Is the [ufo] tag actually on-topic for this site? The help page discourages questions about satellites and notes we are not a UFO-reporting site. Most of the questions tagged with this are of the "what is this light I saw in the sky" nature and mostly appear to be related to satellites, for which there is already a tag. Given this, do we need or want [ufo]?


1 Answer 1


I've never really liked questions about lights in the sky. They tend to list the location, time, and color of the lights . . . and that's about it. Invariably, we have nowhere near enough information to give an accurate answer because none of us were there at the same time, and we have no way to gather additional data. It's so bad that we tend to close them as duplicates of Star like light moving in the sky, what could it be?. Even if we can figure something out, the culprit is usually an airplane, a satellite, or sometimes the ISS.

Yes, I agree with you that questions should be firmly off-topic, as should basically any questions of the form "I-saw-a-moving-light-in-the-sky-and-I'd-like-to-know-what-it-is", because odds are good we won't be able to answer it. That said, I don't want to suggest imposing a blanket ban on asking to identify an object in the sky (especially if it's a deep sky object). My proposal, then, is to allow questions that are asking us to identify clearly celestial bodies, not lights that zip across the sky. The criteria I'd suggest such questions meet are:

  • The object should be either stationary or should move very slowly, implying that its apparent movement is merely due to Earth's rotation; in other words, it's essentially fixed in the sky.
  • The asker should give the details (location, time of day, date) of when they observed the object.
  • If it's possible to give the object's coordinates (e.g. right ascension and declination), then that's a must.
  • If the OP has photographs (especially high-quality ones), they should ideally be posted.

This might make it easier for us to match the celestial object to the expected positions of known objects - planets, bright stars, etc. Plus, in the course of gathering this data, the asker might very well end up figuring out the question on their own.

I don't necessarily want to end up having a bunch of "What's this star?" questions, because those could be equally unanswerable, but at least forcing the asker to provide details according to these criteria should narrow down the current set of completely unanswerable light-in-the-sky questions to a smaller set of potentially answerable (and much more likely about actually astronomical objects) questions that would be suitable for the site.

I'm being a bit long-winded here, but yes, I would argue that the tag should be off-topic here (those questions are poorly-written, hard to answer, and not about astronomy), as should a broader subset of questions we get.


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