Thursday, January 20, 2011

UFO Evidence (or the lack thereof)

"I was on the beach, at the water's edge and looked to the west to see a beautiful, bright moon. Except it wasn't the moon! It was a bright light moving slowly east, towards me and surrounded by a swirling mist. The mist rotated clockwise around the bright, white light and followed it perfectly."

Harry saw something strange in the sky, so he grabbed his video camera and put it up on youtube. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and plenty of other people do the same. You could say it's a defining feature of the society we now live in. Most of us walk around with a camera in our pocket. Many of us whip out our camera phones to take a picture of anything interesting, funny, or even just to later post on Facebook to show that we're out having a fun time.

As it turns out, this particular UFO was quickly identified as the second stage of the first Falcon 9 flight, spinning uncontrolled despite valiant efforts by the thrusters to correct the spin. It was the only flaw of an otherwise perfect flight. The video was shot just 122km from me, but I wasn't looking at the sky that morning, I was asleep.

Despite the identification, the comment section of the video (truly the last refuge of intellectual thought) remains alive with speculation and denials. Included in the discussion is comparisons to the "Norway Spiral", another UFO sighting later identified as caused by a wayward rocket.

If you search youtube for UFOs you will discover a lot of videos which are legitimately people seeing stuff in the sky they don't understand. Almost all of them are comically identifiable: helicopters, aircraft, balloons, planets, and even the International Space Station - unfortunately searching for passes of the ISS doesn't get nearly as much. Many others are so mundane that one wonders why anyone would post them, or the UFO is only seen after the fact (a pretty big hint that you're seeing a video artifact). But there's certainly no shortage of video out there of UFOs.

Unfortunately, NASA gets harassed by the crazies and perhaps doesn't provide enough ridicule.. but, of course, ridicule is the CIA's job.


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