Thursday, November 03, 2011


October UFOs, and a challenge for readers of this blog

So far, about 65 UFO reports have been added to the Canadian UFO Survey database for October 2011. A few more will likely trickle in, but that's still not bad. It's not the most we've ever recorded, but it's high.

As a snapshot, it suggests that my prediction of "high, but not highest" will likely prevail for 2011. Report numbers are at a high level, but not "35% higher" than last year or any other year, for that matter, unlike some sensational updates and tweets and posts throughout the Internet.

A lot of the reports this year are "orange orbs" and similar lights. Many witnesses are insisting the objects they are seeing are spherical in shape, even though the distances involved rule out any true definition of shape. Many witnesses report orbs "right above us"... then note the objects are 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 (or even two miles!) up in the sky.

A lot of the cases, especially in southern Ontario, are observations of Chinese lanterns. Many witnesses dispute this, even though it can be shown in some instances that a wedding party was being held only a short distance away and such paper balloons were sent up that same night, down to the minute. I tried sending up a few of these myself this summer, just to see what they looked like and how easy it was to launch them. (It is.)

The cases that intrigue me, however, are reports of multiple objects seen at the same time, flying in formation. These are all points of light, obviously very high and far away, and are often described on UFO websites as "Massive UFO fleets" and things like that. More often, witnesses are using their cell phone cameras to shoot video of them and post the results to Youtube. Rather than assuming they are all video toaster fakes, some do look genuine, and while I don't think Muskoka is being invaded, it does suggest something curious is being observed. The videos almost always contain segments where the witness uses the zoom function to distort a perfectly fine image of a point of light at effective infinity into a "banded orb" that is a great example of internal refraction.

Then there's the cases where a point of light moving across the firmament (most often a satellite) makes an abrupt right-angle turn. The simplest explanation for these is that there are actually two objects, one of which passes into Earth's shadow about the same time as one emerges.

Now, do I think all orb or LITS (lights in the sky) are explainable as easily? No, because I know there are a number of factors at work, and many other possibilities. However, in painstakingly sifting through witnesses' narratives of their sightings, plus talking and corresponding with them, plus my many years' experience at investigating and interpreting UFO sighting reports, I've found that my intuition for assessing cases is a good way to filter simple IFOs from raw UFO reports.

The cases that are left, then, are what Geoff and I (and others) call high-quality UFO reports. There are some of these every year. Out of the 65 or so filed for October, six cases so far are labeled as "Unknown." That's not bad for a first pass; when the 2011 survey is finally compiled, these six will be re-evaluated to see if they fall into the "high-quality" category, with decent information, detailed descriptions and some level of actual investigation.

Here's an example of a recent UFO report, from Brian Vike's site (he's a very dedicated guy, and is cooperating with our survey):

What do you think this may have been? I have my suspicions, but what about you, the average blog reader? I'm interested in hearing your ideas.


It happened at half ten on Halloween which would make me suspect fireworks and so forth. The time it lasted and description sound very much like Chinese lanterns, particularly in the way it finally faded out as it was going to ground.

It's hard to judge speed without distance and their ideas of distance or altitude were reached from their impressions.

I'd also look if an airport was local enough for them to be seeing red aviation lights on the port wing.

Until last year, I was often suspicious of so many sightings being attributed to lanterns. I then saw 7 or 8 of them from the back of a party that travelled fast, gained altitude and then swooped out of sight behind a tree line. The first impression is 'Wow!' It took a couple of days before I could be sure they were lanterns.

There's also a 2003 UFO sighting in the UK MOD files reported at Glastonbury Festival. I was there and saw it - home-made Chinese lantern with several tea-light candles and a bin bag.
Thanks, Kandinsky.

Yes, the "Chinese lantern effect" is a real one, and although many UFO buffs are mocking it was an explanation of some UFO sightings, it is quite valid in a number of cases.

Also, yes, there's a large airport nearby. In fact, the sighting location is on a flight path.

It's also noteworthy that in a recent MSNBC article, there's a possible explanation given for some LITS (lights in the sky) reports: night parachutists with flares or flashlights. Now, I don't know how common this sport is, but it's possible as an explanation. I really doubt that it would explain many cases, but there might be one or two that could qualify.

Here's the link:
I have found that small local papers, especially in the UK, are good at following up their UFO articles with explanations from citizens. Many of these sightings turn out to be lanterns or misinterpreted business promotions (balloons, kites).
The funny thing is, the first article will invariably have witness quotes such as, "No plane could maneuver like that," or "It made no sound," and other such UFO clich├ęs.
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