Infographic of the Day: Where Do People See the Most UFOs?

And why do they seem to happen where few people live?

Infographic of the Day: Where Do People See the Most UFOs?

Let’s get this out of the way early: Here at Co.Design, we are UFO skeptics. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that every single day thousands of UFO sightings pour in across the country. Maybe as long as mankind has walked on two legs, we’ve thought there was something crazy in the heavens (and it’s coming for us!!!).


So where do people tend to see the most UFOs? And, why there? Slate has put together a very nifty little infographic, showing UFO sightings per capita in every county of the U.S. The results vary wildly–New Yorkers, for example, have only seen 5 UFOs per 100,000 people in the last 15 years. But those in living in Esmeralda County, in southern Nevada, have seen a whopping 479:


[Click to visit interactive version]

As you can see on the map, UFOs have a predilection for appearing in sparsely populated counties out west, and rural counties in general. At first sight, this makes no sense. If you’re a UFO buff, you’d probably argue that the aliens are trying to watch people without much interference, so they’re trying to pick off a loner here and there. Then again, if they didn’t want to be detected, I’m pretty damn sure that detection would not be a problem given their laser rays, tractor beams, and interstellar technology. Meanwhile, if you’re a UFO skeptic, you’ve got to wonder why such a phenomenon doesn’t scale to population size more directly. After all, aren’t city slickers just as likely to be as loopy and unscientific as rural folk? (Let’s assume that this isn’t a statistical fluke, created by, say, one UFO nut reporting hundreds of sightings.)

A few thoughts.

If you actually believe in UFOs, then maybe it makes sense that they’re seen more often where skies are clearer and darker.


But if you’re a UFO skeptic, there’s probably some element of culture that’s contributing to the mass delusion. After all, Esmeralda County in Nevada, where 479 people out of every 100,000 sees a UFO, borders Area 51, a place brimming with conspiracy theories and wild speculation. If you’re on the hunt for a close encounter, you get your ass to Esmeralda. And meanwhile, it’s probably a lot easier for people living in sparsely populated counties to spread the UFO bug. When your cousin Clem insists he saw one, and he’s the only other soul around for miles, and you’re out in a field at 2 am one night, well damned if you’re not more likely to see one yourself.

[See the original map at Slate]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.