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(FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz.) — Nearly 2,500 people will descend on an Arizona town over the next five days for a conference that’s expected to be out of this world.

The 23rd annual International UFO conference kicked off Wednesday in Fountain Hills, Ariz.  Over the next several days, legions of researchers, scientists and other UFO-obsessed people will assemble to discuss topics ranging from crop circles and intergalactic travel to abductions and government coverups.

Several academics, authors, journalists and filmmakers are slated to speak. In addition, the conference will feature cocktail parties, a night vision skywatch and a UFO film festival.

“It’s not just a bunch of crazy tinfoil hat-wearing people,” conference organizer Maureen Elsberry told ABC News.  “Thousands of people report UFO sightings every year. Whether they are extraterrestrial or not, there is something globally to this phenomenon. It’s definitely a phenomenon worth talking about.”

Elsberry said lots of academics and scientists are attending the conference.  ”We even have a former astrobiologist from NASA,” she said.

The conference also hosts “experiencer sessions,” opportunities for attendees to share stories of apparent sightings, visitations or abductions with a qualified therapist in private.

Elsberry says the goal of the conference is to expose the subject of UFOs to the general public in a way that is digestible.  ”Even people who don’t necessarily believe that extraterrestrial life exists, they think it’s a platform that at least intrigues them to discover more about the subject,” she said.

“We are not asking you to believe everything you hear, just keep an open mind,” Elsbury said

The conference runs until Feb. 16.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


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