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UFO fans in Indonesia on why extraterrestrial life should be taken seriously in a country wedded to the occult

South China Morning Post - February 16, 2020

Marcel Thee – Dino Michael has spent a lot of time looking up at the stars in the night sky, ruminating on the possibilities of life out there. If there were extraterrestrial life forms, what would they look like? What would they be doing? And, maybe most importantly, when would they make contact with humans?

"Then I thought, maybe they already did and we just didn't realise it. After all, there are historical notes that indicate this is the case," he muses.

While it remains a niche interest, research into unidentified flying objects has been slowly evolving from a nerdy pastime into a phenomenon that is being examined closely by scientists.

Indonesians interested in UFOs, like Michael, are likely to be followers of Beta-UFO, the largest online UFO enthusiast community in the Southeast Asian country [2] with more than 13,000 active Facebook group members. Beta stands for Benda Terbang Aneh (Indonesian for unidentified flying objects).

Members report mysterious sightings in the night sky and discuss extraterrestrial-related topics, such as foo fighters (not the rock band, but a second world war term for mysterious aerial phenomena) and plans by the American space agency Nasa and its associates, including the Artemis programme's aim to send 13 astronauts to Mars. [3]

Beta-UFO members believe it is time to take the possibility of extraterrestrial life seriously.

"We live in a time where many countries, such as China and India, are focused on space [4] exploration, including the possibility of life out there," says Michael, who thinks Indonesia needs to play a part too.

The Beta-UFO group, initially established in 1997 as a mailing list, has seen Indonesian interest in UFOs expand over the last two decades. Since its inception, founder Nur Agustinus has worked to bring UFOs into mainstream conversation. His community has published fanzines dedicated to UFOs, conducted surveys and held regular gatherings and seminars where senior members of the group pass on their knowledge to a younger generation.

Beta-UFO members actively blog and vlog on YouTube. The group's website, betaufo.org, includes an exhaustive list of hundreds of UFO sightings [5] around Indonesia, from 1883 until the present.

Despite members' enthusiasm, their 265 million fellow Indonesians remain largely indifferent to UFOs. They take more of an interest in equally mysterious matters – the occult.

"Indonesians are often sceptical [about UFOs and aliens], not because of scientific reasoning but because they are more inclined to think that any unexplained happening must involve the mystical," says Agustinus, who is a psychologist. "For them, it is easier to believe in ghosts."

As well as diligently posting updates and answering queries on the community's Facebook page and website, Agustinus, 53, still frequently blogs about his passion. He says he is enamoured with the idea that other beings exist in space, and that unknown extraterrestrials will one day reach out to humans.

He says he got hooked on the notion of alien contact when he read a 1978 Indonesian newspaper article that encouraged him to read books by Desmond Leslie and George Adamski, who jointly wrote Flying Saucers Have Landed.

That book, published in 1953, "was a very intriguing and extraordinary read for me at the time", Agustinus recalls. He acknowledges that most investigators have since concluded Adamski, an American who purported to have travelled on alien spacecraft, was a con artist.

The psychologist became engrossed in the idea of alien visitors after reading Swiss writer Erich von Daniken's popular book Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. The bestseller posited that the technologies and religions of ancient civilisations were actually brought to Earth by extraterrestrial visitors, who were believed by our ancestors to be gods.

Published in 1968, Chariots was popular for a long time, selling millions of copies in numerous languages and spawning sequels from the prolific Von Daniken, including The Gods Were Astronauts and The Gods Never Left Us. But the writer's premise has now been dismissed by many academic experts and his so-called proof discredited as fraudulent.

Even so, the influence of the original Chariots book is still sporadically seen in science fiction – most recently in the 2012 blockbuster film Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott.

Agustinus has also read the work of English astronomy science writer and UFO sceptic Ian Ridpath, who wrote the 1988 book Star Tales, among other scientific works.

Far from being a cult or simply a hobby collective, Agustinus's Beta-UFO community includes members driven to proving that an interest in worlds beyond the Earth can be both credible and worthwhile. The impetus for these members isn't mere curiosity, but the chance to help their country progress scientifically.

"To seek intelligent life beyond us, if we are serious about it, will benefit Indonesia," says Michael. "It will encourage us to engineer spacecraft of our own, and to dive deeper into scientific and technological studies."

For instance, he believes the planet Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has enormous potential for human settlement and that further investigation is urgently needed. Many Indonesian scientists, he adds, are already assisting with this sort of high-level scientific work around the world.

"A lot of our people abroad are involved in important physics discoveries such as work on quarks and the Higgs boson particle," he says.

Anugerah Sentot Sudono is a senior Beta-UFO member who has been part of the community since its early days. He says the development of scientific knowledge is integral to the study of UFOs.

An IT learning development manager, Anugerah has expanded his interest in UFOs and outer space into related subjects in the fields of humanity, astronomy, biology, physics, geology and palaeontology. Like many of his fellow space enthusiasts, he says he is obsessed with books on these subjects and always keen to learn more. An avid collector of UFO and alien literature, he often resorts to photocopying articles if he cannot buy the publications.

Senior members of Beta-UFO are fascinated by the philosophical questions surrounding the possibility of extraterrestrial existence. Anugerah says these questions are deep and difficult, and they awaken musings on the nature of the human race, where humanity is heading in the vast expanse of the universe, how humans might deal with alien beings, and the potential for either immense leaps forward or utter disaster.

They are questions that he has been exploring since 1990, the year he says he first saw a UFO with his own eyes. [6]

"It was June or July in Bogor [a city in West Java] around midnight," he says. "I was there for my high-school farewell party. Our class was staying at a house there in the hilly area. I fell asleep but was awakened for some reason. I went outside and saw a bright, white, oval-shaped object slowly manoeuvring downwards.

"It was not the moon because the moon was on the other side. Three of my friends and myself stared at it for about five minutes before it flew off and disappeared on the other side of the hill."

Anugerah says he has not been blinded by his experience despite his enduring personal interest in UFOs. He describes it an "anti-mainstream" interest and readily admits that a lot of UFO research is "pseudo science" at worst, and "debatable" at best. "You cannot force someone to start getting into this," he says.

For his part, Michael says that on the balance of probabilities, it does not seem as though humans are alone in the universe.

"These extraterrestrial beings appear to be very intelligent," he says, explaining that his conclusion is drawn from the many books and articles he has read and the documentaries he has watched on the subject.

"We can learn a lot from them, especially about their technological capabilities. If we can overcome all of the barriers, then we will be ready to look for aliens in the 21st century – right alongside all the other countries that have gone to space before us."


1. https://www.scmp.com/topics/ufos-and-extraterrestrial-life

2. https://www.scmp.com/topics/indonesia

3. https://www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/3050389/mysterious-radio-signal-distant-galaxy-repeats

4. https://www.scmp.com/topics/space

5. https://multimedia.scmp.com/culture/article/ufo/index.html

6. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2125466/anyone-out-there-days-when-ufo-fever-gripped-china

Source: https://www.scmp.com/print/lifestyle/article/3050459/ufo-fans-indonesia-why-extraterrestrial-life-should-be-taken-seriously