Tuesday, January 15, 2019

 

UFO videos and other news


I'm trying to work on the 2018 Canadian UFO Survey, but I keep getting distracted. Those danged UFOs keep being reported, and 2019 is starting off at a frenzied rate.

On January 9, 2019, a couple north of La Ronge, Saskatchewan, watched an object with a fiery tail progress slowly eastward at about 8:45 am. They were convinced it was not an aircraft, but from their description it likely was a high-altitude jet with a contrail illuminated by the rising sun.

I did an interview with a Prince Albert media outlet about this.
Their coverage is here.

Then on Saturday, January 12, 2019, I was contacted by CBC about a video taken the previous day at about 3:00 pm by some ice fishers on Lake Winnipeg, just offshore from Jackhead, Manitoba. (Yes, the same place where the infamous UFO crash hoax originated several years ago.)

By the time I looked at the video, it was already all over social media. The witnesses posted it and sent it to several news outlets.

I never did speak with the actual witness who shot the video. It was typically unstable and it was hard to see in the 20-second clip that this second fiery object with a tail was stationary or moving. The story I was told was that the object was observed for at least 15 minutes as it moved slowly through the sky.


This was a crucial detail, albeit wrong. If it was moving slowly, that would rule out meteors, fireballs, rocket re-entries and satellites, but not a slow-moving jet reflection the setting sun, with a contrail. But the object seemed far too bright to be an aircraft shining in the sun, which was clearly visible in the video and was also creating the familiar "blue orb" effect caused by lens reflection.

To check which aircraft had passed over, I tried asking some aircraft observers but couldn't get a good response. I then showed the video to some ufologists (including debunkers) for their opinions.

The next day, I heard the contrail had simply hung in the sky for the entire observation. That changed everything. Looking at the bright object at the end of the contrail, it showed a colourful rainbow-like effect that is common in sundogs. But there was no complementary sundog on the opposite side of the sun in the video, so I was puzzled until I realized the contrail itself, made of ice crystals, was being used to create a singular sundog.

Media coverage of the UFO video was significant: both CBC TV and radio covered it throughout several programs and news on Monday, January 14, 2019:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/sighting-lake-winnipeg-1.4976634

Newspaper coverage was on both Sunday and Tuesday:



Needless to say, many people posted on Facebook about he incident and video, and I would say that about half of them thought it was aliens. 

Many people wrote that they saw "the same thing" in their own towns, usually hundreds of kilometres away, and most often weeks earlier.

What's more interesting is that several people felt comfortable enough to report their own UFO sightings, from 2019 but also many years in the past. 

Social media is ideal for finding additional witnesses to UFO sightings, but details and supporting evidence is greatly lacking in follow-up posts.

In other news: the trailer has dropped for Spaceman, a documentary film about the disappearance of Granger Taylor, who was obsessed with aliens and UFOs. The film is due out on February 9, 2019.
I was filmed for this on Vancouver Island last year, and I am hopeful it's going to be an interesting addition to the many sensational UFO movies that came out during 2018.


And last but not least, our book When They Appeared, about the remarkable UFO encounter by Stefan Michalak in 1967, is now published by White Crow Books, and is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook editions. Until now, it was very difficult for anyone not in Manitoba to get a copy as it was only available in small print run through a small publisher.

Furthermore, for this new international edition, co-author Stan Michalak and I wrote additional material, so this is a somewhat revised and extended version as well.

The Amazon listing is here.

There's more news, but it will have to wait for now. Stay tuned.

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Sunday, January 06, 2019

 

Canadian UFOs in Blue Book Files


With the airing of the new Project Blue Book TV series, Canadians should be reassured that their own country is well-represented in the original USAF Project Blue Book case files.

Project Blue Book included UFO reports investigated between 1951 and 1970. (It closed down in early 1970.)

The actual number of UFO reports in BB files has generally been thought to be about 12,000, but examination of the BB microfilm records by ardent ufologists pegs the number somewhat higher, as much as 15,000 cases.

Similarly, the number of cases BB personnel listed as "Unknown" is also a matter of debate. The number of BB Unknowns has often been cited as 701, a number which has practically become a meme within ufology. Researchers who have gone through the case files have noted missing cases, misnumbered files, and even cases that were explained but with unlikely explanations. Similarly, others have gone through the files and found explanations for some cases originally labeled Unknown. Despite all this, the number of BB Unknowns is thought to be somewhere between 500 and 1,500. In fact, ufologist Brad Sparks produced a detailed list with even more: 1,738 Unknowns.
http://www.nicap.org/bb/BB_Unknowns.pdf

That's still pretty interesting, actually. If we use the upper values of total cases and Unknowns, that means about 10% were Unknowns. Using the lower values, we get about 4% Unknowns. This agrees well with the Canadian UFO Survey, which usually finds the number of current Unknowns to be under 10%, and most often half of that or less.

Of the 1,738 cases in Sparks' Unknowns, 44 are from Canada, or about 2.5% of cases considered Unknown by BB personnel.

What are these Canadian cases?

As an example, on April 12, 1952, at 9:30 pm at CFB North Bay, Ontario, Warrant Officer E. H. Rossell and Flight Sergeant Reg McRae both saw a bright amber coloured disc moving through the sky. The saucer-shaped object came from the southwest and moved across the base airfield, stopped, then reversed its direction of travel. It climbed at high speed and disappeared from sight.

In the Blue Book files index, the case is #1108.




The investigating officer was impressed with the report. He noted:

Curiously, a similar observation at North Bay is in the National Archives. but not listed in the Blue Book index.


A year earlier, something strange was tracked by radar operators at Goose Bay, Labrador. On September 13, 1951, at 9:00 and 9:15 p.m., T/Sgt Warner B. Maupin, Cpl. John W. Green, operators of GCA radar, tracked two objects on a collision course, then one evaded to the right upon the request by radio of one of the radar operators. No aircraft were known to be in the area except a C-54 enroute to landing at Goose AB which arrived during the second radar tracking (the 3rd object at 10:15 pm). First target was a strong and steady radar return at 4,000 ft and 140 mph covering 7 miles in 3 mins. About 3 mins later, a 2nd target was observed with weak intermittent return above 5,000 ft level of GCA radar, A 3rd target similar and with similar speed appeared after first 2 disappeared. No visuals despite efforts by radar crew, tower crew and C-54 crew. http://www.nicap.org/bb/BB_Unknowns.pdf

In the Blue Book report on the case, the investigator noted:

"...malfunction of equipment is not considered as an exact cause..."


Dozens of other Canadian cases, mostly in Labrador and Newfoundland, are part of the Blue Book files.

A case underlining the fact that the Cold War was in full swing occurred not long after, and not far away. It's extremely interesting and suggests something of concern was happening in Canada's Far North. From Sparks' list, verbatim:
Sept. 17, 1951. Hudson Strait (at 61°30' N, 68°50' W) to Baffin Island, Canada. 10:20-11:55 p.m. (EST). USAF B36 radar operator Major Paul E. Gerhart and navigator Major Charles J. Cheever on a flight from Goose Bay, Labrador, to Resolute, North West Territories, heading NW at 208 knots (239 mph) over Hudson Strait, picked up radar interference which came from an unidentified aircraft at relative bearing 130° (E) at 28 n.mi. (32 miles) heading away. Anti-jamming device on the APQ-24 radar was turned on at 11:20 p.m. but did not affect the jamming on the radar scope. At 11:35 jamming covered 120° of the right side of the radar scope and then an unidentified aircraft was seen visually on the right side of the B-36, which was then at 18,000 ft at 65°40' N, 71°40' W (over SW Baffin Island). Object had "unconventional running lights" all white instead of red-green, with twin white flashing tail lights, traveling about 30 knots faster than the B-36, crossed the front from right to left heading 334° true towards the NNW, and was in view about 20 mins [to a distance of about 12 miles]. While the object was still visible, at 11:50 p.m. the B-36 autopilot and APQ-24 radar set went out, the latter returning after a few mins about when the object disappeared. ECM operators S/Sgt. Donald E. Jenkins and S/Sgt. Doty T. Larimore on 2 B-36 flights from Goose to Resolute while still over Labrador the next day detected carrier wave signals at several frequencies and some radar-like pulses at other frequencies, all below 1,000 MHz.
And then there was Head Start II.

Most people are unaware that in the late 1950s, the United States was testing an airborne defence system whereby fully armed nuclear bombs were flown aboard B-52s across North America. Called Head Start, it was in three phases, and during at least one of the missions, something strange happened that could have been deadly.

And it occurred over Swift Current, Saskatchewan, on March 25, 1959.
At 7:36 p.m. (MST), a B-52 with the call sign “Outcome 15,” from 92nd Bomb Wing, Fairchild AFB, Washington, was on SAC Emergency War Order exercise, Operation HEAD START II, for continuous airborne alert carrying fully-armed thermonuclear bombs, and had initially flown into Canada. At about 52°N, 118°W (near Swift Current, Sask.) while headed 180° Mag (SSW True) at 32,000 ft traveling 375 knots (432 mph), tail gunner Tech Sgt Joe Cobb sighted an object leaving a strange, non-persistent and intermittent contrail at his 2 o’clock position (to the W) and headed N. At 7:41 p.m., Cobb detected a target trailing the B-52 at 8,000 yds (about 5 miles) range on his MB-9 airborne radar. Electronic Warfare Officer 1st Lt. Robert J. Millard detected on the APS-54 Radar Warning Receiver an X-band radar emission at 9135 MHz from an unidentified object tailing the B-52, then also detected the same signal on his APR-9 ELINT Radar Receiver for 20 mins; sweep rate 1 per second, radio frequency oscillating around 9135 MHz. Shortly after, the B-52 radar officer Capt. Feirran detected a UFO on MB-9 airborne radar showing it trailing behind at a range of about 11,000 to 15,000 yds (about 6-8 miles). B-52 pilot Capt John W. Jackson radioed 1/Lt Ronald S. Murray, Senior Director on duty, ADC GCI radar site (47°31’N, 111°10’W) 801st AC&W Sq, Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Mont., that a UFO had entered its Air Defense Identification Zone by following B-52 into U.S. territory and ADC then scrambled a F-89J fighter interceptor, call sign "Board Pipe 27," pilot 1st/Lt. Austin E. Bond, with Radar Observer 1st/Lt. Charles C. Abernathy, 29th FIS Sq, Malmstrom AFB, Mont. The UFO had red and green bright flashing lights about 30-40 ft apart with a steady white light in between and somewhat to the rear, thus suggesting a delta or swept-wing aircraft about the size of a B-57 bomber (~100 ft), described as “relatively high performance,” speed in excess of Mach 0.8 (530 mph), altitude above 53,000 ft, with a “considerable acceleration capability.” The UFO was lost by the F-89J at 8:42 p.m. when it climbed beyond reach of the pursuing F-89J at 49°50’N [50°20’N ?], 113°00’W. B-52 EWO Lt. Millard regained a UFO radar signal at 8:36 p.m. for 5 mins but at 9130 MHz; noted pulse repetition frequency (PRF) of 2,500 Hz [indicative of radar set to range of 37 mi]. 
Nothing special. Just a UFO seen visually and on several radars during a military exercise where live nuclear bombs were in the air over Saskatchewan.

I would estimate that about two thousand cases in Project Blue Book files were from Canada. Towards the end of BB, even the noted Falcon Lake UFO encounter of 1967 was investigated as part of the USAF-sponsored Condon Committee study of UFOs and was definitely part of the Blue Book documentation of worldwide reports.

On a personal note, in the new TV series, the dashing/daring UFO investigator for Project Blue Book was Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was one of my mentors. I met him first in 1976 at a science conference in Winnipeg. (I had hair then.)


He once stayed at my home when he visited Winnipeg, and we had many long talks about UFOs and the nature of ufology.


And in 1979, Allen and Mimi and their kids came to Canada for the solar eclipse. Including their son Paul Hynek, seen in this photo from 1979 with his parents and sister, having dinner with us at Hecla Island.



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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

 

"NASA scientist says UFOs are real" - or not



So, many UFO groups are excitedly posting links to news stories that seem to say NASA thinks UFOs are real.

The posts include links to media reports such as:






All the articles refer to one scientist working at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, Silvano P. Colombano, who published a speculative research paper at a SETI conference in March 2018.


The paper, titled New Assumptions to Guide SETI Research, was presented at the Decoding Alien Intelligence workshop that considered a multidisciplinary approach to "looking for life as we do not know it." Colombano is a computer scientist whose research mostly has to do with the design of robots that could be used in space and planetary exploration. But his paper suggested ways in which assumptions in mainstream SETI research should be challenged.

Like SETI advocates' insistence that: "interstellar travel is impossible," "radio waves are the standard for interstellar contact between civilizations," "carbon-based life is the most likely form of life in the universe," and "we have not been visited by aliens."

I won't go into the details of the other three, but it's the last one that UFO proponents have picked up on. Colombano was clearly engaging in a thought experiment, but he raised some interesting points. He specifically mentioned UFOs several times in his paper, but in a very cautious manner.

He noted: 
It seems to me that SETI has ignored (at least officially) the potential relevance of UFO phenomena for three reasons: 1) The assumption of extremely low likelihood of interstellar travel, 2) The very high likelihood of hoaxes, mistaken perceptions or even psychotic events in UFO phenomena, and 3) The general avoidance of the subject by the scientific community.
It should be pointed out that Colombano was not highly versed in ufology and was talking in terms that were somewhat "out of the box." But his assessment of the Tarter/Shostak dismissal of UFOs was fairly accurate. Interstellar travel is looking less attainable, given not only physical constraints but also economic and political issues, despite "teases" by groups like TTSA who hint they are developing new materials and propulsion systems based on their examination of alien artefacts.

Colombano instead recognizes the overwhelming amount of nonsense in popular ufology, and observes:
In the very large amount of “noise” in UFO reporting there may be “signals” however small, that indicate some phenomena that cannot be explained or denied.
So, he's not saying that the reality of UFOs can't be denied, but that somewhere in the mass of UFO data there may be some evidence of a real phenomenon. Whether we can recognize it as such is another question.

But he emphasizes this in one recommendation:
Consider the UFO phenomenon worthy of study in the context of a system with very low signal to noise ratio...
In other words, let's call a spade a spade. Most UFO reports are not UFOs at all, but IFOs, and that should be the starting point for UFO research. Jumping to conclusions about UFO sightings and claims should not be the avenue to be pursued (such as the "Baffin Island UFO" that recently received more attention than deserved).

Colombano recommends looking seriously at UFO data—after all, he's a computer expert. 
One of the recommendations made is to study UFO reports as a low signal to noise ratio phenomenon. Big Data Analysis could approach several existing data bases such as 130,000 pages of declassified U.S. Air Force documents, National UFO Reporting Center Database and several other international data bases.
At least he knows about Peter Davenport's work.

(And yes, I will unabashedly note the Canadian UFO Survey, too.)


Somewhere in UFO data, he believes, could be some information that could point to possible extraterrestrial contact. And of a form we might not expect.

He's not talking about "mother ships," mile-wide triangular crafts, or dime-sized bits of saucers found in a desert. And not about mummified alien hybrid babies, or a briefcase full of Moscovium, which decays in a tenth of a second into other elements.

He's talking about things we have yet to imagine, but we need to look at possibilities very seriously.

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