UFO Seen in Cape Town, South Africa
The mysterious image of the UFO, caught by Google Earth. Google Earth/Screen shot

Though instances of UFO sightings are not very rare these days, they often bag big headlines either for the uniqueness of such instances or for the people who claim to have witnessed them. One of the most written about UFO sightings this year was said to have witnessed by none other than Victoria Beckham. The former Spice Girl claims that she saw an unidentified, "moon-like" object in October, near her Los Angeles home.

UFOs or unidentified flying objects have always been a big mystery for scientists, astronomers and common man alike. The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) releases files on UFO sightings from time to time. But the scientific community has never been able to come up with convincing explanations on such occurrences. And any unexplained sightings always grab headlines and public attention just because of the sheer element of mystery attached to them.

A good number of UFO sightings were reported from across the world over the last few years. According to experts, there is a 65 percent rise in the UFO sightings reported over the past two years.

In August, UFOs were reportedly spotted in Jerusalem, New York, and Texas and even several areas in the UK. In September, a research team from Sweden claimed that they found the remains of a UFO beneath the Baltic Sea.

Earlier in August thousands of radio listeners could hear BBC's sports presenter Mike Sewell's encounter with a UFO. Sewell, who works for Radio 5 Live, spotted a huge 'disc-shaped' aircraft hovering above the Hertfordshire countryside on his way to work early in the morning.

Sewell shared his experience live. "It wasn't an aeroplane, and it wasn't a helicopter. Certainly of a kind of - and I dread saying this - disc shape. It had several lights flashing all around it," he described what he saw.

"Underneath there were at least two large panel lights, soft white lights, and then it just sat or circled a certain area above the field for a few moments".

"It might be extra terrestrial; it might well be one of ours. Top secret aircraft and spacecraft have been flown by the U.S. military and by the British military for quite some time now."

The mysterious object was also seen by a van driver who was driving ahead of him.

Sewell's sighting was "absolutely fascinating" and was "clearly not a conventional aircraft of any type," according to UFO expert Timothy Good told an interview.

Although unidentified objects in the sky are mentioned in ancient literature they might have been astronomical bodies like meteors or asteroids.

In January 1878, The Denison Daily News reported that a local farmer John Martin had seen a large, dark, circular flying object resembling a balloon flying "at wonderful speed".

Martin said it appeared to be about the size of a saucer, the first known use of the word "saucer" in association with a UFO.

In mid-August a news channel reported that planes were diverted away from China's Jiangbei International Airport after a UFO was said to be circling a runway.

Normal airport operations resumed after the "UFO" disappeared from the sky within 50 minutes.

A similar incident was reported at Xiaoshan airport in Hangzhou city last year.

The U.S. administration was petitioned certain groups, seeking the government to formally acknowledge aliens have visited the Earth and also to disclose the details of the government's interactions with extraterrestrial beings.

But the White House has denied such theories. "The government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race," Phil Larson, from the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, has said.

"In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."

The British government has from time to time studied the phenomenon but often the reports were not shared with the public or researchers.

Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator at CERN Laboratory in Switzerland, too had a similar experience, it was reported recently. They are trying to bombard particles together hard enough to break them into never-before-seen pieces, which could hopefully solve several unanswered questions about the origins of the universe.

But the experts claimed that UFOs have hampered their work and experiment. The scientists, it was reported, are now trying to characterise the UFOs, and are devising strategies to get rid of them.

In November, UFO sightings were discussed at a public forum. South Africa hosted the first UFO Science and Consciousness Conference in Johannesburg, where 13 international experts spoke on UFOs.

But probably the most interesting such theory surrounded Laura Eisenhower, great-granddaughter of former US president Dwight Eisenhower, who was rumoured to have been involved in a meeting with an extraterrestrial delegation at Roswell's famous Area 51 UFO crash site.

Laura told the audience how she was recruited to take part in a mission to Mars, but was able to escape.

And such a statement from a high profile person made the subject more mysterious.

In the coming months we will probably hear more stories on UFOs but it remains to be seen when the scientific community comes out with sufficient proof to make us believe about the existence of aliens.