When Daniel Drezner wrote about UFOs in 2019, he worried the column could tank his credibility, both as a professor of international politics and as a columnist.

But he said the evidence had been mounting for awhile. Among the most striking: A video showing a Navy fighter jet locking onto a mysterious target streaking across the sky as a pilot incredulously asks “What is that, man?”

The video is authentic, the Navy has said without offering an explanation.

That video helped prompt Drezner to join an increasingly mainstream group of academics, journalists, intelligence officials and politicians who say acknowledging UFOs exist doesn’t mean embracing conspiracy theories or even believing in extraterrestrial life.

While UFOs are often synonymous with aliens in pop culture, those who study the phenomenon say UFOs should be understood by their literal name: unidentified flying objects. Once identified, they may have a mundane explanation — weather balloons, drones or the planet Venus.

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