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David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism, has spent 30 years studying UFOs and the sociology of the flying saucer sighting.
He is no believer in little extraterrestrial men, but believes mainstream scientists should recognise the rational explanations for sightings are themselves worthy of study.
"They wouldn't touch it," he says. "It's got such a bad press. Anything that people don't have an immediate explanation for - it must be little green men."
The "ufologists" who study the phenomenon comprise both sceptics and believers. They seek to "resolve" each incident, explaining away each aspect. And there is a wealth of explanations for most sightings that is as fascinating for sceptical enthusiasts as the notion of space visitors.
Cold War projection
Sundogs, or strange refractions of the sun in another part of the sky, burning space debris, weather balloons, ball lightning, meteors, disc-shaped or lenticular clouds, mirages, even the planet Venus low in the sky, are all classic methods of resolving UFO sightings.
But underlying them is a need also to explain people's desire to believe that a UFO sighting can be explained by alien activity. The timing of the start of the golden age of the UFO, in a Western world recovering from World War II and gearing up for the start of the Cold War, is significant.
"We were projecting things to reflect our fears and concerns about the Cold War," Mr Clarke says.