A Close encounter, in ufology, is a sighting of a UFO that is more than the observation of a distant, unidentifiable object or light. Dr J Allen Hynek coined the term to define different levels of UFO encounter.

The six kinds of encounterEdit

Daylight diskEdit

Defined as an aerial object seen at a distance during the daytime that does not appear to correspond with any known natural or artificial phenomenon.

Nocturnal lightEdit

Defined as any light or lights in the night sky that cannot be explained in terms of aircraft, astronomical objects, or any other familiar luminous source.


An object is both seen with the eye and detected by radar. Hynek discounted radar-only reports due to the possibility of radar giving false readings from birds, temeperature inversions and other natural phenomena.

Close encounters of the first kindEdit

A sighting of one or more objects closer than 500 feet. Hynek proposed that beyond this distance it was possible to misidentify a mundane object, especially in bad light.

Close encounters of the second kindEdit

An observation of a UFO, and associated physical effects from the UFO, including:

  • Heat or radiation
  • Damage to terrain
  • Crop Circles
  • Human paralysis (Catalepsy)
  • Frightened or injured animals
  • Electromagnetic interference|Interference with engines or TV or radio reception; car stoppages.
  • Lost Time: a gap in one's memory associated with a UFO encounter.[1]

Close encounters of the third kindEdit

An observation of what Hynek termed "animate beings" observed in association with a UFO sighting. Hynek deliberately chose the somewhat vague term "animate beings" to describe beings associated with UFOs without making any unfounded assumptions regarding the beings' origins or nature. Hynek did not necessarily regard these beings as "extraterrestrials" or "aliens." Additionally, Hynek further expressed discomfort with such reports, but felt a scientific obligation to include them, at the very least because they represented a sizable minority of claimed UFO encounters.

Developments of the ideaEdit

Jenny Randles and Peter Warrington proposed a variation in their 1980 book UFOs: a British Viewpoint. Close encounters of the first kind were redefined as encounters creating a temporary effect on the environment (such as leaves rustling or a dog barking at the object) while close encounters of the second kind were restricted to those leaving long-lasting or permanent effects, such as photographs or marks on the ground.

Hynek dismissed close encounters of the fourth kind - reports of communication with UFO occupants. However, this level of encounter has been added to the list by many writers.

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