UFO Acronyms. What is the "LIZ"?

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • SoFA - 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. (Previously I used "SFA" but people read that as "Sweet F*** All", so I added the "o")
  • 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.
  • MSN - More Study Needed - The invariable outcome of UFO investigations.
  • NED - Not Enough Data - A common qualifier applied to conclusions in unsolved UFO investigations
[Update Nov 10 2022] I've highlighted LIZ here because it's probably the most important concept. This recent definition in the Urban Dictionary gives more details:

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Liz&page=6#:~:text=Low Information Zone
LIZ or "Low Information Zone" refers to the distance or set of circumstances at which UFOs are recorded when the resulting eyewitness account, image or video contains insufficient information to identify them, even as non-human craft.

Historically, UFOs have stayed at just the right distance so that they can't be identified. Hence, in photos or videos they appear as fuzzy blobs or points of light. Even more curiously this distance seems to vary by if the viewer has a camera, and then by the quality of the zoom lens on that camera. With better cameras and better lighting conditions, the UFOs get further away.

The ability of UFOs to stay in the LIZ has led many to conclude that UFOs are mostly, or entirely, identifiable object like planes, birds, and balloons, and that the reason that UFOs are all in the LIZ is because if they were closer, or had better lighting or focus, then they would be identified and not be UFOs.

The term was coined by UFO skeptic Mick West, in September 2019.

UFO Enthusiast: We have thousands of videos of UFOs
UFO Skeptic: Any that are not in the LIZ?
UFO Enthusiast: Well, no, but there's so many of them!

The earliest usage does indeed seem to be this Sept 17, 2019 Metabunk post:
UFOs exist in what I call the Low Information Zone (the LIZ). That's the physical region around you (or your camera) just beyond the distance where you can make out what something is. The LIZ is a curious thing in that it expands and contracts based on the lighting conditions, the size and shape of the object, the quality of your eyesight, the presence of optical aids like telescopes, and the resolution and zoom of your camera.

The Navy pilots have a LIZ in any given situation (they probably even have an acronym of their own for it). Radar can only go so far and does not always give you much information beyond position and sometimes speed. FLIR cameras have only so much zoom. The human eye has shorter limits and is subject to a variety of confounding factors.

So, regardless of any belief about aliens or secret technology of some sort, whenever you detect something flying in the LIZ, then that's automatically being to a UFO simply because there's not enough information to identify it.

If you were to suddenly change the size of the LIZ, to expand it by getting out your 10x binoculars, then the UFO often becomes an IFO. Sometimes the expansion does not work, because the object is still in the Low Information Zone, the LIZ.
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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. ;-)