Alien enthusiasts gather near Area 51, prompted by viral social media meme

Area 51 - What you need to know

RACHEL, Nev. — Inspired by a viral social media meme, alien enthusiasts began to gather Thursday in rural Nevada, near the once-secret U.S. Air Force installation Area 51.

Scores of people began arriving in Rachel and Hiko, small towns connected by a state road dubbed Extraterrestrial Highway, for "Alienstock" and other "Storm Area 51"-related events, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

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"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," Cayla McVey, who traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles area, told Reuters on Thursday. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."

The events were inspired by a viral joke invitation issued in June. In a Facebook event page dubbed “Storm 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” people were invited to meet at the Area 51 Alien Center at 3 a.m. PT Friday “to coordinate our entry” and “see them aliens.”

Millions of Facebook users RSVP'd to the event. The Review Journal reported about 100 UFO enthusiasts followed the invitation and converged early Friday on the back gate of Area 51. They pretended to storm the gate and posed for photos, the newspaper reported.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told The Associated Press late Thursday that over 150 people had traveled within selfie-taking distance of Area 51's two gates. He said no arrests were made.

"It's public land," Lee told the AP. "They're allowed to go to the gate, as long as they don't cross the boundary."

The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located. The installation has long fueled speculation about government studies of space aliens and UFOs.

Deputies with the Nye County Sheriff's Office arrested two people last week on suspicion of trespassing on federal land near Area 51. Ties Granzier, 20, and Govert Charles Wilhemus Jacob Sweep, 21, both of The Netherlands, were each charged with trespassing and taken to the Nye County Detention Center, about 250 miles north of Las Vegas, The Washington Post reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.