The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs

Mark O'Connell
May 04, 2017

The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs

By: Mark O'Connell, College of Computing and Digital Media

In June 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold looked out his cockpit window and saw a group of nine silvery crescents weaving between the peaks of the Cascade Mountains at an estimated 1,200 miles an hour. The media, the military, and the scientific community - led by J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer hired by the Air Force - debunked this and many other Unidentified Flying Object sightings reported across the country. But after years of denials, Hynek made a shocking pronouncement: UFOs are real.


(Image courtesy of Dey Street Books)

This entertaining and eye-opening book is a biography of J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who invented the concept of "Close Encounters" with alien life, which inspired Steven Spielberg's blockbuster classic science fiction epic film and made a nation want to believe in UFOs.

What makes your book or chapter different or unique from others in the same genre? 

"The Close Encounters Man," a biography of astronomer and UFO expert Dr. J. Allen Hynek, is the first book to trace the full history of the modern UFO phenomenon in terms of its indelible and far-reaching effect on modern science and popular culture.

About the author:

Mark O'Connell, an adjunct faculty member in the College of Computing and Digital Media, has written several episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," one of which, the DS9 episode "Who Mourns For Morn?," was recently named by Hugo-winning science fiction writer Charlie Jane Anders as #72 on the list of the Top 100 Star Trek episodes of all time. Mark has had feature film projects in development with Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Launchpad Productions, Barcelona Films and Al Ruddy Productions. He currently writes the UFO blog "High Strangeness" at, and made his reality show debut in 2015 in "Monumental Mysteries" on The Travel Channel. 

Publisher, publication date, length:

Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins; June 2017; 288 pages

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