In ufology, a close encounter is an event in which a person witnesses an unidentified flying object. This terminology and the system of classification behind it was started by astronomer and UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek, and was first suggested in his 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry.[1] He introduced the first three kinds of encounters; more sub-types of close encounters were later added by others, but these additional categories are not universally accepted by UFO researchers, mainly because they depart from the scientific rigor that Hynek aimed to bring to ufology.[2]

Sightings more than 500 feet (150 m) from the witness are classified as "Daylight Discs," "Nocturnal Lights," or "Radar/Visual Reports."[3] Sightings within about 500 feet are subclassified as various types of "close encounter." Hynek and others[4] argued a claimed close encounter must occur within about 500 feet to greatly reduce or eliminate the possibility of misidentifying conventional aircraft or other known phenomena.

Hynek's scale achieved cachet with the general public when it informed elements of the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is named after the third level of the scale. Posters for the film recited the three levels of the scale, and Hynek himself makes a cameo appearance near the end of the film.

Hynek's scale[edit]

Hynek devised a sixfold classification for UFO sightings:[5][6]

First kind[edit]

Visual sightings of an unidentified flying object.

Second kind[edit]

Visual sightings plus the accompanying of physical evidence.

Third kind[edit]

Sightings of "occupants" in and around the UFO.

Bloecher subtypes[edit]

The UFO researcher Ted Bloecher proposed six subtypes for the close encounters of the third kind in the Hynek's scale.[7]

A: An entity is observed only inside the UFO.
B: An entity is observed inside and outside the UFO.
C: An entity is observed near to a UFO, but not going in or out.
D: An entity is observed. No UFOs are seen by the observer, but UFO activity has been reported in the area at about the same time.
E: An entity is observed, but no UFOs are seen and no UFO activity has been reported in the area at that time.
F: No entity or UFOs are observed, but the subject experiences some kind of "intelligent communication".

Subtypes D, E, and F may be unrelated to the UFO phenomenon.

Extensions of Hynek's scale[edit]


A human is abducted by a UFO or its occupants. This type was not included in Hynek's original close encounters scale.[8]

Jacques Vallee,[9][unreliable source?] Hynek's erstwhile associate, argued that a CE4 should be described as "cases when witnesses experienced a transformation of their sense of reality", so as to also include non-abduction cases where absurd, hallucinatory or dreamlike events are associated with UFO encounters.


Named by Steven M. Greer's CSETI group, these purported encounters are joint, bilateral contact events produced through the conscious, voluntary and proactive human-initiated or cooperative communication with extraterrestrial intelligence.[10] This is very similar to some "contactees" of the 1950s who claimed regular communication with benevolent aliens.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hynek, Allen J. (1972, 1998). The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-1-56924-782-2. 
  2. ^ Clark, Jerome (1998). The UFO Book. Detroit: Visible Ink Press. 
  3. ^ Hynek, 1972, 1998, p. 6
  4. ^ Hynek, 1972, 1998, p. 20; see also the program UFO Hunters episode "Alien Contact" aired on 23 April 2008 on the History Channel.
  5. ^ Steven J. Dick (28 December 1999). The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science. Cambridge University Press. pp. 309–. ISBN 978-0-521-66361-8. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Donald Goldsmith; Tobias C. Owen (April 2001). The search for life in the universe. University Science Books. pp. 521–. ISBN 978-1-891389-16-0. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Hendry, Allan (August 1979). The UFO Handbook: A Guide to Investigating, Evaluating and Reporting UFO Sightings. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-14348-6. 
  8. ^ The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry. 1972. ISBN 978-1-56924-782-2. 
  9. ^ Vallee, Jacques. "Physical Analysis in Ten Cases of Unexplained Aerial Objects with Material Samples." 1998. Journal of Scientific Exploration. Vol. 12, No. 3., pp. 359-375. URL accessed 23 August 2009
  10. ^ McCarthy, Paul (December 1, 1992). "Close encounters of the fifth kind. (communicating with UFOs)". Omni (magazine). Archived from the original on 2007-05-12. Retrieved 2007-05-12.