Fethiye, Turkey - The alleged sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) has excited the Turkish media with pictures appearing in both sensationalistic tabloids and more serious broadsheet papers last week.

The UFO was spotted in the Karakopru area of Sanliurfa province towards 4am on Wednesday. Filmed by an amateur videographer, the strangely glowing hexagonal ball of light hovered in the sky emitting red, green and white lights and moved both fast and erratically. After 15 minutes it disappeared without a trace.

As of yet no official explanation has been offered as to what it might be, although Internet comments vary between lauding a genuine sighting of a "green fireball" phenomenon and skeptics who claim the object is just a star filmed under magnification or others who believe that it was an American spy plane monitoring Turkey's border with Syria.

It was Turkey's third major sighting in 2007. One was in Konya in March (a series of sightings that lasted off and on for a week) and another in Istanbul on January 4 when people saw a spinning circle with glowing white lights in the sky. And the head of the Turkish Sirius UFO Space Sciences Research Center Haktan Akdogan claimed in August that in the past few months the number of sightings in Turkey has been increasing.

The largest concentration of sightings and perhaps the best documented occurred between 2001 and 2002. This spate seem to have been triggered by an extraordinary report on June 7, 2001 when 10 rural guardsmen from the village of Dondurmaz in Adiyaman province claimed to have seen a bright light in the shape of a large circular "tray" the size of a house glowing in the sky. They watched as it flew off in the direction of Ulubai mountain and then winked out of sight.

When the men reported to their commander their statements were taken seriously and the governor of Adiyaman province, Halil Iaik, had them separated and individually questioned. Not only did their accounts tally up but when asked to draw pictures of what they had seen all the sketches were uncannily similar. Iaik felt the event was serious enough to send a report with the details to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and also informed Haktan Akdogan at the Sirius organization.

By June 13 in the same year, Sabah newspaper was leading with the headline "Everyone searching for UFOs" in a story that detailed how in Usak locals had stoned an alien, in Gaziantep the police had videoed a UFO and that people all over the country were phoning in reports of strange occurrences to their local jandarma (constabulary).

The reports continued in a slightly hysterical atmosphere well into 2002 and included an event in Gebze on May 31, 2002 where a UFO was reported circling with projecting lights for over an hour. This was followed by Aksam newspaper printing the story on June 1, 2002 of Saffet Sap, an electronic technician from Beykoz, who managed to video a flying object like a black bug with seven or eight legs. Later in the year on November 9 the Hurriyet newspaper ran the account of four commercial pilots from different planes who had all seen UFOs in the same patch of sky on the same day at the same time.

Haktan Akdogan of Sirius seems to be a recurring figure in Turkish UFO lore commenting freely on each event and insisting on the importance of Turkey to alien life. His motives however may not just be scientific, he is also the owner of the Istanbul UFO museum that opened in 2002 (commercially riding on the back of these multiple UFO events) and any extra interest in aliens will also encourage customers to his museum. He also runs the museum as a fairly successful franchise with three others in Turkey (Istanbul, Denizli and Goreme in Cappadocia) and his website www.siriusufo.org advertises for further partners to open other UFO museums.

It is his intention to open UFO museums all over Turkey to "further the knowledge of the Turkish people and to attract tourists". His organization provides all the necessary materials and installations so each museum is a de facto copy of the first. Whether they are lucrative or not is not mentioned but when the Goreme museum opened in 2006 Hurriyet newspaper reported that they had 5,000 visitors in one month alone. Apparently it was especially popular with the Japanese.

Whether extraterrestrials exist or not is much debated but recent advances in science make the chances seem more likely. Animals known as extremophiles thrive in earth environments previously thought not to have been able to sustain life. From microbes found living without oxygen in volcanic fissures 3.2 kilometers down in ocean trenches to "water bears" (aka tardigrades) that can survive temperatures from nearly 17-degrees Celsius to 150.5-degrees Celsius and even live in a vacuum like that found in space. These minute organisms have upended the understanding of what is needed for life to survive and flourish.

Previously scientists has worked on the assumption that both oxygen and liquid water were key factors in sustaining life but now it seems that these are only important to certain types of life. The "rare earth" theory is falling out of favor to be replaced with the idea that life is adaptable and that the question that needs to be asked is, "What kind of environment other than our own might sustain living things?"

The chances of intelligent life with the technology to communicate is slimmer, though it is conceivable that it is possible that such worlds have come and gone. If life of this sort exists now they, like us would have the technology to recognize that earth is an "interesting" planet and worth investigating. So why aren't they here? Some would say they are and the report of flying objects above Karakopru on Tuesday was a clear indication of just that.

Fazile Zahir is of Turkish descent, born and brought up in London. She moved to live in Turkey in 2005 and has been writing full time since then.