In November 2010, a CBS news team in a helicopter filmed what they believed was a missile launch on the West Coast. It became big news when the Pentagon denied having launched any missiles. Even experts who studied the film footage carefully couldn't prove that it wasn't a launch.
However, it turned to have just been the contrail from a commercial jet flight, filmed under special conditions. Our eyes can fool us sometimes, even when we don’t want to believe what we think we are seeing; when that desire to believe is there, it’s even easier to be fooled. This explains both why many UFO sightings have been identified and why it is difficult to accept that identification sometimes.
Nonetheless, I have to agree that UFOs are a fact. In August 2010, the humor site Cracked.com ran an article on five UFO sightings that couldn’t be explained, and that came to mind immediately on seeing this debate. These five are detailed below briefly.
♦ Five unexplained sightings
On July 24, 1948, two commercial airline pilots (who were WWII veterans), a passenger on board the airliner, and an Air Force ground crew member on the ground all saw a long, cigar-shaped flying object with lit windows on its side; in fact, the pilots had to maneuver to avoid hitting the UFO. It turned out that a similar object had been reported over the Netherlands about a month earlier. These witnesses all saw something unusual in flight, and to this day, we don’t know what it was.
Between December 1948 and April 1955, many green fireballs were seen in the skies over New Mexico. Credible witnesses included military scientists, astronomers, and enlisted personnel. Most probably they were meteors, it was first thought, but the meteor expert brought in by the government to study the phenomena concluded that these particular green fireballs didn’t act at all like ordinary meteors. The Air Force closed its investigation, but the nature of the fireballs is still not definitely established.
On October 1, 1948, multiple witnesses saw a small, blinking blob of light over Fargo, North Dakota, and a local World War II veteran pilot, who was in the air at the time, claimed to have chased it unsuccessfully. Flight controllers saw the UFO in the sky, but it didn’t show up on their equipment. The Air Force decided that the object was the planet Jupiter and that the slightly increased radiation level on the pilot’s plane after his experience was normal after flying at high altitudes.
Between July 13 and July 29, 1952, a series of UFO sighting were reported over Washington, DC, from credible witnesses. There were also radar sightings from two different radars. The government explanation that it was a coincidence of an unusual meteor storm and radar error wasn’t accepted by most of the expert witnesses.
On October 21, 1978, a private Australian pilot and his aircraft disappeared while in flight. His last transmission reported a “strange aircraft hovering on top of me” and “it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.” This was followed by 17 seconds of the sound of a metallic scraping that experts later were unable to identify, and nothing was ever seen or heard from the pilot or his plane after that. Many witnesses reported seeing a UFO, but they only came forward after the news broke. Some people chalk it up to a hoax, or a confused pilot, but no one knows for sure exactly what happened.
♦ Possible explanations
Some of those cases were explained by the Air Force, but unsatisfactorily. Of note, per Cracked, an experienced pilot once did get confused by a weather balloon and the planet Jupiter, and it led to his death in a crash. The explanation most difficult to believe is the coincidence of a freak meteor storm and radar malfunctions in 1952.
It is interesting that four of those five reports happened within 10 years of World War II. Whole societies were working through the psychological aftereffects of that war and also having to come grips with the very stressful and real possibility of a nuclear war if the Cold War went hot. Could there have been some kind of mass psychosis? If so, how would we know, having been part of that society?
At any rate, the above reports don’t seem to lend themselves to a definite explanation of confused witnesses. There is radar evidence and sound that remain unexplained. I think it’s possible that several new technologies that were under development by various countries at the time the world war ended in 1945. Maybe these were further tested for a few years and either didn’t work or were too expensive to pursue in peacetime.
This explanation would have to mean that the disappearance in 1978 was indeed a hoax. However, it’s as much speculation as the notion that any or all of these incidents were sightings of alien spacecraft. We just don’t know for sure, even today, and so these reports at least remain bona fide unidentified flying objects.
UFOs are a fact today, though they may be identified at some point in the future.
Sources and more information:
“Mystery Missile Wasn’t a Missile at All.” James Oberg (November 9, 2010), at http://staging.spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/aviation/mystery-missile-wasnt-a-missile-at-all
Project Blue Book Archive online.
“5 UFO Sightings That Even Non-Crazy People Find Creepy.” Cracked staff and Seth Foreman (August 9, 2010) at
http://www.cracked.com/article_18690_5-ufo-sightings-that-even-non-crazy-people-find-creepy.html (Warning: This is a humor site and they use bad language sometimes.)