Earlier this week, Congress held its first hearing on UFOs in 50 years. While the nation is abuzz, the hearing concluded that these objects are a threat but are not extraterrestrial. This has already spurred murmurs of “cover up,” so people want to document their own findings. This can be done with two fairly common tools: a telescope and a smartphone.

Recent UFO discoveries and research

It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. intelligence community released its preliminary assessment on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs). On June 25, 2021, the 9-page document outlined the tracking of 144 reports that originated from U.S. government sources. While the bulk of these sightings were labeled such benign names as “airborne clutter” or “natural atmospheric phenomena,” there were a few instances when the object “appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management.”

Purpose of the UFO hearing

In its report from 2021, the office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that most of the reports of UAPs were regarding “objects that interrupted preplanned training or other military activity.” Where these objects came from was irrelevant. The concern was if they were a threat to both safety and national security.

Due to the long-standing stigma surrounding UFOs, critical data wasn’t being reported. Pilots were hesitant about coming forward with sightings. The 2021 report and the hearing were a way to remove much of the negativity associated with experiencing a UAP.

These efforts were successful. The number of reported UAP encounters has risen from the 144 documented in last year’s report to roughly 400 sightings. However, Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray, one of the individuals who are responsible for overseeing the Pentagon’s new task force, expects this number to drop again. This is because many of these new sightings were historical or anecdotal.

Additional goals of the UFO hearing

Along with Bray, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie leads this project. Two other goals that emerged during the hearing were the need for the government to be more transparent with declassifying information and more aggressive about combating disinformation. While conspiracy theorists may see this as a means to control the narrative, Bray and Moultrie insist declassifying sensitive information could be a risk to national security. Additionally, false images or false encounters that are being promoted by organizations, civilians or other countries will only divert the task force from its primary mission. This presents a need for a greater effort to combat this misinformation.

How to capture your own UFO footage

Whatever your stance on the UFO hearing is, the good news is it has served its purpose. People who were once hesitant to come out about their experience with the unidentifiable have already started to share personal accounts on social media. While many of these accounts may never be able to be verified, it opens the door to more individual investigations.

One of the most frustrating aspects of unexplained phenomena is the lack of clarity of the evidence. There’s never a clear photo of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or a spacecraft. Images are always blurry and hard to decipher, making the documentation speculation rather than evidence.

Now, however, the average consumer can afford the high-tech equipment needed to capture visual proof. Many people might already own all the gear they need. While you might think you require access to an observatory and must buy a camera for five or six figures, all you need is the right telescope and a smartphone. In some instances, you might even get by with the wrong telescope, as long as you have the right smartphone adapter.

Tips for photographing UFOs

Capturing a UAP isn’t going to be easy. It will require a great deal of patience and a whole lot of luck. But the good news is, while you are waiting for your chance to snap that shot that finally proves intelligent alien life exists, you can hone your photography skills. Here are a few tips that can help you do just that.

  • Learn your phone’s camera. The most important thing you can do is dive into how to use the manual settings on your phone’s camera. Most phones let you set the ISO (exposure). Learning how to do this is essential for capturing clear images, especially at night. Additionally, depending on your phone’s camera, you might have other settings such as shutter speed and HDR. Learn how to dive as deep as your phone allows. Don’t depend on the automatic settings.
  • Mount your telescope. Just the tiniest shake at high magnification will result in a missed shot or a blurry photo. Make sure your telescope is securely mounted and positioned on a stable surface.
  • Secure your phone. Like your telescope, your phone must be securely mounted, so it doesn’t move either. It’s important to take pictures using a remote or a wired device, as the mere act of tapping the screen may cause too much shaking.
  • Experiment with the moon. While waiting for your moment, practice taking photos of celestial objects like the moon.
  • Use a medium-powered eyepiece. You’re looking for balance. A medium-powered eyepiece should give you the best of both worlds: magnification and clarity. Of course, as you gain experience, you can choose the eyepiece that works best for your situation.
  • Aperture is important. If you are shooting at night, you need light. A telescope that doesn’t let in enough light will not offer the best nighttime photos.
  • Shoot video and stills. Don’t just focus on trying to capture that perfect shot. Consider taking video as well.

Best smartphone-compatible telescopes

Gskyer Telescope

Gskyer Telescope

This popular model comes with a free smartphone adapter and a wireless camera remote to facilitate taking pictures. The adjustable tripod secures the telescope in a wide variety of viewing positions, while the coated lens helps create more stunning images. 

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Hexeum Telescope for Kids

Hexeum Telescope for Kids

This beginner’s telescope comes with two eyepieces (25mm and 10mm), a finderscope and more. The included phone adapter makes it easy to capture images of objects in the sky. 

Sold by Amazon

Hutact Telescope

Hutact Telescope

If you are new to the hobby, this entry-level model has features that help you achieve better results faster. The upgraded tripod provides greater stability and the wired phone controller is more reliable than Bluetooth. 

Sold by Amazon

Gosky Spotting Scopes

Gosky Spotting Scopes

Goskey is a respected name in optics. This spotting scope can be used for astronomical observation and photography. The high-quality prism increases light transmission, while the nitrogen-filled design can withstand harsh environments without leaking or fogging. 

Sold by Amazon

Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope

Celestron NexStar 127SLT Computerized Telescope

If you are ready to step up to a more expensive option, this computerized telescope comes with a database of over 40,000 stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. The telescope can locate and track objects, but it does not come with a phone adapter. To mount your phone, you will also need to purchase the Celestron 3-Axis Universal Smartphone Adapter

Sold by Amazon

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