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Netherlands UFO: Why we want to believe

Netherlands UFO: On May 25th, a woman snapped a photo of a UFO floating above a Netherlands castle. Why did it go viral?

Image

A detail of a photo shot by Corinne Federer shows a 'flying saucer' hovering above Muiderslot Castle, Netherlands.

Corinne Federer

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On the last Saturday in May this year, Corinne Federer and her mother took a trip to Muiderslot Castle, a moat-girdled fortress built in 1285 at the edge of the glossy river Vecht, near Amsterdam. Fortunately, for the Internet, Ms. Federer took pictures.

When Federer later went through her photographs of the fortress, she spotted something odd, something hovering just above the cloud line: a UFO, in the classic saucer-shape, but with a single, decidedly un-aerodynamic S-shaped fin. Alien technology, for sure.

To no one’s surprise, the image – a silvery UFO caught suspended over the Netherlands’ marshy sprawl, admiring an earthly tourist attraction – went viral.

And how could it not have? UFO sightings are part of our earthly lexicon. For decades, the flying saucer has represented our shared wish to stare up at the skies and hope for something more, something probably cooler than ourselves – that, and our common suspicion of our governments and their secrets.

But the UFO is also suggestive of something else: our own biases.

The term UFO was coined in 1953, after the US Air Force decided it was time to standardize the term used to described the disks seen floating through the sky, in what was then a relatively new phenomenon. One of the earliest sightings – as such reports came to be known – was the 1947 Maury Island incident, in which a seaman claimed to have seen six saucers in Puget Sound, as though interstellar travelers had nothing better to do in all the galaxies than investigate the woodsy, northwestern United States.

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