Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bonilla's Comet

In the UFO literature, one of the older cases frequently quoted as the first ever UFO photographs (see Blum, Ralph and Judy, Beyond Earth: Man’s Contact with UFOs, page 45; Vallee, Jacques, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, page 30, for example) happened on August 12, 1883. Jose Bonilla, an astronomer at the Zacatecas Observatory, saw dozens of objects cross the disk of the sun and he photographed some of them. He reported that they seemed to be grouped in formations of fifteen to twenty and appeared at regular intervals. The Blums reported that the photographs showed circular or spindle-shaped objects.

One of Bonilla's Photographs.
Over the years, the number of object reported to be seen by Bonilla ranged from 150 to 283 to over 400. He informed other observatories in Mexico City and Puebla but they reported nothing out of the ordinary. The photographs, of course, did prove that he had seen something unusual.

There seemed to be no explanation for the sighting or the photographs until 2011. Researchers at the National Autonomous University in Mexico suggested that the objects were the result of a gigantic comet that nearly hit the Earth. The gravitation pull of the planet caused the break up. Because the objects, ranging in size from a few hundred feet across to some that might have been two or three miles across, were close to the Earth, they were visible only in certain areas much in the way that total solar eclipses are seen in a narrow band. Most of the points of observation were in regions that had few if any astronomical observatories.

Bonilla reported that the objects had a “mistiness” around them and astronomers say that the only objects that have a similar “mistiness” are comets. The conclusion of scientists in Mexico in 2011 was that Bonilla observed and photographed the remnants a comet. It seems to be a reasonable suggestion, but one, at the moment, that is not proven, just likely.

The other point is that had the comet not broken up and had hit the Earth, life, if it survived would have been radically altered. If one or two of the larger fragments had hit, they might be what are called “continent killers.” That means that there would have been widespread damage to the continent where they hit but other parts of the Earth would have survived, thought radically altered as well. In other words, we dodged a bullet that could have wiped out the human race, destroyed much of civilization as it was in 1883, and set back human progress centuries providing the human race survived.

I thought this solution for the sighting and the photographs interesting, if nothing else. It just shows that there are often good explanations for what was once considered to be inexplicable.


And yes, it seems that I’m about four years later on reporting this “breaking news.”

36 comments:

Tom said...

Not having read that particular book by Vallee, I'm left wondering how much validity he put in this. As you say, there is no definitive proof either way as to what those objects were, obviously the comet theory seems most likely. Thusly I'm left wondering just a bit about the astronomer Vallee, whom I respect.

Gilles Fernandez said...

Hello,

Dear Kevin. May I suggest you and others this article by my friend Dominique Caudron. It is in French, sorry.

L'historique photo d'OVNI de Zacatécas
http://oncle-dom.fr/paranormal/ovni/ufologie/photos/premiere/zacatecas/zacatecas.htm

Regards,

Gilles

Tom said...

Gilles,

Thank you for the link. This is a good companion piece to Kevin's article. From your link -

"But naivety is equaled only by his ignorance of basic astronomy."

I may have to rethink my opinion on a certain astronomer.

Brian Bell said...

@Tom -

From what I can tell Vallee was simply reporting the historical observation and not endorsing it as highly strange or ET activity.

Tom said...

Brian,

Thanks. I've always put a lot of validity into astronomer's views on the phenomena
because these are people whose livelihood depends upon making accurate observations while viewing the skies.

Larry said...

Kevin:

I wouldn't doubt the disrupted comet explanation, in principle. And you're right, an object that big and fast passing within basically one Earth diameter was a very close call! So this is an IFO.

To turn this back to a UFO discussion, maybe we could consider the following: I note that the structure of this case is not too different from let's say--the Trent case. In both cases we have an individual who took a photograph in the presence of at least one other witness (I'm assuming here that other people at the observatory saw Jose Bonilla take the photos; if not, then the Zacatecas case is actually a single-witness case). In the Zacatecas case, no one raises the possibility that Bonilla hoaxed the photos. You yourself wrote: "The photographs, of course, did prove that he had seen something unusual."

Moreover, the 2011 scholarly article by the astronomers at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) intrinsically treats Bonilla's claims as "data" which are used in scientific analyses to calculate how far, how fast, and how big the objects were, etc. Meanwhile, every piece of "data" in the Trent case--such as the time of day as determined by shadow angle--is gone over with a fine tooth comb by skeptics.

I'm not debating the truth or falsity of the Trent case here--we probably won't solve that based on the data we have available.
The question I'm raising is why some people treat one case as a material scientific puzzle to be solved and treat the other case as mental aberration. Isn't the difference in outlook in the minds of the individual investigators between one case and another evidence of a confirmation bias?

Lance said...

Larry,

There are plenty of other reasons to doubt the Trent story. Mrs. Trent's accounts reek (to me) of UFOness... her mention of another witness who mysteriously could never be contacted---talk of a breeze from the saucer, etc. The way the "saucer" is right underneath the same spot in both photos. The fact that the Trents were repeaters.

None of these reservations are proof of anything but they bring the stink of UFO-dom to the story--the same thing many of us smelled (not you, I realize) when the stupid slides story came up.

Lance

Gilles Fernandez said...

Larry,

I understand or like to think that you endorse the comet explanation from Manterola without skepticism, real agnosticism (depite my link and please clic on the multiple hyper-links on it) despite (again) it is worst (the comet explanation) than to defend this picture as showing an "genuine" UFO!

Probably to play the guy accepting a conventional explanation and sacrifying an UFO picture to defend another one (his favorite?), and show how he is reliable and not believing in all. Same regarding Kevin?

It is remembering same 'tactic' when Bragalia pretended to debunk Trent pictures in claiming the one with Trent son in the stepladder was from the very same roll (Lance Moody and myself "debunked the debunk" and finally David Rudiak found the Loomis Dean all pictures) or regarding his thesis about Socorro.

When UFO defenders trie to endorse an UFO-Skepticism posture for some cases, and calling some of us as "pseudo-skeptics" when we explain or propose explanation for some (as to the whole phenomenon and connexe - including abduction-), seriously, you are and sound really "bizarre". :p

Regards,

Gilles

Jim Robinson said...

This is an interesting case,and it would help to have more data, such as what time of day was it, what direction were the objects traveling across the disk, how long did the phenomenon last, etc., etc. However, even without that info it can be said that the cometary explanation won't work.

Assume for simplicity the sun's eastern limb is on the meridian when the objects start appearing also at that limb (at the assumed altitude of 8000km). Four minutes later the sun has moved one degree to the west, but that segment of the debris orbit is now 2deg west due to parallax,hence well off the sun's disk already.This assumes the objects crossing the center of the sun; if off to one side or the other, the time of observation is even more restricted.

David Rudiak said...

Jim Robinson wrote:
"Assume for simplicity the sun's eastern limb is on the meridian when the objects start appearing also at that limb (at the assumed altitude of 8000km). Four minutes later the sun has moved one degree to the west, but that segment of the debris orbit is now 2deg west due to parallax,hence well off the sun's disk already.This assumes the objects crossing the center of the sun; if off to one side or the other, the time of observation is even more restricted."

Welcome back Jim.

Yes, and if Bonilla had actually observed over 300 objects over a period of TWO DAYS (as I've read), then it becomes basically impossible for it to have been a comet, visible crossing the solar disc by Bonilla and absolutely nobody else, although he contacted nearby Mexican astronomers.

Any comet would have been traveling at about 20 miles/sec and at only a few hundred to a few thousand miles above the Earth would have passed out of view within minutes, even assuming a long trail from a broken-up comet. The solar disc is only half a degree wide. Between the rotational and orbital motions of Earth and the comet's motion, the chances of Bonilla even seeing the debris cross the solar disc was tiny to begin with, for minutes, even smaller, for two days, nonexistent.

Such a comet would also have very likely resulted in meteor showers each year as the Earth crossed the orbital path of the comet and ran into lingering cometary debris from its tail. Although there is a meteor shower at this time of year (August 12)--the Perseids--it is due to comet Swift-Tuttle, a periodic comic like Halley's, with an orbital period of 133 years. Before Bonilla's observation, the comet's previous close approach was 1862, when it was first discovered. Thus it was nowhere near Earth in 1883.

Of course, besides being explained as a comet, the sighting has also been "explained" by skeptic Joe Nickell as Bonilla photographing high-flying geese. Nickell cited some reference (which maybe somebody can find, but Google books deleted the pages). However the geese "explanation" has many problems as well. A good discussion of the problems with both comet and geese can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=825076247547185&id=642532452468233&substory_index=0

Fleet of alien spaceships has similar problems as an explanation. So I don't know what Bonilla saw and photographed.

Larry said...

Part 1
Jim, David:

Jim's main point is that the objects--whatever they were--would have transited across the Sun's disc very quickly. I got a copy of Bonilla's original paper and read a translated version. First of all, his telescope was on an equatorial mount, so it subtracted out the rotation of the Earth. When he made his observations and took his photos (with the assistance of a servant) the Sun was stationary in the field of view. He described the bodies as moving directly from West to East. (I assume that was in the Sun's reference frame) That's probably the single most important piece of information because it means the velocity vectors of the objects were in the plane of the ecliptic. He estimated the average time of transit of the objects as between 1 second and 1/3 second. So, Jim's assertion of a very quick transit time is in agreement with the original observations.

I then read the paper that Gilles referred to, above, by "Oncle Dom". Dom suggests that the evidence is best explained by a set of much smaller objects much closer (i.e., a flock of swallows or other birds). The problem with that explanation is that birds fly in a coordinate system that is fixed relative to the Earth (horizontal, mostly), while Bonilla's objects were moving in a coordinate system fixed relative to the Solar System. Since the Earth's spin axis is tilted about 23.4 degrees relative to the plane of the ecliptic, it would be very extraordinary if birds decided to fly at exactly the flight path angle that would simulate uniform motion in the plane of the ecliptic. Oncle Dom did not address this issue.

I then read the 2011 UNAM paper (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1110.2798v1.pdf).
Their arguments are entirely based on simple geometry and result in placing boundaries on how far, how fast, and how big, the bodies were. I accept their geometric reasoning, however I now doubt their conclusion that the objects were the remnants of a gravitationally disrupted comet nucleus. That's mainly because most comets also do not move in the plane of the ecliptic. It is possible that a comet could just happen to be moving that way, but statistically unlikely. Aslo, the lack of accompanying meteorite showers argues against a comet.

Larry said...

Part 2

A solitary comet or asteroid will move through the Solar System on a path that is either an ellipse or a hyperbola. If the parent comet or asteroid body gets broken up from either internal effects or external ones (such as the gravity gradient when passing too close to a planet) the resulting pieces will distribute themselves on the same orbital track as the parent body, but ahead of or behind the parent body. The longer an asteroid or comet is in a stable orbit, the longer the pieces have to redistribute themselves, and the longer will be the resulting train. Generally speaking, I would agree with David's assessment that the train of fragments resulting from a Comet's pass through the Solar System would probably not be long enough to last for two days.

My suggestion is that what Bonilla probably saw was an Aten-class Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) that had been gravitationally disrupted. This class of NEAs have their orbits entirely or almost entirely inside the orbit of the Earth (and can therefore be seen against the backdrop of the Sun) and are located in the ecliptic plane. For reasons I won't go into, this class of NEAs are fairly rare and difficult to observe. The first confirmed detection of an Aten NEA was in 1976 by Eleanor Helin, so Bonailla would not have any reason to suspect this explanation. An asteroid in this kind of orbit would probably have made many millions of orbits around the Sun and its fragments would therefore have had ample opportunity to spread out azimuthally around the orbital plane.

Interestingly, the risk to Earth of a collision with an Aten NEA is quite a bit higher than the risk of collision with a comet. That's because--being close to the Earth's orbit--they have multiple opportunities to come back around. If this object is an Aten and it is disrupted, that is pretty good evidence that it has already interacted with the Earth-moon system at some point in time.

In any event, I don't see anything in the case that would require invoking an unconventional explanation.

Also, solving the Bonilla sighting was not my main purpose. I wanted to discuss why it is that some cases are treated like scientific puzzles that can be explained by conventional scientific means and methods while other cases are "explained away" as--essentially-mental illness.

Larry said...

Gilles:

I'm not "playing" at anything, but you seem to be playing at psychoanalyst. And you're not very good at it. In the absence of any information, you are basically making random projections on what my motivations and thoughts might be, which turn out to be way off the mark. Don't give up your day job until you acquire a lot more skill at psychodiagnostics.

Speaking of which, try a little on yourself. I wonder if it's possible for you to step back and look at your behavior? You're basically accusing me of dishonesty via the passive-agrressive tactic of attributing fanciful motivations to me simply for the purpose of being able to then smash them down. That is a deeply hostile, slimy, and antisocial behavior that no ethical psychoanalyst would ever engage in. I don't know how it is in France, but in my professional circles, that kind of behavior would make you a pariah. As to what I believe; if you want to know, just ask instead of making up bullshit.

It has been well known since the beginning of the UFO age that somewhere around at least 90% (more or less, depending on whose numbers you want to accept) of all UFO reports have conventional explanations. I accept that. Honestly, I really do. I think the Bonilla observations are in that 90% and that's why I say so.

The point of disagreement between you and me (and Lance, for that matter) is that you believe the remaining 10% also have conventional explanations. That's more or less the Psycho-Social Hypothesis--that 100% of all UFO reports are the result of human dysfunction of one sort or another. (Lance likes to rename this dysfunction or aberration as "UFOness". OK, whatever.) I used to consider the PSH plausible, many decades ago for all the reasons that you do. I don't believe that anymore, however, because I have falsified that hypothesis by the simple expedient of witnessing UAP/UFO. So I don't know what fraction of all UFO reports actually come from Psycho-Social sources--90%, 99%--I don't know and I don't think anyone else does, actually. I know it's not 100%. So the problem is and always has been to pull a small signal out of a lot of background noise.

Consequently, whenever I approach a new case that potentially involves a UFO, I make a conscious attempt to neither assume it's false nor assume it's true until all the data has been considered and there's an evidence-based reason to choose one over the other. I don't necessarily always do a perfect job, but that's the goal. I think it's as important to avoid a false negative conclusion as it is to avoid a false positive.

By contrast, when you pseudo skeptics approach a new case, you automatically bet that it's nonsense and proceed to interpret every element of the case in light of that preconception. Of course, you will be right 90+% of the time. You then take that as vindication of your position, but it's not. That approach is incapable of distinguishing between a small signal and no signal and really takes no great intellect nor much effort; it's just following the path of least resistance.

Larry said...

Lance:

I think your response pretty much answered my question in the affirmative. You admit that you have a sniff test for "UFOness" or "UFOdom" which are just euphemisms for the term I used, "mental aberration". To me, the four criteria you mentioned (missing witness, close enough proximity to experience near effects such as wind, etc., object in roughly the same spot, repeat witnesses) all can and do show up in stories of witnesses to real and perfectly conventional phenomena. For example, if I go walking in the Redwood forest where I live tomorrow morning and report that I saw the same Redwing Woodpecker that I saw this morning, I have just crossed three (or perhaps all 4) of your tripwires for "UFOness". Yet there is clearly no UFO involved--no extraordinary conditions of any sort.

So when the case is labeled "UFO" your objective criteria are used to justify the conclusion "crazy" but when the case is labeled "non-UFO" they are not. This pretty obviously leads to the situation where someone claims to have had some sort of UFO experience and you immediately label that individual crazy. When they discuss the details of the case you label those details as exactly the kind of crazy things a UFO-crazy person would say (even though non-crazy people say exactly the same things), which you then use to reinforce your original belief that the individual is crazy. This is a nice, tight self-exciting feedback loop which is pretty much guaranteed to produce an internally consistent world view. In the words of one of my Physics professors, "You're drinking your own bathwater."

When you do this, you are arguing like a lawyer, not like a scientist. You are starting with a belief position and systematically interpreting every facet of the case in a way that is consistent with that belief. If your objective is try to persuade as many people as possible to agree with your preexisting position, then maybe this is an effective strategy, I don't know. If your objective is to discover the true state of nature in a particular case, this is an absolutely crappy strategy. That's fundamentally because while it's true that a correct scientific theory of nature will be internally consistent, it is not even remotely true that all internally consistent theories are correct.

With regard to your attempt to obtain more gratification with the "Roswell Slides" issue: maybe you didn't get the memo. That party is over. It's time to put your dick back in your pants and give it a rest. Still, it was a reasonably competent trolling attack and just one more example of why everyone here thinks you're a flaming asshole.

David Rudiak said...

Larry wrote:
So when the case is labeled "UFO" your objective criteria are used to justify the conclusion "crazy" but when the case is labeled "non-UFO" they are not. This pretty obviously leads to the situation where someone claims to have had some sort of UFO experience and you immediately label that individual crazy. When they discuss the details of the case you label those details as exactly the kind of crazy things a UFO-crazy person would say (even though non-crazy people say exactly the same things), which you then use to reinforce your original belief that the individual is crazy. This is a nice, tight self-exciting feedback loop which is pretty much guaranteed to produce an internally consistent world view.”

20th Century Science Philosopher Karl Popper would probably classify the psychosocial hypothesis as non-science, just as he felt psychoanalytic theory of Freud and Adler wasn't scientific. The distinction he felt between a true scientific theory and a non-scientific one, is that a scientific one "stuck it's neck out", making specific predictions that might in principle be testable (though not necessarily easy to test, maybe even impossible). If you can test the prediction and experiment shows it not to be correct, then the theory (or some aspect of it) has been falsified. Even if the prediction proved true, that does not necessarily verify the the theory as being correct, as some other test might eventually falsify it.

With psychanalystic theory, however (to quote Wikipedia): "In contrast, nothing could, even in principle, falsify psychoanalytic theories. ... such theories had more in common with primitive myths than with genuine science. This led Karl Popper to conclude that what were regarded as the remarkable strengths of psychoanalytical theories were actually their weaknesses. Psychoanalytical theories were crafted in a way that made them able to refute any criticism and give an explanation for every possible form of human behaviour. The nature of such theories made it impossible for any criticism or experiment even in principle to show them to be false."

Now just substitute "psychosocial hypothesis" for "psychoanalystic theory" (which it is directly derived from, witness Gilles as one example), and the exact same criticisms would apply. No matter what witnesses say or who they may be, no matter how much corroborating evidence there may be (radar, photographs, EM effects, radiation measurements, landing traces, etc.), it can ALL be explained away using the PSH. Witnesses are all liars, human perception is always unreliable, witnesses contaminate one another, witnesses all suffer from false memories, witnesses are crazy, witnesses are coached by investigators and always say what they are led to say, witnesses are hoaxers, witnesses can't distinguish what they've read or seen in the movies and their own experiences, etc., etc.

Hence people like Lance dismissing Mrs. Trent as being a "repeater", as if people never twice experience the same unusual things, and this somehow makes them non-credible. You would also have to eliminate other "repeaters" like astronomers Clyde Tombaugh (6 reported UFO sightings), Lincoln LaPaz (2 reported sightings), or Frank Halstead (4 reported sightings).

Another example, when I told ZoamChomsky that there is more than just witness testimony involved with UFO sightings, such as simultaneous radar/visual sightings, to which he responded the radar operators were subject to the same mass social delusion as the eyewitesses.

The irony here is these pseudo-skeptics PSH proponents, practicing their own brand of pseudoscience, complain that Ufology and theories like the ETH are nothing but pseudoscience. I could get into another lengthy discussion why that isn’t the case, since along Popperian lines, predictions can and have been made in Ufology and theories like the ETH that are potentially falsifiable. But I’ll leave it at that for now

Lance said...

Larry and David,

I pointed out sone of the reasons I doubted the Trents. There are others. I realize none of them work for you and that is fine.
I didn't just discard the case because it is a UFO case. I have looked at the evidence. It doesn't work for me.

Larry worked super hard to keep the ooga booga in the Roswel, slides case...tell us again Larry how tall the alien mummy is? Larry's faux scientific pontifications are another aspect of the UFO way that lead away from truth.

Complaining about how the mean old skeptics won't just believe like they should does not make the crap evidence for UFOs any more compelling.

Lance

Tom said...

Kevin,

Off topic - just listened to your interview on Open Minds. Nice job of putting a bow on the whole sordid slides affair.

Brian Bell said...

@Larry -

You said "It has been well known since the beginning of the UFO age that somewhere around at least 90% (more or less, depending on whose numbers you want to accept) of all UFO reports have conventional explanations. I accept that. Honestly, I really do. I think the Bonilla observations are in that 90% and that's why I say so."

A true statement - I agree....

Gilles Fernandez said...

That approach is incapable of distinguishing between a small signal and no signal and really takes no great intellect nor much effort; it's just following the path of least resistance". you believe the remaining 10% also have conventional explanations

Dear Larry,

The SPH or Reductionist & Composite Theory of the UFO phenomenon is more complex than how you "aped". I tried to summerize them in my article devoted to the 1896/97 airship wave (for an example).

What you call "signal" (residual cases) is/seems presenting exactly the same patterns, caracteristics (colors, shapes, behavior, number, socio-economic class or number of witnesses, "behavior", etc.) in comparison to explained cases (false alarms). Twins corpus, indiscernibility ...
"I" have explained or summarized plenty of time the SPH/RCT in my blog, book, etc. The ETH defenders looks like people adressing "murders" corpus, and claiming because all murder cases have not been explained, then residual cases may have fortean entities or mecanisms inside, at play, then it is why they cant ALL be solved, explained. Well, why not, after all.

I dont think our approach/posture/methodology demand no great intellect nor much effort. For example, again in my blog, when I/we proposed a new hypothesis for the most famous Hessdalen UAP/Phenomenon photograph and video (2007), it coasted intellect/effort ressources, as for the other HP famous pictures too (but French article). Same for CE-3 cases and many many more regarding our works in France about (ex) residual cases (some passing from class D to A or B by the CNES/GEIPAN classification BTW).

I will add that the recent RSRG effort demonstrate that people not sharing the same general opinion regarding UFO/UAP may produce excellent work in order to avoid false alarms.

I wish you sincerly a good luck to find an alarm between the 90% to ???% residual cases which will refute the null-hypothesis (and please, not the syllogism: "I cant not explain this case, therefore exotic and the ETH is the only possibility, hypothesis to retain").

Yes 90% to ???%, aka probably the statistical corpus of a field presenting the larger amount of false alarms, but a field and people continuing to "appeal" to the residual cases for decades (they have advanced none iota to prove the ETH, during this time, SPH/TRC continue to explain cases & collecting cases supporting her model), as if there were not previous residual cases presented as "the best ones" to support ETH (or other fortean ones) which have been explained later.

New cases? Well, there are no new cases as there was amount in the past decades. Current blogs, books, etc defending the ETH are often addressing old cases, Prevert inventories, or "nothing new under the Sun).

Sorry for the off-topic and good luck again ;)

Gilles, a pseudo-skeptic.

Gilles Fernandez said...

David,

Your effort to make the dead to speak was a great time. Thank you for this excellent moment. What else? When you will call Galileo, Biot or Wegener at the rescue?

"Witnesses are all liars," witnesses are crazy": The only liar and crazy guy is you when you are summerizing like this the SPH/RCT. I can nothing for you, in fact.

ETH defenders like you have a curious paradoxe (lapsus?): you are agreeing 90% or more the corpus is explained, so reading you about the SPH/RCT then and regarding/transposing your OWN words about the large amount of explained cases (and the witnesses of them), you finally are stating the witnesses of such now explained cases were liars or crazy? Bravo, David. You understand the paradoxe, what you are stating or you need a drawing?

It looks like in your inside world none case with "landing traces", radar-visual "correlations", photographs, several Weinstein catalogue or NARCAP cases, "radiation" case - Rendlesham ie -, case with physiological effects, etc. have not been explained, or good explained, and presented to support the ETH dispite it was (again) false alarms.

Tchao, and sincerly too good luck in your quest.

Gilles.

Anthony Mugan said...

So, subject to any other information that may become avaible, it seems:
a) there are several possible explanations for the original observations and they present no evidence that could be taken as supportive of the ETH

b) it is very difficult to have a civilised discussion focused on objective evidence in an open forum

cda said...

DR and Gilles:

We've strayed a bit from Bonilla's 'comet', but I agree that the cases where there is so-called 'supporting evidence' never seem to amount to anything. How many radar-visual cases (Keyhoe's great favorite) survived proper investigation? How many 'landing trace' cases survived ditto? How many 'radiation reading' cases are worth anything? (Don't point at Rendlesham, please - any such radiation traces there were adequately dealt with long ago, whatever Nick Pope may say).

The supporting evidence usually vanishes upon proper investigation and you do NOT need psycho-social theory to explain them. I dare say there are a small residual number of cases where no answer was found, but the point is that you do not need to be 100% certain of an explanation to be able to reasonably claim that a case is solved. Ruppelt said as much in his book.

Likewise you do NOT need to explain each and every photographic case - a few will always escape. Bonilla and Trent may be two of these. But neither is the slightest bit suggestive of alien visits to earth! The big problem with all photographic cases is twofold: if they are too fuzzy or vague, they are useless as evidence of anything; if on the other hand they are close-up and too clear they are immediately candidates for fakery. Is there a single photo or movie that has both (i) survived all attempts to explain it AND (ii) strongly suggests a genuine ET craft? And why, with all the camcorders and other gadgetry now available has nothing really interesting turned up in recent years?

PSH is certainly valuable as a tool but only really comes into its own with abduction cases. It is hardly needed with simple sightings.

Lance said...

Anthony,

The idea that Larry thought this was a good time to talk about the confirmation bias of skeptics (!!!) is going to been seen as pretty silly by anyone with familiarity of recent UFO baloney (which Larry had a minor role in).


Lance

Lance said...

And when he misrepresents the position of folks (as he did mine), they ARE going to respond sometimes even over the noisy roar of his pretend scientific musings.

Lance

Lance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Bell said...

Regarding lack of recent cases - It seems Kevin made a 2014 or so web interview where he proposed that "they" have long since come and gone and are no longer visiting at the rate we supposedly saw in 1940 - 1970.

Just offering it as a possible explanation - assuming anything back then was actually ET anyway.

The lack of good photographic evidence today is in fact evidence in itself. It suggests that what was happening then is not happening now.

Neal Foy said...

@ Brian Bell

It could be argued that a Box Brownie circa 1950 would be a better camera to use for a daylight picture of a UFO than most of the Point and Shoot auto everything digital cameras in use today. Auto focus is great but it just doesn't do a great job for distant objects in the sky. It's more likely to lock on to closer things like tree branches, power lines or the like in the frame. When confronted with a small object in the frame it's prone to "search" for focus. For a night picture auto exposure tends to result in long shutter speeds and wide open aperture along with the already mentioned failures of the auto focus system. All together the result is predictable, fuzzy overexposed lights. Certainly nothing of any value.
Even much more sophisticated DSLRs suffer from some of the same problems. The best of those with multiple cross point sensors aren't totally reliable in low light. These camera bodies cost several thousand dollars. Add a fast lens capable of taking advantage of the focus system for thousands of dollars more. It's no wonder we see very few UFO pictures taken with these cameras.
This really only touches the surface, pixel density has become a problem with the pixel wars going on with the camera manufacturers. Add compression due to internet limitations and the outlook for good evidence in pictures becomes rather dim. And you can't forget the ease that fakes can be made on even the cheapest, sometimes free, editing software available.

Brian Bell said...

@Neal Foy -

Agree - vintage 1940-1950 cameras provide far better photos than today's digital cameras. Take a look at any 1 x 1 inch brownie photo from 1940 and you will find incredibly crisp details that cannot be faked as you noted by today's cameras.

David Rudiak said...

Larry wrote:
He described the bodies as moving directly from West to East. (I assume that was in the Sun's reference frame) That's probably the single most important piece of information because it means the velocity vectors of the objects were in the plane of the ecliptic. He estimated the average time of transit of the objects as between 1 second and 1/3 second. My suggestion is that what Bonilla probably saw was an Aten-class Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) that had been gravitationally disrupted...

Interesting theory, but I see some potential problems.

These time estimates for transit of the sun's disc (only 1/2 degree) wide, put severe limitations on how far away the hypothetical disrupted asteroid fragments could be. For one thing, they should all be traveling at the same orbital speed, thus a 3 to 1 difference in transit time can only be explained by a 3:1 difference in distance from Bonilla, giving a 3:1 difference in angular velocity. This could only be true if they passed very close to Earth.

Another restraint on distance is how fast such asteroids can travel, typically averaging about Earth orbital speed of 30 km/sec or about 20 mi/sec or 70,000 mph. Add to this Earth escape velocity of 25,000 mph (7 mi/sec) for being pulled in very close to Earth, for a net of around 95,000 mph or 27 mi/sec.

If the furthest object passed 5700 miles from Earth, then each 100 mi of travel corresponds to 1 deg in the sky. Even at 27 mi/sec, it would take about 2 seconds to transit the solar disc. Thus, this distance would be two times too far to account for a transit time of only 1 second.

This means the furthest object would be about 3000 miles away, and the closest 1000 miles to account for the observed transit and variation in transit times. At these close distances, a highly disrupted asteroid (observed over two days, see below) should have some outliers that came even closer to Earth, most likely some entering the Earth's atmosphere. So one problem with the theory as-is is where are all the large meteor fireball reports, of which there should have been a few?

This class of NEAs have their orbits entirely or almost entirely inside the orbit of the Earth (and can therefore be seen against the backdrop of the Sun) and are located in the ecliptic plane. For reasons I won't go into, this class of NEAs are fairly rare and difficult to observe... An asteroid in this kind of orbit would probably have made many millions of orbits around the Sun and its fragments would therefore have had ample opportunity to spread out azimuthally around the orbital plane.

Two more potential problems is can a disrupted asteroid get this strung out in space such that fragments would be observed over two days? Assuming observations 24 hours apart and the objects averaging about 80,000 mph, this would require a string of asteroidoil fragments at least 2 million miles long. It would also seem they would have to be exactly in Earth's orbital plane for them to be observed over 2 days passing in the narrow band defined by the sun's angular diameter. And a third potential problem is where did the fragments all go? Since Bonilla's initial observation, it would seem they would have been detected again with more modern instruments, even if they are difficult to detect.

Of course, if such a string were detected and found to correspond in orbital characteristics (including running the orbit backwards in time to see if it corresponded to the time and place of Bonilla's sighting), that would definitively solve the mystery.

Larry said...

David:

I understand your reservations regarding the Aten NEA solution, but let me add a few additional facts.

Consider a parent body in a near circular orbit that breaks up from some source or another. The fragments are propelled away from the original center of mass in all directions, with generally low velocities (compared to the orbital velocity). Suppose you are an observer moving along the original orbital track located at the center of mass. What is the motion of the fragments that you observe?

The answer to this question is described by solutions to what are called the Euler-Hill equations. This is a classical problem that often gets covered in a graduate program in Aerospace Engineering; I had to solve this set of equations for a particular case in my dissertation work at Stanford. Qualitatively, there are 3 different sorts of motion. Particles that are ejected up or down from the orbital plane oscillate up and down around the center of mass in pure sinusoid motion without damping. Particles that are ejected radially inward or outward in the orbit plane enter into cyclic motion around the center of mass. A particle ejected inward, for example, will go down to a slightly lower orbit, appear to lag behind the observer, then cross back above the original orbit, speed up again and then come back to its point of origin from behind. A particle ejected outward will enter into motion that is the mirror image of this. (I am writing this from memory and may have a =/- sign error, but the basic idea is that particles ejected inward or outward will appear to enter into circular orbits that are tangent to the original center of mass. Particles that are ejected directly forward or backward along the orbital track will keep drifting indefinitely. In the Earth-Sun system, there are singular gravity wells called La Grange points in the Earth's orbit that are located at +/- 30 degrees ahead of and behind the Earth. If there was an NEA in an orbit slightly inside the Earth's, it would also have its La Grange points. When the particles traveling forward and backward from the original center of mass get to a La Grange point, they are reflected back the way they came. So over a long period of time, you would expect to see a certain fraction of the particles spread out on the orbital track as much as +/- 30 degrees.

So taking all of these Euler-Hill motions into account, it would be easy to get a cloud that could take 2 days to pass by the Earth and would have some particles appearing to move faster and slower than the average..

As far as why they weren't seen before or since: If the center of mass of the debris cloud was in a heliocentric orbit that was only on the order of 10,000 km smaller in diameter than the Earth's orbit, its orbital period would be slightly longer than that of the Earth's by an amount (according to my back of the envelope calculation) of about 1 part in 122. In other words, the particular viewing geometry that Bonilla enjoyed wouldn't return until about 2005, plus or minus maybe 10 years.

Gulp!

starman said...

Larry, any chance the meteor which exploded over Siberia in February 2013 was part of the returning swarm? It was said to have struck the same day a small asteroid passed by Earth, and was presumably one of many associated but objects(?)

Larry said...

starman:

That's a reasonable conjecture. I am going to spend some time with JPL's small body database and their orbit propagator software to see where that particular asteroid was on August 12, 1883.

Larry said...

starman:

No joy. on August 12, 1883, asteroid 2012DA14 was nowhere near Earth.

David Rudiak said...

Larry,

While a disrupted Aten-type asteroid might explain some aspects, I am still troubled by the observation extending over a 2 day period, which would require the string of fragments being in essentially a parallel trajectory with Earth's orbit and in exactly the same orbital plane. Sounds very improbable. Even assuming all this, there would be only a tiny window of time on two successive days, because of Earth's rotational motion, to see the objects crossing the disc of the sun.

I'm also troubled by the lack of large fireball reports, when we consider that the objects would have been constrained, by Bonilla's reported transit times and the velocity of such asteroids, to only about 1000-3000 miles out. Some outlying debris from this huge asteroid train should have entered Earth's atmosphere.

Based on Bonilla's published photo, I estimate the angular diameter of the object he photographed to be about 1.5% of the sun's angular diameter, smeared in the direction of travel to about 3% of the sun's diameter. Since the shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, this would correspond to a transit time of 1/3rd second, in ageement with Bonilla's low-end transit times. (He would have been damn lucky to have snapped the picture when he did and gotten anything.)

This would correspond to the transit time of a closer 1000 mile out object. The object would have had a diameter of roughly 700 feet, over 10 times larger in diameter and over a 1000 times more massive than the 2013 Chelybinsk meteor, which had an estimated detonation energy of 500 kilotons of TNT, a "small" H-bomb. This object would have had an energy roughly 1000 times greater, or 10 times more than the largest H-bomb ever detonated. It probably would have killed everything within a 100 mile radius.

Even a much tinier fragment blowing up in the atmosphere would have created quite a bang, like in Chelybinsk. Yet nothing reported, that I'm aware of. Maybe we just got lucky.

Neal Foy said...

Hi David,
So nothing small enough to do a tactical strike that might lobotomize Lance? Too bad.
I'm new to this blog but not new to the subject. I go back far enough to have had a lively discussion with Jim Oberg on his assertion that Cosmos 96 was the explanation for Kecksberg. He may have come off of that now. My ego is nowhere near the size of Oberg's so I make no claim to having any part in his change of mind.
I've been doing due diligence and have read most of Kevin's blogs and the comments. I have a few questions for you and Larry on some of those blogs but felt that this isn't the place to ask. To get to the point I notice an e=mail option on your website. Would it be OK to ask you a few questions there? I can assure you I don't want to argue, I find you and Larry to be a source of great information.

Lance said...

"So nothing small enough to do a tactical strike that might lobotomize Lance? Too bad."

That might make it a fair fight.

Lance