UFO Acronym Defnitions

Mick West

Staff member
There are a lot of acronyms floating around the UFO world, some of which I invented (or at least promoted) myself. Here's a list with my definitions:

  • UFO - Unidentified Flying Object - Anything that seems to be flying that can't be identified. Technically this includes white dots in the distance where you can't tell if it's a bird or not. Common usage tends to conflate this with actual flying saucers and alien spaceships, so the term invites ridicule.
  • UAP - Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon - Anything in the sky that can't be identified - essentially the same as the technical definition of UFO, but currently with fewer jokes. Also covers things like ball lightning, and holograms.
  • TFA - Too Far Away. Something unidentified because it is too far away. Most UFOs are TFAs
  • OOF - Out Of Focus. Something unidentified because it's blurry, TFAs are frequently OOF.
  • EWA - Eye-Witness Account. Something unidentified because of an unverifiable story.
  • SFA - Small or Far Away. Something unidentified because the distance (and hence size) is not immediately apparent. Most commonly a fly, but also birds. Usually OOF.
  • JAL - Just a light - A UFO photo or video that's a black background with just a light. The lack of contextual information in the video prevents identification.
  • RIW - Reflection in a window - Often spotted after a photo is taken, lights in a room are often reflected in the window over the sky, and so look like flying saucers.
  • LIZ - Low Information Zone - A region of low information - either OOF, TFA, low-resolution video, JAL, bad EWAs, etc. UFOs are unidentified because they stay just inside the LIZ.
  • MSN - More Study Needed - The invariable outcome of UFO investigations.
  • NED - Not Enough Data - A common qualifier applied to conclusions in unsolved UFO investigations
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Senior Member.
The best discussion of the LIZ is probably at https://www.metabunk.org/threads/are-the-navy-ufos-real-or-just-in-the-low-information-zone.10921/ , in the first post.

I would like to add to this that established camera capability ratings reflect this idea: that there is a distance beyond which specific types of objects can be detected, but not recognized or identified. Faraway objects have just enough pixels to see something is there, but not what it is.
SmartSelect_20211008-100416_Samsung Internet.jpg

SmartSelect_20211008-100117_Samsung Internet.jpg

The observation/detection zones in this picture represents the actual LIZ for people-sized objects for a specific camera type.


Senior Member
I really like Mendel's chart above, though I think we'd need a few more pixels to get into the "Identification" range: I didn't gestalt "soldier" for the first one, was seeing a motorcycle/bicycle in the second, and was stuck on aircraft carrier/submarine for the third (probably due to having made a false assumption on scale, once I read "inflatable boat" I look at it and see an inflatable boat now.) I suspect that "identifying" things in the 28 pixel wide range may be aided a bit by already knowing the answer... :)

And yes, I used "gestalt" as a verb. Sue me.


Senior Member.
I think we'd need a few more pixels to get into the "Identification" range
You have a point; "identification" is subjective. I didn't mention this because I'm really concerned with non-identification for the LIZ discussion. And as long as we agree that the left column of that picture matrix is firmly in the LIZ, it supports my point. I wasn't planning on dissecting camera ratings in "UFOs and Aliens".
What is good enough for 'identification' can vary considerably among people. In our trainings and presentations, we have seen passionate debates break out about what passes for identification.
When people look at an image by themselves, the answer often appears 'obvious'. It is only when they confer with other people that it becomes a debate as they realize many others have different perceptions.

This'd be a great topic (there are lots of example pictures!) in the"chitchat" subforum: entertaining, and guaranteed to not go anywhere. ;-)