PROBLEMS WITH STEUART CAMPBELL'S
"Amateur Science Solves the UFO Mystery"

(Another attempt to explain ALL unexplained UFO sightngs as Mirages)

(CohenUFO critique)

Although at first sounding as though its solutions might be plausible, it would appear Amateur Science is no more able to solve the entire UFO mystery than professional science. As in other previous attempts, some of these solutions may work in some cases, but they will not work in others. Mirage theory has been well-refuted for various reasons. Click here to see one. Please click CohenUFO's underlined phrases (URLs) within the article below for further illustrations and note my inserted interjections in blue for other relevant cases, etc. To read a copy of Campbell's complete original article without interjections, please click title above.

Some food for thought: If a scientist attempting to apply *good* science to an event is forced by protocol to ignore prime statements made by witnesses, is the science applied truly vaild to the case at hand, especially when by omitting that witnessed information, he is eliminating that which is non-supportive of his theory? It would seem this could make it far too easy for one to ignore surrounding facts in favor of one's own hypothesis. Is it then possible a person might miss something really important staring him right in the face?

Although there is much reading here, those accomplishing it should find it well-worth your while. It contains a number of items concerning several cases mentioned by the author of the article immediately below, his suggestions for solution, and problems with same which I discovered while examining some of them in-depth.

Also please see: Some important thoughts concerning
the radiation readings taken in the Rendlesham Case.

Amateur Science Solves the UFO Mystery
By Steuart Campbell

UFO reports are known to be caused by sightings of many different phenomena and objects and it is also known that many reports are caused by sightings of astronomical objects. However there are some strange reports (what buffs call 'the core phenomenon') which seem to defy rational explanation. I shall show that, not only can these reports be explained by astronomy and meteorological optics, but that the phenomenon in question accounts for the consistent and universal reports of UFOs as discoids (besides some other characteristic shapes). The result must be that the UFO problem is effectively solved!

The mirage

Mirages are not illusions; they are images of real object seen via abnormal refraction. Inferior mirages are often seen on hot flat surfaces such as deserts or roadways. Light is effectively reflected from a caustic (discontinuity) which forms between the normal air and the superheated air near the surface. In most cases, a reflected image of the sky appears as water. But any distant object, such as a mountain, can be reflected. On roads, vehicles can be reflected. Naturally, all these images appear inverted.

It is not so well known that mirages can appear in the sky. To some extent the light from distant objects is always refracted in air if the air is not uniform in density and the light traverses the air at an angle to the planes of the density layers that is less than a right angle. For example, the light from stars below the zenith is bent downwards in proportion to the zenith angle until, at the horizon, the refraction is about half a degree. The rising or setting sun is actually seen about 0.5 degrees higher than it really is.

If there is a strong temperature inversion (where atypically warm air lies over cold air), a similar caustic can form, reflecting light back down and causing inverted images to appear in the sky. This is called a superior mirage and can be seen wherever such an inversion occurs and there is a distant bright source near the horizon (see figure 1).

Unlike the inferior mirage, which is held in position by the hot surface, the air mirage can move, appear and disappear and be magnified by lens effects. Furthermore, some light can penetrate the caustic, be refracted by the thermocline above it and form an upright image of the same object. Consequently, a superior mirage may form two images, one inverted and one upright. Indeed, these two images can merge, losing parts in the process. The resulting image may then not be recognizable. Because of a microscopic (wave-optics) effect called Raman brightening, an interference and focussing phenomenon, mirage images may appear unnaturally bright. They may also shimmer.

< ' ' . warm air . ' ' >

==============================
==============================

< ' ' . caustic cold air . ' ' >

Observer Fig. 1 Light reflected off the caustic in the thermocline of a superior (air) mirage.

Mirages of terrestrial sources

Superior mirages were first described by Joseph Huddart (Huddart 1797), but it was not until the publication of Samuel Vince's account (Vince 1799) that science took interest. In 1798 Vince observed and sketched images of ships seen across the English Channel from Ramsgate in Kent (England). His sketches clearly show simultaneous inverted and upright images.

There have been few accounts since then. However, in 1979, a resident of Moffat (Scotland) saw and photographed a mirage of Helvellyn, the second highest peak in the Cumberland Mountains, 95 km away (Campbell 1987a). In September 1986 a double superior mirage of a Boeing 757 landing at Edinburgh Airport appeared as a missile flying over a housing estate 6 km away (Campbell 1987b).

'Flying saucers' hit the headlines in 1947 when Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine bright objects flashing and moving fast near Mt. Ranier in Washington (USA). In fact the objects were superior mirages of nine snow-capped mountain peaks in the Cascade Range. Their 'movement' was only apparent due to movement of his own aircraft. In November 1986, the crew of a Japanese Boeing 747 freighter over Alaska reported being buzzed by a giant UFO; in fact they took avoiding action. But their 'UFO' was a superior mirage of the runway lights of a military airfield 450 km away. A temperature inversion had lifted and magnified the lights so that they looked like rocket exhausts. [ jc 2010: In Menkello's report pointed out by Dr. J. Allen Hynek in his book The UFO Experience, Menkello states; "It is easy to show that the 'air lenses' and 'strong inversions' postulated by Gordon and Menzel, among others, would need temperatures of several thousand degrees Kelvin in order to cause the mirages attributed to them." (i.e.This having to do with the hard returns seen on Radar scopes in a good number of cases. In these cases, when the UFO is seen on radar, the image observed is a hard return, not the amorphous ones usually associated with a simple ten-degree temperature inversion, Raman brightening, or simple reflection or refraction. Radar operators are trained to differentiate temperature inversions from solid blips. AARTCC military radar picked up a target strong enough to get them to ask if Teriachi wanted planes scrambled to take a look. They don't do this lightly, it's expensive. Therefore, CohenUFO finds itself having to ask the following: "Since the JAL 1628 incident happened over Alaska, exactly where did enough heat come from to create a temperature inversion strong enough to create the suggested mirage seen by both the two pilots and military radar from the ground?" If you missed it, please note reference #11 at this link. . . . URLed at the top of this page. ]

Campbell continues:

In December 1980, after seeing a bright fireball over the North Sea (but believing that it was an aircraft falling in flames in the nearby Rendlesham Forest), USAF guards from RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk got permission to search the forest. They returned reporting mysterious lights. [ jc 8/25/2011: Actually they reported it directly from the forest. Although the protocol seems to be to eliminate witness testimonies, please click on and read the statements from John Burroughs, and Jim Penniston. IF we examine the juxtaposed statements and drawings of all the witnesses Dec. 26th and 28th, it is very possible they may have seen more than simple lights in the sky.]

Campbell continues:

The following night the base commander mounted an expedition looking for signs of a landed UFO. [ jc 8/25/2011: Click here for a replay of Colonel Charles Halt's incident. Also note: This link and the one immediately preceding it have been recently adjusted to reflect my own personal study of testimonies downloaded from Ian Ridpath's "The Rendlesham Forest UFO Case." Halt was part of this international group who testified at the Washington DC, USA Press Club in 2007.]

Campbell continues:

He thought he found radioactive traces and evidence of such a landing. He also saw a mysterious blinking light which he followed towards the coast, where he reported other mysterious aerial objects. But the light he saw was from a floating light (lightship), possibly via mirage, [ jc: . . Also not mentioned by Campbell was the fact Halt claimed the "mirage" which he and others witnessed flew directly towards them and was observed by Halt and personnel sending down a beam to the ground during various points of its flight . This was found on an audio tape made at the time of the sighting." Additionally, Five star Admiral Lord Hill Norton, former chief of defense staff 1970-77, tends to believe him.]

Campbell continues:

and the other objects were planets. Subsequent felling of that area of the forest has convinced UFO buffs that a UFO crashed in the area and that the authorities are concealing the fact (Campbell 1985). [ jc: One reason the felling of the trees may have importance regarding radiation readings taken at the scene is explained in my commentary at this link . ]

Mirages of extraterrestrial sources

Any prominent object near the horizon can stimulate a superior mirage in the appropriate conditions. But it does not have to be a terrestrial object; mirages can be stimulated by bright astronomical objects such as bright stars or planets. Moreover, because the light from an astronomical object is refracted differentially as it crosses the atmosphere, its mirage is likely to display various and changing colours. Because scintillation is a maximum near the horizon, the image is likely to exhibit flashing lights, often coloured due to refraction. Other features, such as beams, may be visible. The double mirage of an astronomical object will (normally) show as two lights one above the other. Refraction should place red light at the base and violet light at the top of the upper image, with the colours reversed in the lower image. Various shapes will appear as the two images merge until, in circumstances where only half of each enlarged image is visible, the classic 'flying saucer' will be formed--'two soup plates, one on top of the other with the upper one inverted'. [ jc 2010: But, can three of them hold together, retaining their relative size and shape over the distance covered without coming apart while fooling the radar operators with their solidity in the previously mentioned JAL 1628 case above, or in another case known as RB 47 (1957)? Does the standard information scientists have accumulated over the years concerning atmospheric physics really support the proposed mirage/reflection/refraction theories in all cases of this type? If it doesn't, this hypothesis, which is supposed to solve _all_ UFO cases, has a problem.]

Campbell continues:

The 'merge line' will sometimes be marked by the appearance of a line of unidentified images (the 'disc' of the 'saucer') in which coloured lights may appear, perhaps as 'windows' (see figure 2), which may appear to rotate

. . . . . half upright image . .
................................==================. . <merge line area
. . . . . half inverted image

Fig. 2 The classic 'flying saucer'; a merged superior mirage of a star or planet.

Temporal variations in the thermocline may cause changes in shape and/or size during observation and changes in size may be perceived as changes in range. Enlarged and brightened images may be visible in daylight, so accounting for reports of the 'daylight disc'. Because of the more active atmosphere, daylight images are more likely to be mobile. The Trindade Island photographs (January 1958, South Atlantic) appear to show a mirage of Jupiter zooming back and forth across the sky. [ jc: In other words, what Campbell is claiming here is that the majority, if not all, the scientists aboard the IGY ship who saw the UFO, and the military analysists as well, were fooled by a inverted, merged, refracted image of Jupiter that zoomed around the sky.] (if not available, please click HERE)

Campbell continues:

Astronomical objects below the horizon can be visible on the horizon via a type of mirage called the Novaya Zemlya effect in which light is repeatedly refracted (ducted) around the Earth for great distances (Lehn/German 1981). This explains the notorious film taken from an aircraft off the coast of New Zealand in December 1978. The source was Venus, then 8 deg. or so below the horizon.

Scientists and UFO reports

Only Donald H Menzel (Menzel et al 1953-77) and William Viezee and Gordon D Thayer (Viezee 1969) in the Condon Report have seriously considered mirages, including astronomical mirages, as an explanation for UFO reports. Menzel came to the idea after seeing what appeared to be a classic 'saucer' in 1955, but which he identified as an image of Sirius (it was actually Saturn!). Although he once suggested that Kenneth Arnold had seen a mirage of mountain tops, he neither demonstrated this nor realized that the flashes Arnold reported were probably due to the strong focussing across one or more temperature inversions. [ jc: Italics and immediately preceding URL are mine. It was exactly this type thinking that got Menkello and Hynek to question how strong the temperature inversion would have to be to do the things suggested in some of the proposed solutions. . . . . BTW, exactly how strong would the proposed inversion(s) / refraction / reflection(s) / mirage have to be to achieve what is suggested in Campbell's last sentence above, or to explain the radar solidity of the UFOs and absence of temperature inversions in the particular case at this link ? Also, has this focusing across temperature inversions been demonstrated in a lab-setting of any kind?]

Campbell continues:

Unfortunately Professor Menzel did not see the application of the mirage hypothesis to many of the cases which he subsequently investigated. Nor did astronomer Dr Allen Hynek, for many years a consultant to the US Air Force and, ultimately, a believer in UFOs. [ jc: This statement concerning Hynek not seeing "the application of the mirage hypothesis" is not really correct. If one clicks the previously mentioned Menkello URL (reference #11) mentioned above, he/she can see Hynek did indeed think seriously about Mirages but then found himself forced to reject them.]

Campbell continues:

He once asked one of his astronomy students who came from Socorro in New Mexico to find 'an obvious natural explanation' for the notorious CE3 report from a state policeman in Socorro in April 1964. In fact the sighting can easily be explained as a mirage of the star Canopus, then setting in the south over the Rio Grande valley where a temperature inversion seems to have formed. [ jc 5/16/2010: If we have actually checked the atmospheric conditions, and . . . if one can ignore the myriad other circumstances on record for Socorro - including physical evidence - and the point that a temperature inversion which refracts, reflects, or focuses a star is actually - a weak theory - when the totality of reported facts of the case are taken into consideration.]

Campbell continues:

As astronomers, both Menzel and Hynek should have seen that mirages of astronomical objects can explain very many reports. [ jc: . . . but then I asked myself, "Is this true? Are we to really think Menzel and Hynek were such poor scientists they would have omitted considering this if they felt it was truly possible?"]

Campbell continues:

A panel of scientists, appointed by the (US) National Enquirer to judge the value of UFO reports, awarded the family who reported famous Delphos (Kansas) incident of 1971 a $5000 prize for their report. This case is regarded as a classic and was awarded the newspaper's 'Blue Ribbon' as 'the most scientifically valuable evidence' for the existence of extraterrestrial life reported during the year 1972. In fact the incident appears to have begun with a sighting of a mirage of Saturn.

Few scientists have bothered to investigate UFO reports. They know that UFO reports are a can of worms which can damage their reputations. As a sceptic, Menzel had nothing to fear. Moreover he felt strongly that people should not be misled into believing that aliens were visiting Earth. Hynek, originally a sceptic, succumbed to the view that science cannot explain many 'core' reports and that these represent a new 'unexplained' phenomenon. James McDonald, a meteorologist at the University of Arizona, was a passionate believer in UFOs. But his subsequent suicide may indicate an instability that may have been the cause and not the effect of his interest in the subject. [ jc 2010: Ignoring the attempted character assassination, what wasn't stated here was that McDonald, a highly qualified atmospheric physicist, became a first-rate investigator of difficult UFO cases and used his considerable training to investigate a number of them first-hand, in an attempt to find a scientific solution. A close, detailed examination of the files he created demonstrates those cases completely resisted his best attempts at explanation. The record book clearly shows he felt that what he had found was important enough to attempt to get other scientists to take a closer look at these cases; cases they avoided examining in the first place, for the very reason Mr. Campbell gives above in the second sentence of this paragraph. It is also important to mention there certainly was no instability in the meticulous files themselves. The highly-detailed case investigations are now stored in the University of Arizona archives and have been studied for a number of years.]

Campbell continues:

Ufology has attracted several eccentric scientists, those who have already adopted an unconventional view of the world. One such was physicist Harley Rutledge, who believed that UFOs reacted to his thoughts (Rutledge 1981).

Part of the problem is that the solution lies on the border between astronomy and meteorological optics. Modern science is so compartmented that few cross borders, let alone know what lies there. Astronomers are not interested in low altitude astronomy, believing (wrongly) that extinction always precludes observation. Meteorologists are preoccupied with synoptic meteorology and weather forecasting. Atmospheric optical phenomena, including mirages, are of interest to very few. For this reason, the solution to the UFO mystery has remained undiscovered until now. It as fallen to a 'mad' amateur scientist to point out what the professionals could have found many years ago. Even now, professional astronomers dismiss my hypothesis, mainly on the ground that the atmosphere cannot do what I claim it can do. [ jc: Italics immediately above are mine. Therefore, we are being asked to believe the majority of those professionals, astronomers and atmospheric physicists, have holes in their studies concerning their subject material, and.that perhaps they are not quite as expert as they think. This type of thing has happened in cases concerning rogue waves, but is it possible here?]

Campbell continues:

The only serious scientific study of UFOs was the Condon Report (see Viezee), commissioned by the USAF. Unfortunately its director (Dr Edward Condon) did not take the subject seriously and left co-ordination to a biologist who appears to have prejudged the conclusions. Although the project employed many scientists whose work well describes phenomena that can explain UFO reports (including mirages), its overall conclusions were that UFO reports reveal nothing that could be considered as adding to scientific knowledge and that further extensive study (by the USAF) would not be justified. [ jc: However, an awareness of the information found in #'s 6, and 8 at this link. demonstrates that Condon's pronouncement was not based on the best available sightings of the time. It is to be noted, one major defect of the Colorado Project was the meager use it made of the enormous reservoir of case material available to it. Over the 20 years preceding the project, between 10,000 and 15,000 UFO sighting reports had been recorded. Yet the report treats only 50 cases from this period, or 1/2 of 1% of the available material. Additionally, as stated in NICAP's January 1969 assessment of the study, "The project's decision to ignore key witnesses was ill-advised. It not only removed from the field of study some of the strongest and potentially most significant data that has been accumulated in the past 20 years; [jc: 1949-69] it also greatly weakened the project's conclusions. No study failing to examine carefully these classic cases from groups of well-qualified witnesses can be regarded as complete or even taken seriously."]

Psychology and UFO reports

One reason why physicists (astronomers and meteorologists) are hard to convince is that they are not aware of psychological factors. UFO reports come via an unreliable instrument which, even where there is an objective stimulus, can severely distort the appearance and/or behaviour of the stimulus. I refer of course to human beings.

Psychologists are well aware that human perception is a hazardous and unreliable process, mainly because perception takes place in the brain, not (where most people think) in the eyes. The brain makes guesses about the external world and builds its picture partly from sampling the input and partly from stored memories. Studies of illusions support this hypothesis, by showing perceptual failures. Philosophers of science now describe perception as 'theory-laden', i.e. what we perceive is a construct of input and theories in the mind about the world. Stimuli are interpreted by the human mind in terms of what it already believes about such stimuli. Consequently we can only identify what we already know.

For everyday purposes, the difference is slight and of no importance. For practical purposes, we can function on guesswork. Problems arise however where the stimulus is anomalous, as in the case of most UFO reports. The human mind abhors uncertainty; it prefers to identify an object as anything rather than not identify it at all. Consequently, faced with an atmospheric mirage which displays unusual, indeed completely unfamiliar characteristics, there will be a tendency to identify it with the only thing the mind has in store that matches. Unfortunately, few of us in the West can claim not to have seen many representations of UFOs on TV, in books and magazines and in films. It is natural therefore that observers will report mirages as UFOs, even with characteristics that were not actually visible but which their minds constructed in order to make sense of the stimulus. If the object cannot be identified as a conventional object, natural or man-made, it is certain to be identified as an alien one, perhaps even with aliens. [ jc 5/21/2010: Italics immediately above are mine. But this thinking does seem to break down in a case like Rendlesham when ones reads Penniston's account of what happened. If we credit him with telling the truth, did he imagine touching the craft on the ground? Click here for another case which is also a bit more difficult to ascribe to "mind construction." . . . then, here to see a top skeptic's first foot forward in attempting to explain it. His scientific approach was noted in a piece by a group of PhDs who had responded to his original written comments in the Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN). Who is guilty of more mind-construction here, the skeptic or the case witnesses and professional reconstruction team?]

Campbell continues:

Some believe that people who report UFOs are either psychopathological, fantasy prone, hypnotizable or less intelligent than normal. In fact studies have shown that this is not so (Spanos et al 1993). I know of only one case caused by abnormal psychology; the 'witness' suffered a hallucination brought about by his preoccupation with the UFO myth (Campbell 1981). Most people who report UFOs had no prior interest in the subject and were not members of any UFO organization. Nor are professional observers immune to deception. Reports from police officers or pilots are no more reliable than those from anyone else. Until everyone becomes familiar with mirages, they will continue to be reported as UFOs. Physicists, who naively believe that people are objective reporters, make insufficient allowance for perceptual problems and (foolishly) attempt to explain reports as either false or misperceptions of normal objects (which the observers must have been unfamiliar). Many sceptics (especially in the US) make similar hasty judgements and label witnesses as simpletons or frauds. They also jump to the first conventional explanation that comes to mind, refusing to abandon it even when faced with contradictory evidence. Changing the mind of a hardened sceptic is as difficult as persuading a witness that they have seen a mirage. [ jc: CohenUFO couldn't agree more. ]

The dangers of mirages interpreted as UFOs

Astronomical mirages appear to have caused some aircraft to crash. Unfamiliar with such phenomena and not trained to spot them, pilots panic or become mesmerized. In January 1948, Captain Thomas Mantell of the USAF tried to chase what appears to have been a mirage of Jupiter (not a Skyhook balloon, as many claim). Without oxygen, he flew too high (perhaps believing that he was flying at a constant height), lost consciousness and crashed. In October 1978 Frederick Valentich, flying over the Bass Strait (Tasmania), reported 'a large aircraft' with 'four bright lights' hovering on top of him, but nothing was seen on ground radar. Nothing more was heard from him and his aircraft has not been found. He may have been confused and alarmed by a mirage of Canopus, then rising in the SE, and undertaken manoeuvres which led to his crashing into the sea.

Where aircraft have not crashed, sights of mirages have caused pilots to undertake dangerous manoeuvres. Lieutenant Gorman, flying a F-51 near Hector Airport (Fargo, N. Dakota) in October 1948, attempted to intercept a mirage of Jupiter for 30 minutes.

Conclusions

Mirages can explain so many UFO reports, especially the most intractable ones, that I can claim that the UFO mystery is solved. A scientific hypothesis has been found which explains UFO reports. There is no need to consider pseudoscientific or more exotic hypotheses; there is certainly no justification for the idea that UFO reports represent evidence for the activity of aliens or paranormal influences.

Features of those reports which are apparently inconsistent with the mirage hypothesis are likely to be due to the reporter's (and/or the investigator's) ignorance of normal perceptual distortions, false associations and human fear responses. (jc: Italics above are mine. As illustrated before, were those scientists who were ignored by the Condon Committee, guilty of being ignorant of normal perceptual distortions, false associations and human fear responses? One can see that Campbell's general statement, when applied to those scientists, is a bit weak. )

Campbell continues:

Accounts obtained by hypnosis are certainly unreliable.

It is now evident why UFOs are reported to be a similar appearance all over the world; stars and planets can be seen from anywhere on Earth through an atmosphere which is as likely to produce an inversion in one place as another. Furthermore the few basic shapes reported are consistent with the protean forms seen in mirages, especially the double 'saucer' shape. The 'saucer' disc is not an imagined shape for alien space craft (after all our spacecraft are a completely different shape). It is a real shape seen in the sky.

It is now evident why UFOs are reported to move about the sky at great speed and execute 'impossible' manoeuvres; there are no limitations on the speed or manoeuvres of an image. The hypothesis also explains why UFOs are so often reported to be silent, even while executing manoeuvres which should cause sonic booms or thunderclaps. They are not real craft.

The mirage hypothesis accounts not only for the foo-fighters of the Second World War and the Korean War, but the mystery airships reported in the USA in the 1890s. I predict that this powerful hypothesis will find universal application and solve countless cases. It may even explain reports of other strange phenomena such as ball lightning, will-o'-the-wisp or appearances of the Virgin Mary.

References

Campbell, Steuart (1981): False report from Loch Ness, Flying Saucer Review, 26(6)19-23.
------- (1985): Throwing light on Rendlesham, Magonia 21:15-8.
------- (1987a): Mirage of a mountain, J. Meteorology, UK May/June, pp.157-9. ------- (1987b): Mirage over Edinburgh, ibid. 12(123)308-13.

Huddart, Joseph (1797): Observations on horizontal refractions which affect the appearance of terrestrial objects and the dip, or depression of the horizon of the sea, Phil. Trans (R. Soc. Lon.) 87, pp 29-42.

Lehn, Waldemar H and B A German (1981): Novaya Zemlya effect: analysis of an observation, Applied Optics, 20(12)2043.

Menzel, Donald H (1953): Flying Saucers, London.
------ and Lyle G Boyd (1963): The World of Flying Saucers, New York.
------ and Ernest Taves (1977): The UFO Enigma, Garden City.

Rutledge, Harley (1981): Project Identification, Englewood Cliffs.

Spanos, Nicholas P et al (1993): Close Encounters: An Examination of UFO Experiences, J. Abnormal Psychology, 102(4)624-32.

Viezee, William (1969): Optical Mirage (Ch. 4), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (The Condon Report, ed. Daniel S Gillmor), London. Part of chapter written by Gordon Thayer.

Vince, Samuel (1799): Observations upon an unusual horizontal refraction of air..., Phil. Trans. (R. Soc. Lon.) Part 1, pp. 13-23.

Received: 8 December 1995

End critique of Campbell article containing CohenUFO interjections and URLs.

- - -

Also of interest: Hynek's classification of UFO sightings

- - -

Statements from Charles Halt and Jim Penniston, taken directly from the FreedomofInformation website 2007 Washington Press Club testimonies.

Charles HALT, Col. USAF Ret.
Deputy Base Commander of RAF Bentwaters, former US Air Force facility in the UK. He witnessed multiple UFOs at close range with six other military personnel in December, 1980, and documented this event on a pocket tape recorder. He also saw a UFO shooting beams into sensitive weapons storage areas at the base. He wrote an official memorandum for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) describing a UFO maneuvering through the forest and ascending, which was released through the US Freedom of Information Act.

Halt Statement (From 2007 Washington Press Conference):

My name is Charles I. Halt. I retired from the US Air Force in 1991 as a Colonel. I was a base commander at two large installations and at the time of my retirement was Director, Inspections Directorate for the DOD IG. In that position I had inspection oversight of all military services and defense agencies. In 1980 I was the Deputy Base Commander of RAF Bentwaters, the large twin base complex in East Anglia England. At the time this was the largest Tactical Fighter Wing in the Air Force. In late December 1980 I was called upon to investigate a strange event that was distracting our Security Police from their primary duties. Early on the morning of December 26, 1980 our police patrolmen discovered strange lights in the forest east of the back gate of RAF Woodbridge. Three patrolmen were dispatched into the forest to investigate. They reported discovering a strange triangular craft sitting on three legs. The craft was approximately 3 meters on a side. The craft had multiple lights. It rapidly maneuvered and quickly left the area.

I was not immediately aware of the details only being told of strange lights and assumed there was a reasonable explanation. Two nights later the family Christmas party was interrupted by the on duty police commander. He told of strange events and claimed "it" was back. Since my boss had to present awards I was tasked to go out and investigate. I fully expected to find an explanation. I took two senior Security Police, a Disaster Preparedness expert and the reporting On Duty Police Commander. At the site we found the three 1 ½" indentations in the ground in a triangular pattern. [SHOW PLASTER CAST] (Also, please see CohenUFO comments concerning the rabbit-scratchings which were proposed by Vince Thurkettle as the source of the indentations.)

We discovered mild radiation, and evidence including broken branches. We suddenly observed a bright red/orange oval object with a black center. It reminded me of an eye and appeared as though blinking. It maneuvered horizontally through the trees with occasionally vertical movement. When approached it receded and silently broke into five white lights which quickly vanished. We moved out of the forest into a pasture and observed several objects with multiple lights in the Northern sky. They changed in shape from elliptical to round.

Several other objects were seen to the South. One approached at high speed and sent down a concentrated beam near our feet. Another object sent down beams into the weapons storage area. The whole time we had difficulty communicating with the base as all three radio frequencies kept breaking up. This activity continued for about an hour.

During this entire event I had my pocket recorder and taped the event as it unfolded. A copy of the tape was released without my knowledge. This is the original recorder and tape. I have no idea what we saw but do know whatever we saw was under intelligent control.

 

Jim PENNISTON, TSgt USAF Ret.
While stationed at RAF Bentwaters, a former US Air Force facility in the UK, he witnessed a landed UFO with two military patrolman in nearby Rendlesham Forest. He conducted a 45 minute ground investigation and filed an official report. He has the original log book with drawings including details of symbols on the craft; radiation records; and plaster casts of landing gear imprints. He is the only person out the three witnesses that actually touched the UFO.

Penniston Statement (From 2007 Washington Press Conference):

My name is James Penniston, United States Air Force Retired.
In 1980, I was assigned to the largest Tactical Fighter Wing in the Air Force, RAF Woodbridge in England. I was the senior security officer in charge of base security.

At that time I held a top-secret US and NATO security clearance and was responsible for the protection of war-making resources for that base.
Shortly after midnight on the 26th of December, 1980, Staff Sergeant Steffens briefed me that some lights were seen in Rendlesham Forest, just outside the base. He informed me that what ever it was didn’t crash…it landed. I discounted what he said and reported to the control center back at the base that we had a possible downed aircraft. I then ordered Amn. Cabanzak, AIC Burroughs to respond with me.

When we arrived near the suspected crash site it quickly became apparent that we were not dealing with a plane crash or anything else we’d ever responded to. There was a bright light emanating from an object on the forest floor. As we approached it on foot, a silhouetted triangular craft about 9 feet long by 6.5 feet high, came into view. The craft was fully intact sitting in a small clearing inside the woods.

As the three of us got closer to the craft we started experiencing problems with our radios. I then asked Cabansag to relay radio transmissions back to the control center. Burroughs and I proceeded towards the craft.

When we came up on the triangular shaped craft there were blue and yellow lights swirling around the exterior as though part of the surface and the air around us was electrically charged. We could feel it on our cloths, skin and hair. Nothing in my training prepared me for what we were witnessing.

After ten minutes without any apparent aggression, I determined the craft was non hostile to my team or to the base. Following security protocol, we completed a thorough on-site investigation, including a full physical examination of the craft. This included photographs, notebook entries, and radio relays through airman Cabansag to the control center as required. On one side of the craft were symbols that measured about 3 inches high and two and a half feet across.

These symbols were pictorial in design; the largest symbol was a triangle, which was centered in the middle of the others. These symbols were etched into the surface of the craft, which was warm to the touch and felt like metal.
The feeling I had during this encounter was no type of aircraft that I’ve ever seen before.

After roughly 45 minutes the light from the craft began to intensify. Burroughs and I then took a defensive position away from the craft as it lifted off the ground without any noise or air disturbance. It maneuvered through the trees and shot off at an unbelievable rate of speed. It was gone in the blink of an eye.

In my logbook, (that I have right here) I wrote, Speed: IMPOSSIBLE. Over 80 Air Force Personnel, all trained observers assigned to the 81st Security Police Squadron, witnessed the takeoff.

The information acquired during the investigation was reported through military channels. The team and witnesses were told to treat the investigation as "top secret" and no further discussion was allowed.

The photos we retrieved from the base lab (two rolls of 35 mm) were apparently over-exposed.

- - -

Article in full with paragraphs numbered for easier analysis

Amateur Science Solves the UFO Mystery
By Steuart Campbell

1 UFO reports are known to be caused by sightings of many different phenomena and objects and it is also known that many reports are caused by sightings of astronomical objects. However there are some strange reports (what buffs call 'the core phenomenon') which seem to defy rational explanation. I shall show that, not only can these reports be explained by astronomy and meteorological optics, but that the phenomenon is [in] question accounts for the consistent and universal reports of UFOs as discoids (besides some other characteristic shapes). The result must be that the UFO problem is effectively solved!

The mirage

2 Mirages are not illusions; they are images of real object seen via abnormal refraction. Inferior mirages are often seen on hot flat surfaces such as deserts or roadways. Light is effectively reflected from a caustic (discontinuity) which forms between the normal air and the superheated air near the surface. In most cases, a reflected image of the sky appears as water. But any distant object, such as a mountain, can be reflected. On roads, vehicles can be reflected. Naturally, all these images appear inverted.

3 It is not so well known that mirages can appear in the sky. To some extent the light from distant objects is always refracted in air if the air is not uniform in density and the light traverses the air at an angle to the planes of the density layers that is less than a right angle. For example, the light from stars below the zenith is bent downwards in proportion to the zenith angle until, at the horizon, the refraction is about half a degree. The rising or setting sun is actually seen about 0.5 degrees higher than it really is.

4 If there is a strong temperature inversion (where atypically warm air lies over cold air), a similar caustic can form, reflecting light back down and causing inverted images to appear in the sky. This is called a superior mirage and can be seen wherever such an inversion occurs and there is a distant bright source near the horizon (see figure 1).

5 Unlike the inferior mirage, which is held in position by the hot surface, the air mirage can move, appear and disappear and be magnified by lens effects. Furthermore, some light can penetrate the caustic, be refracted by the thermocline above it and form an upright image of the same object. Consequently, a superior mirage may form two images, one inverted and one upright. Indeed, these two images can merge, losing parts in the process. The resulting image may then not be recognizable. Because of a microscopic (wave-optics) effect called Raman brightening, an interference and focussing phenomenon, mirage images may appear unnaturally bright. They may also shimmer.

< ' ' . warm air . ' ' >

==============================
==============================

< ' ' . caustic cold air . ' ' >

Observer Fig. 1 Light reflected off the caustic in the thermocline of a superior (air) mirage.

Mirages of terrestrial sources

6 Superior mirages were first described by Joseph Huddart (Huddart 1797), but it was not until the publication of Samuel Vince's account (Vince 1799) that science took interest. In 1798 Vince observed and sketched images of ships seen across the English Channel from Ramsgate in Kent (England). His sketches clearly show simultaneous inverted and upright images.

7 There have been few accounts since then. However, in 1979, a resident of Moffat (Scotland) saw and photographed a mirage of Helvellyn, the second highest peak in the Cumberland Mountains, 95 km away (Campbell 1987a). In September 1986 a double superior mirage of a Boeing 757 landing at Edinburgh Airport appeared as a missile flying over a housing estate 6 km away (Campbell 1987b).

8 'Flying saucers' hit the headlines in 1947 when Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine bright objects flashing and moving fast near Mt. Ranier in Washington (USA). In fact the objects were superior mirages of nine snow-capped mountain peaks in the Cascade Range. Their 'movement' was only apparent due to movement of his own aircraft. In November 1986, the crew of a Japanese Boeing 747 freighter over Alaska reported being buzzed by a giant UFO; in fact they took avoiding action. But their 'UFO' was a superior mirage of the runway lights of a military airfield 450 km away. A temperature inversion had lifted and magnified the lights so that they looked like rocket exhausts. In December 1980, after seeing a bright fireball over the North Sea (but believing that it was an aircraft falling in flames in the nearby Rendlesham Forest), USAF guards from RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk got prmission to search the forest. They returned reporting mysterious lights. The followeing [following] night the base commander mounted an expedition looking for signs of a landed UFO. He thought he found radioactive traces and evidence of such a landing. He also saw a mysterious blinking light which he followed towards the coast, where he reported other mysterious aerial objects. But the light he saw was from a floating light (lightship), possibly via mirage, and the other objects were planets. Subsequent felling of that area of the forest has convinced UFO buffs that a UFO crashed in the area and that the authorities are concealing the fact (Campbell 1985).

Mirages of extraterrestrial sources

9 Any prominent object near the horizon can stimulate a superior mirage in the appropriate conditions. But it does not have to be a terrestrial object; mirages can be stimulated by bright astronomical objects such as bright stars or planets. Moreover, because the light from an astronomical object is refracted differentially as it crosses the atmosphere, its mirage is likely to display various and changing colours. Because scintillation is a maximum near the horizon, the image is likely to exhibit flashing lights, often coloured due to refraction. Other features, such as beams, may be visible. The double mirage of an astronomical object will (normally) show as two lights one above the other. Refraction should place red light at the base and violet light at the top of the upper image, with the colours reversed in the lower image. Various shapes will appear as the two images merge until, in circumstances where only half of each enlarged image is visible, the classic 'flying saucer' will be formed--'two soup plates, one on top of the other with the upper one inverted'. The 'merge line' will sometimes be marked by the appearance of a line of unidentified images (the 'disc' of the 'saucer') in which coloured lights may appear, perhaps as 'windows' (see figure 2), which may appear to rotate

. . . . . half upright image . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ==================. . <merge line area
. . . . . half inverted image

Fig. 2 The classic 'flying saucer'; a merged superior mirage of a star or planet.

10 Temporal variations in the thermocline may cause changes in shape and/or size during observation and changes in size may be perceived as changes in range. Enlarged and brightened images may be visible in daylight, so accounting for reports of the 'daylight disc'. Because of the more active atmosphere, daylight images are more likely to be mobile. The Trindade Island photographs (January 1958, South Atlantic) appear to show a mirage of Jupiter zooming back and forth across the sky.

11 Astronomical objects below the horizon can be visible on the horizon via a type of mirage called the Novaya Zemlya effect in which light is repeatedly refracted (ducted) around the Earth for great distances (Lehn/German 1981). This explains the notorious film taken from an aircraft off the coast of New Zealand in December 1978. The source was Venus, then 8 deg. or so below the horizon.

Scientists and UFO reports

12 Only Donald H Menzel (Menzel et al 1953-77) and William Viezee and Gordon D Thayer (Viezee 1969) in the Condon Report have seriously considered mirages, including astronomical mirages, as an explanation for UFO reports. Menzel came to the idea after seeing what appeared to be a classic 'saucer' in 1955, but which he identified as an image of Sirius (it was actually Saturn!). Although he once suggested that Kenneth Arnold had seen a mirage of mountain tops, he neither demonstrated this nor realized that the flashes Arnold reported were probably due to the strong focussing across one or more temperature inversions.

13 Unfortunately Professor Menzel did not see the application of the mirage hypothesis to many of the cases which he subsequently investigated. Nor did astronomer Dr Allen Hynek, for many years a consultant to the US Air Force and, ultimately, a believer in UFOs. He once asked one of his astronomy students who came from Socorro in New Mexico to find 'an obvious natural explanation' for the notorious CE3 report from a state policeman in Socorro in April 1964. In fact the sighting can easily be explained as a mirage of the star Canopus, then setting in the south over the Rio Grande valley where a temperature inversion seems to have formed. As astronomers, both Menzel and Hynek should have seen that mirages of astronomical objects can explain very many reports.

14 A panel of scientists, appointed by the (US) National Enquirer to judge the value of UFO reports, awarded the family who reported famous Delphos (Kansas) incident of 1971 a $5000 prize for their report. This case is regarded as a classic and was awarded the newspaper's 'Blue Ribbon' as 'the most scientifically valuable evidence' for the existence of extraterrestrial life reported during the year 1972. In fact the incident appears to have begun with a sighting of a mirage of Saturn.

15 Few scientists have bothered to investigate UFO reports. They know that UFO reports are a can of worms which can damage their reputations. As a sceptic, Menzel had nothing to fear. Moreover he felt strongly that people should not be misled into believing that aliens were visiting Earth. Hynek, originally a sceptic, succumbed to the view that science cannot explain many 'core' reports and that these represent a new 'unexplained' phenomenon. James McDonald, a meteorologist at the University of Arizona, was a passionate believer in UFOs. But his subsequent suicide may indicate an instability that may have been the cause and not the effect of his interest in the subject. Ufology has attracted several eccentric scientists, those who have already adopted an unconventional view of the world. One such was physicist Harley Rutledge, who believed that UFOs reacted to his thoughts (Rutledge 1981).

16 Part of the problem is that the solution lies on the border between astronomy and meteorological optics. Modern science is so compartmented that few cross borders, let alone know what lies there. Astronomers are not interested in low altitude astronomy, believing (wrongly) that extinction always precludes observation. Meteorologists are preoccupied with synoptic meteorology and weather forecasting. Atmospheric optical phenomena, including mirages, are of interest to very few. For this reason, the solution to the UFO mystery has remained undiscovered until now. It as fallen to a 'mad' amateur /;scientist to point out what the professionals could have found many years ago. Even now, professional astronomers dismiss my hypothesis, mainly on the ground that the atmosphere cannot do what I claim it can do.

17 The only serious scientific study of UFOs was the Condon Report (see Viezee), commissioned by the USAF. Unfortunately its director (Dr Edward Condon) did not take the subject seriously and left co-ordination to a biologist who appears to have prejudged the conclusions. Although the project employed many scientists whose work well describes phenomena that can explain UFO reports (including mirages), its overall conclusions were that UFO reports reveal nothing that could be considered as adding to scientific knowledge and that further extensive study (by the USAF) would not be justified.

Psychology and UFO reports

18 One reason why physicists (astronomers and meteorologists) are hard to convince is that they are not aware of psychological factors. UFO reports come via an unreliable instrument which, even where there is an objective stimulus, can severely distort the appearance and/or behaviour of the stimulus. I refer of course to human beings.

19 Psychologists are well aware that human perception is a hazardous and unreliable process, mainly because perception takes place in the brain, not (where most people think) in the eyes. The brain makes guesses about the external world and builds its picture partly from sampling the input and partly from stored memories. Studies of illusions support this hypothesis, by showing perceptual failures. Philosophers of science now describe perception as 'theory-laden', i.e. what we perceive is a construct of input and theories in the mind about the world. Stimuli are interpreted by the human mind in terms of what it already believes about such stimuli. Consequently we can only identify what we already know.

20 For everyday purposes, the difference is slight and of no importance. For practical purposes, we can function on guesswork. Problems arise however where the stimulus is anomalous, as in the case of most UFO reports. The human mind abhors uncertainty; it prefers to identify an object as anything rather than not identify it at all. Consequently, faced with an atmospheric mirage which displays unusual, indeed completely unfamiliar characteristics, there will be a tendency to identify it with the only thing the mind has in store that matches. Unfortunately, few of us in the West can claim not to have seen many representations of UFOs on TV, in books and magazines and in films. It is natural therefore that observers will report mirages as UFOs, even with characteristics that were not actually visible but which their minds constructed in order to make sense of the stimulus. If the object cannot be identified as a conventional object, natural or man-made, it is certain to be identified as an alien one, perhaps even with aliens.

21 Some believe that people who report UFOs are either psychopathological, fantasy prone, hypnotizable or less intelligent than normal. In fact studies have shown that this is not so (Spanos et al 1993). I know of only one case caused by abnormal psychology; the 'witness' suffered a hallucination brought about by his preoccupation with the UFO myth (Campbell 1981). Most people who report UFOs had no prior interest in the subject and were not members of any UFO organization. Nor are professional observers immune to deception. Reports from police officers or pilots are no more reliable than those from anyone else. Until everyone becomes familiar with mirages, they will continue to be reported as UFOs. Physicists, who naively believe that people are objective reporters, make insufficient allowance for perceptual problems and (foolishly) attempt to explain reports as either false or misperceptions of normal objects (which the observers must have been unfamiliar). Many sceptics (especially in the US) make similar hasty judgements and label witnesses as simpletons or frauds. They also jump to the first conventional explanation that comes to mind, refusing to abandon it even when faced with contradictory evidence. Changing the mind of a hardened sceptic is as difficult as persuading a witness that they have seen a mirage.

The dangers of mirages interpreted as UFOs

22 Astronomical mirages appear to have caused some aircraft to crash. Unfamiliar with such phenomena and not trained to spot them, pilots panic or become mesmerized. In January 1948, Captain Thomas Mantell of the USAF tried to chase what appears to have been a mirage of Jupiter (not a Skyhook balloon, as many claim). Without oxygen, he flew too high (perhaps believing that he was flying at a constant height), lost consciousness and crashed. In October 1978 Frederick Valentich, flying over the Bass Strait (Tasmania), reported 'a large aircraft' with 'four bright lights' hovering on top of him, but nothing was seen on ground radar. Nothing more was heard from him and his aircraft has not been found. He may have been confused and alarmed by a mirage of Canopus, then rising in the SE, and undertaken manoeuvres which led to his crashing into the sea.

23 Where aircraft have not crashed, sights of mirages have caused pilots to undertake dangerous manoeuvres. Lieutenant Gorman, flying a F-51 near Hector Airport (Fargo, N. Dakota) in October 1948, attempted to intercept a mirage of Jupiter for 30 minutes.

Conclusions

24 Mirages can explain so many UFO reports, especially the most intractable ones, that I can claim that the UFO mystery is solved. A scientific hypothesis has been found which explains UFO reports. There is no need to consider pseudoscientific or more exotic hypotheses; there is certainly no justification for the idea that UFO reports represent evidence for the activity of aliens or paranormal influences.

25 Features of those reports which are apparently inconsistent with the mirage hypothesis are likely to be due to the reporter's (and/or the investigator's) ignorance of normal perceptual distortions, false associations and human fear responses. Accounts obtained by hypnosis are certainly unreliable.

26 It is now evident why UFOs are reported to be a similar appearance all over the world; stars and planets can be seen from anywhere on Earth through an atmosphere which is as likely to produce an inversion in one place as another. Furthermore the few basic shapes reported are consistent with the protean forms seen in mirages, especially the double 'saucer' shape. The 'saucer' disc is not an imagined shape for alien space craft (after all our spacecraft are a completely different shape). It is a real shape seen in the sky.

27 It is now evident why UFOs are reported to move about the sky at great speed and execute 'impossible' manoeuvres; there are no limitations on the speed or manoeuvres of an image. The hypothesis also explains why UFOs are so often reported to be silent, even while executing manoeuvres which should cause sonic booms or thunderclaps. They are not real craft.

28 The mirage hypothesis accounts not only for the foo-fighters of the Second World War and the Korean War, but the mystery airships reported in the USA in the 1890s. I predict that this powerful hypothesis will find universal application and solve countless cases. It may even explain reports of other strange phenomena such as ball lightning, will-o'-the-wisp or appearances of the Virgin Mary.

References

Campbell, Steuart (1981): False report from Loch Ness, Flying Saucer Review, 26(6)19-23.
------ (1985): Throwing light on Rendlesham, Magonia 21:15-8.
------ (1987a): Mirage of a mountain, J. Meteorology, UK May/June, pp.157-9.
------ (1987b): Mirage over Edinburgh, ibid. 12(123)308-13.

Huddart, Joseph (1797): Observations on horizontal refractions which affect the appearance of terrestrial objects and the dip, or depression of the horizon of the sea, Phil. Trans (R. Soc. Lon.) 87, pp 29-42.

Lehn, Waldemar H and B A German (1981): Novaya Zemlya effect: analysis of an observation, Applied Optics, 20(12)2043.

Menzel, Donald H (1953): Flying Saucers, London.
------ and Lyle G Boyd (1963): The World of Flying Saucers, New York.
------ and Ernest Taves (1977): The UFO Enigma, Garden City.

Rutledge, Harley (1981): Project Identification, Englewood Cliffs.

Spanos, Nicholas P et al (1993): Close Encounters: An Examination of UFO Experiences, J. Abnormal Psychology, 102(4)624-32.

Viezee, William (1969): Optical Mirage (Ch. 4), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (The Condon Report, ed. Daniel S Gillmor), London. Part of chapter written by Gordon Thayer.

Vince, Samuel (1799): Observations upon an unusual horizontal refraction of air..., Phil. Trans. (R. Soc. Lon.) Part 1, pp. 13-23.

Received: 8 December 1995

- - - end Steuart Campbell article - - -

Respectfully,
Jerry Cohen
CohenUFO

 

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