UFO spotting has replaced bird watching as pandemic obsession

In the wake of the coronavirus, sports stadiums have fallen silent, shopping malls have been turned into ghost towns, and bars have emptied. But the skies—depending who you ask—have gotten a lot busier.

Hannah Levine was outside with her dog around midnight in April when she saw a curious yellow light glide across the sky and vanish, one that didn’t resemble a plane. Puzzled, she pulled up a night sky app on her phone to check whether it might be a satellite or the International Space Station, but nothing came up.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I saw a UFO,’ ” says Ms. Levine, 26, a nanny in the Detroit area. “I mean, it was definitely unidentified.”

With more people at home, this is shaping up to be a banner year for extraterrestrial encounters, according to data from the nonprofit National UFO Reporting Center, which reports sightings this year are up 51% so far over the same period in 2019. Among 5,000 incidents recorded this year, 20% occurred in April as much of the nation remained in lockdown.