Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher
Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher

Freaky Friday: Aliens and Area 51

February 28, 2023

The US military has hundreds of bases around the world, but perhaps none of them are as well known as the infamous Area 51. It is known as the supposed government facility for aliens and UFOs, but how much of this information is true? If aliens truly do walk among us, why haven’t they started shopping in Beverly Hills or started playing video games with human children? Today, we will discuss aliens and the possibility that we truly aren’t alone in this universe.


An extraterrestrial, more commonly referred to as an alien, is a life form that doesn’t originate from the planet Earth. While extraterrestrial life could theoretically be anything from microscopic bacteria to strange creatures not found on this planet, the most common way aliens are depicted in pop culture is as thin humanoids, usually green or gray, with large heads and big eyes. Science fiction stories tell of these beings traveling across galaxies using their advanced technology, conducting research by abducting human test subjects before disappearing, leaving crop circles in rural fields, and launching full-scale invasions of earth. What inspired these tales of extraterrestrial contact? Why are we so fascinated with life on other planets? Do these creatures really exist? And most importantly, what secrets is the Air Force hiding in its most well-known alien research center?

The Roswell Incident: Weather Balloon or Alien Spacecraft

In June 1947, rancher Mac Brazel found debris — consisting of scraps of tin foil, rubber, and wood beams– scattered across part of his ranch. He didn’t think much of it at first, gathering it and burying it near a bush to dispose of it. In fact, Brazel didn’t think to associate it with anything extraterrestrial until making a trip to the town of Corona, New Mexico three weeks later. He saw news headlines talking about “flying saucers” and heard townspeople discussing the most recent UFO sightings. When it occurred to him that the parts he’d buried in his yard might have belonged to an alien spacecraft, he decided to dig them up and bring them to the sheriff’s office in Roswell. The sheriff then called Roswell Army Airfield, which assigned Major Jesse Marcel to investigate. Brazel invited Marcel back to the site where he had found the debris, and the two found more scraps of rubber and tin foil which Marcel took home. The next day, Marcel brought the materials to his base commander, who would then report the finding to General Roger Ramey at Fort Worth Army Airfield. Marcel would then be flown to Fort Worth to deliver the debris to General Ramey’s office. Soon after the incident, a Roswell Airfield public relations officer named Walter Haut issued a press release saying that the field’s personnel had acquired the parts of a “flying disk.” 

With the “1947 flying disk craze” in full swing, the story made headlines. Finally, concrete proof that we had been visited by extraterrestrial visitors, right? Well, when Marcel brought the materials to the Fort Worth Airfield, General Ramey concluded that they were pieces of a weather balloon kite. In 1994, it was determined  by the Office of the US Secretary of the Air Force that the debris actually came from a device used to remotely monitor Soviet nuclear tests.

Excitement with the incident calmed down in the 1950s as people lost interest in flying saucers. But a renewed interest came in 1978 when Marcel stated in an interview that They wanted some comments from me, but I wasn’t at liberty to do that. So, all I could do was keep my mouth shut. And General Ramey is the one who discussed – told the newspapers, I mean the newsman, what it was, and to forget about it. It is nothing more than a weather observation balloon. Of course, we both knew differently.” Though this statement may be referring to the device’s true purpose in nuclear test monitoring, ufologists have interpreted it as meaning that the debris came from an alien spacecraft. The tabloids agreed, spreading the story across the country and sparking a wave of interest across the world.

Area 51 “Let’s see them Aliens”

Ah yes, Area 51. Officially referred to as Homey Airport by the US military and the CIA, it is perhaps the most famous Air Force base in the United States, and possibly the world. Located in the Nevada desert and consisting mainly of runways and facilities for the development of stealth aircraft, it was built by the Air Force in 1955 as a top-secret location for the creation and testing of Cold War technology. With the fear of Soviet espionage and the highly classified nature of the site, the CIA refused to acknowledge its existence until 2013, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from 2005. Despite its nearly 70-year history, Area 51 didn’t become associated with aliens until the 1980s, when physicist Bob Lazar stated during a TV interview that he had worked with alien spacecraft in a separate facility near the base. UFO enthusiasts believe that the site houses the spacecraft from the Roswell incident and other alien technology.

On June 27, 2019, a Facebook post was made creating a Facebook event that was set to take place on September 20, 2019. And what was the purpose of this post? It was to set up a raid of Area 51.

Matty Roberts, the creator of the post, originally created it as a trash post. In the post he wrote, “If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens”. Over 2 million people responded that they were ‘going’ to the event while another 1.5 million said they were ‘interested.’ This event quickly turned into a meme with all the attention it gained and also garnered the attention of the US military, as well as government agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

Now, the reason people wanted to storm the US Air Force base was simple: they wanted to know if the conspiracies about the base were true. But whatever secrets lay within the borders of Area 51, the military was determined to keep them hidden. Several warnings were issued to the public in the weeks leading up to the raid, including a tweet from the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service implying the Air Force was ready to bomb anyone who tried to break in. But despite the serious nature of these warnings, not everyone took them seriously. Before the day of the raid even arrived, a group of YouTubers was arrested three miles into a restricted area near Area 51. 

As the days counted down to the big event, Area 51 security tightened more and more. More guards were stationed at the gates, automated weapons were set up near the airfields, and a no-fly zone was established over Lincoln County. It wasn’t just the security risks people were worried about. Two music festivals were being held in the towns of Hiko and Rachel that coincided with the raid, and the towns’ residents were worried that they wouldn’t have enough resources to host these guests. State Police, ambulances, and fire trucks were sent to Hiko and Rachel out of fears that the anticipated hordes of people could overwhelm the infrastructure of the small, desert towns.

In the end, on September 20, only around 150 people actually went to Area 51. Only a few actually attempted to get past the gates. Those who did were quickly escorted out by security guards; some were arrested, charged with trespassing, and issued $1,000 fines. A total of seven arrests were made. Though the event is widely seen as a failure, it is still thought to have brought the largest influx of people to ever visit Lincoln county at the same time.

Science Fiction or Science Fact?

From our earliest science classes in elementary school, we are told that Earth is the only planet to ever support life, but in reality, the truth may not be so black and white. Studies of meteorite fragments suggest that organic molecules such as the nucleotide building blocks of DNA could be created in stars and spread to other planets. This hints that the process of abiogenesis may have been easier than previously thought and that signs of extraterrestrial life might even exist within our own solar system.

Of course, there has been a lot of research into the possibility of Martian life. Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps and several geographic features that suggest there might have been oceans, rivers, and lakes millions of years in the past. Even if more complex organisms, such as plants, animals, and fungi never existed there, methane signatures in the planet’s atmosphere suggest that there may be single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, currently inhabiting its rust-colored soil.

Some of Saturn and Jupiter’s numerous moons may also have conditions ideal for life. Jupiter’s satellite, Europa, has vast oceans and lakes lying beneath its icy exterior, and the oxygen created by cosmic rays colliding with its surface could hypothetically support plants and animals not unlike those found on Earth. NASA plans to launch an orbiter to Europa sometime in 2024 to investigate the habitability of the satellite and the potential for life.

Titan is Saturn’s largest natural satellite and the only moon in our solar system to have a significant atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and methane. While the lakes on Titan’s surface are filled with liquid hydrocarbons instead of water and its surface temperatures are a mere 307.59 degrees kelvin, there is evidence of geothermal activity beneath its icy shell that could produce liquid water and an environment eerily similar to that of a primordial Earth and the Miller-Urey experiment. NASA is developing a spacecraft, dubbed Dragonfly, to explore Titan’s surface and evaluate its potential habitability.

One thing that can be noted from this research is that most theoretical life in our solar system is microscopic, single-celled, and a far cry from the bug-eyed monsters and little green men portrayed in science fiction. It is unlikely that a colony of European microbes will be abducting and experimenting on humans or launching a violent invasion of Earth. The idea of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations similar to those of humans is the source for many a Sci-fi story, and organizations such as NASA, the SETI Institute, and various universities are conducting research collectively referred to as the search of extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, that seeks to locate and communicate with alien civilizations through various experiments. Most SETI research is done through the use of radio signals and radio telescopes, sending out messages for extraterrestrials and potentially receiving extrasolar ones. SETI scientists assert that their research is unrelated to the pseudoscience of ufology, the search for alien spacecraft. 

With the sheer size of the known universe, it is statistically unlikely that Earth is the only planet capable of supporting life, including intelligent life. SETI scientists such as astrophysicist Frank Drake have tried to use mathematics to estimate how many planets in our galaxy have advanced civilizations like that of Earth. However, since there is little concrete evidence to prove the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations with the ability to communicate interplanetary, equations such as the Drake Equation can only be applied speculatively, as we have too many unknown variables. The lack of clear evidence for the existence of extraterrestrials contradicting the high probability of their existence is known as the Fermi Paradox.

Aliens Probe the Media

In the last few decades, dozens of movies and tv shows have come out depicting different versions of alien life forms. One of the most well-known alien movie series would have to be the Alien and the Predator movie series. Though it sounds like these are two different media, they are both part of an extended universe that began with the 1979 classic horror movie Alien starring Sigourney Weaver. Other iconic alien horror movies would be John Carpenter’s 1982, The Thing and Roland Emmerich’s 1996, Independence Day.

Many TV shows that have science fiction might include aliens. A good example of this would be the movie, comic, and TV series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. One of the brothers’ main enemies that’s in different variations of the series is an alien whose body resembles a giant brain known as the Krang. Another popular show depicting aliens is Ben 10, which is about a kid who gets a bracelet that lets him transform into different alien species. And yet another example is Futurama, which has multiple alien characters and an episode where the main cast travels back in time to 1947 Roswell and inadvertently causes the Roswell incident.

We’re Not Alone

We’ve been asking the question of whether or not we walk alone in this universe for years. With the universe being so vastly huge, it’s actually hard to believe that Earth is the only planet with not only life, but intelligent life. The question of if we’ll be able to communicate and have relationships with these species is still unknown.

Next time you’re taking a walk in the middle of the night, take a good look up at the night sky. You might want to be careful when you’re walking. Who knows, an extraterrestrial might pick you up as an exotic pet.

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