NASA’s independent study into Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) begins today, and we have the names of the 16 people comprising the team. First announced in June, the task force is charged with identifying how unclassified data gathered by civilians, government entities, commercial organizations, and other sources can potentially be utilized to “shed light on UAPs,” as well as providing a roadmap for future studies and analysis. The project is expected to take nine months, with findings to be released to the public sometime in mid-2023.

“Exploring the unknown in space and the atmosphere is at the heart of who we are at NASA,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in today’s official announcement. “Understanding the data we have surrounding unidentified aerial phenomena is critical to helping us draw scientific conclusions about what is happening in our skies. Data is the language of scientists and makes the unexplainable, explainable.”

[Related: Congress has concerns about UAPs.]

The team is chaired by David Spergel, founder of the Flatiron Institute for Computational Astrophysics and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and features SETI Institute affiliates, astrophysicists, oceanographers, science journalists, AI theorists, as well as former International Space Station commander and astronaut, Scott Kelly.

“Without access to an extensive set of data, it is nearly impossible to verify or explain any observation, thus the focus of the study is to inform NASA what possible data could be collected in the future to scientifically discern the nature of UAP,” reads NASA’s announcement.

[Related: UFO conspiracies can be more dangerous than you think.]

The government and military rebranded UFOs as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs) a few years’ back as part of an ongoing effort to de-stigmatize the genuinely baffling—and, for some, worrisome—sightings by both the public and other credible experts. Setting aside headline-grabbing theories involving alien invasions and conspiracy theories, a number of dramatic, still unexplained events in recent years present significant challenges to national security officials, with unidentified objects seemingly capable of seamlessly traversing land and water environments, as well as moving at speeds and in ways that our known technology can’t handle.

Ongoing public developments such as today’s task force launch indicate that the government is still very much concerned with getting to the bottom of these sightings, and take many of them seriously. Once NASA’s investigation presents its findings, we hopefully will get some additional information as to how these issues will be handled and analyzed in the years ahead.