Monday, February 16, 2009

Amateur Astronomers, Bad Astronomy and UFOs

Not all that long ago we had a couple of discussions about amateur astronomers and UFOs, meaning here, alien spacecraft. I had mentioned a couple of instances in which amateur astronomers had seen UFOs, in this case meaning something unidentified which, of course could also mean alien spacecraft.

Once again, in just looking at the UFO Investigator (January 1974 issue, page 1)that came on the DVD supplied by the Center for UFO Studies, I found a couple of stories about amateur astronomers and UFOs. Terence Dickinson, of the Strasenburg Planetarium in Rochester, New York, said that he, with five students, were studying Jupiter, when they spotted five steady lights in the southern sky on October 24, 1973. The UFOs climbed higher and seemed to get brighter.

Dickinson watched the objects through an eight power spotter scope while students kept the objects in sight without an optical aide. They all said that the objects climbed for about two minutes until they were about 55 degrees above the horizon and all were as bright as Venus with a single exception at the rear of the formation that also had a "pinkish" cast.

The objects were flying in a "V" formation that in military terms would have been a heavy right, meaning it was more checkmark shaped than an actual "V." The lights of the object were steady, and were estimated to be about two miles away and at about 10,000 feet.

Dickinson and his students were not the only ones to see the objects. Richard Quick, Director of the Libraries at State University of New York at Geneseo, provided corroboration of the sighting in a detailed letter to Dickinson.

I suppose I should mention that Dickinson was a member of NICAP at the time of his sighting. Working with Dr. Stuart Appelle, a NICAP regional director, they attempted to find a prosaic explanation but civilian and military authorities, including NORAD, said that none of their aircraft were in the area at the time of the sighting.

A month earlier, meaning the December 1974 issue of the UFO Investigator, the headline in big bold type across the front was "President and Vice President of Long Island Astronomical Society Sight UFO."

On Sunday, October 21, 1973, Lee Gugliotto and James Paciello, were on the second floor terrace of Gugliotto’s home, looking for meteors when a reddish star attracted their attention. They watched it for a moment and then returned to their wives. About two hours later, they returned to the terrace and noticed the red light again. It seemed to move to the west and then began to come right at them until they could see a ball shape. Eventually the object was about the third of the size of a full moon and as bright as Venus.

As the object was about to disappear over the house, Gugliotto and the women hurried downstairs with the intention of following the object. Paciello stayed were he was, watching. A white glow appeared and was quickly replaced by three blinking lights that were evenly spaced on the object. One was green, one red and one white. Paciello noted that the lights were not blinking in a regular pattern, nor were the spaced as the navigation lights on an airplane would be.

Paciello joined the others and they drove down the hill, keeping the object in sight until it faded away in the haze. They then returned home and called the police.

NICAP’s regional investigator, Diana Russell, obtained a detailed report and learned that others in the area had also seen the object. She learned that small aircraft were spotted during the sighting so that everyone could compare the navigation lights on an aircraft, and the general shape of the aircraft with the object. They said that the airplanes looked like "pin dots by comparison to the size of the UFO."

Again, I should note, as did the UFO Investigator, that although the witnesses had an interest in UFOs, "they did not immediately leap to the conclusion that they were experiencing a UFO sighting."

Marc Levine, Director of the Planetarium at Vanderbilt Museum, who knew both the men, said, "If they say something was up there that did not belong there I would have to go along with them."

So, there are two more reports by amateur astronomers but in each case the object is called a UFO as opposed to an alien spacecraft. Of course, the reports also suggest that all other explanations, from man-made to natural have been eliminated. The amateur astronomers are familiar with what in the sky, as Phil Plait has told us repeatedly, and checks for aircraft, satellites, or other Earth-bound craft had failed. That suggests to me that we can say that here are two more reports of flying saucers (though none were of the objects saucer shaped).

I mentioned these because, once again I stumbled over them as I was looking through the UFO Investigator for something else... The 1973 date should give it away. That was during the big "occupant" wave of the fall when lots of people were seeing lots of UFOs and many of them had landed with the creatures from the inside being seen on the outside.

I suppose the question now becomes, how many of these sorts of sightings do we have to report before Phil concedes that amateur astronomers do see UFOs, and in many cases those UFOs are alien spacecraft...

Yes, I can hear him now, explaining that a light in the sky, even one under close observation, does not necessarily mean alien spacecraft. We don’t know that these were alien spacecraft. We just know that they were strange objects that seem to have no Earthly explanation but that doesn’t lead us directly to the extraterrestrial. We need something more to get there.

I suppose that the best we can hope for is Phil to concede that amateurs do report UFOs, but that doesn’t mean they have reported an alien ship. We are, however, getting closer.


IQXS said...

Do you have a PayPal account for book buying?


Posting your new article on Twitter...excellent.

doug said...

I happened to catch a clip of Phil Plait talking about the Hubble telescope on one of those "The Universe"-type shows on Discovery or Nat'l Geographic the other day. He was marvelous--excitedly discussing the importance of Hubble's discoveries and the beauty of the images it's given us. It made me think of your recent series of posts. I couldn't help but feel deflated at the fact that someone who does such a good job communicating the importance as well as the sheer joy of astronomy to the public has to be so predictably uneducated on the UFO subject. May your calm attempts to inform him not go unappreciated!

Bob Koford said...


Calm, informed, and clear...even perhaps with occasional mistakes, which proves your a human being.

Please keep up the good work.

Timothy Banse said...

Speaking of liars and damn liars, what is your take on Bill Cooper, late of Arizona, may he rest in peace...

And can I buy your books with my Paypal account?