Saturday, April 26, 2008

Phoenix Lights
By Seth Shostak

UFOs Photographed Over Arizona 4-21-08
By Seth Shostak
Are We A Blog
4-24-08


Editor's Note-The following is a piece written by Seth Shostak, the Public Programs Scientist at the SETI Institute which can also be found at his Blog, "Are We a Blog?" along with a host of his other penscript. For clarity's sake, I have published his piece in toto with my comments (as posted on his Blog) in postscript. See Mike Fortson's rebuttal as well.

Seth Shostak Cropped SETI     Some people are convinced that extraterrestrials are visiting Phoenix, presumably because they like the feel of wide-open spaces or have a penchant for Tex-Mex cuisine.

On Monday, April 21, strange lights once again lit up the night sky of this sprawling Arizona burg, and hung in the air for enough time that they were seen by hundreds (and probably thousands) of residents. Most of these Arizonans remembered that more than a decade ago, in March of 1997, there were two incidents of strange luminance in the darkened skies of Arizona, events that some people still think are mysterious -- and possibly due to alien visitation. These were the original "Phoenix Lights" (which sound like a cigarette brand, but aren't.)

Those two long-ago events actually have prosaic explanations, however. The first, a triangular pattern of lights that swept in from southern Nevada, seems to have been a small phalanx of aircraft. To me, the most convincing evidence that this is true is the report of an amateur astronomer who looked at the formation with his scope, and could see that they were planes. Amateur astronomers (unlike the general public) are experienced observers of the sky. They're also clever enough to realize that if they had seen true extraterrestrial craft, nothing could be more interesting. I don't think they'd lie. I don't think this amateur did lie.

The second 1997 event was a string of lights that was visible over the city for quite a while (tens of minutes). This can best be ascribed to flares dropped during a (later announced) military exercise miles from the city. Indeed, there's confirmation that this explanation is correct from some work done by an Arizona State astronomer in which he matched the appearance and disappearance of these lights with their expected obscuration by the Sierra Estrella mountain range southwest of Phoenix. Call me biased (and in this regard I am), but I trust the work of astronomers.

So, putting it bluntly, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the luminous phenomena that were on display on March 13, 1997 were anything other than human activity. This is important, because the Phoenix Lights are frequently cited as one of the most compelling events supporting the contention that Earth is being visited by beings from afar.

As for the Phoenix Lights of this week... well, they seem to have been a "knock off" hoax by someone who set off some helium balloons to which some lit road flares were attached.

It's not impossible, of course, that aliens could come to Earth. It's also not impossible that they would choose to entertain the residents of central Arizona with their light shows. But if you think this is true, then the evidence has to be better than what it is. Ranting about cover-up and closed minds isn't evidence -- it's merely whining.

And one should always consider simple explanations first. If you find a dead raccoon on the side of a road, you might consider that it was killed by aliens. But you should also weigh the possibility that it was hit by a car.

Commentary By Frank Warren

Kudos to you for being one of the few "SETI folk" who compels me to respond when you address the "UFO bailiwick."

You wrote:

"Some people are convinced that extraterrestrials are visiting Phoenix . . ."

This statement (pertaining to the recent balloon/flare hoax) IMHO is akin to saying that the "WOW signal" was a phone call from a galactic neighbor.

Sadly there are most certainly people that hold that mindset in both examples; however, methinks the number is minute.

You wrote:

" . . . in March of 1997, there were two incidents of strange luminance in the darkened skies of Arizona . . ."

I'm afraid that statement is fallacious to be polite; in March of '97 there were multiple "UFO related events" seen from coast to coast in several states; many which described a "huge V-shaped craft"; sightings were predominant in Arizona with witnesses in the tens of thousands (given the fact that eyes were to the skies in anticipation for Hale/Bopp).

You wrote:

"The first, a triangular pattern of lights that swept in from southern Nevada, seems to have been a small phalanx of aircraft. To me, the most convincing evidence that this is true is the report of an amateur astronomer who looked at the formation with his scope, and could see that they were planes."

Most researchers/investigators of the "Phoenix Lights" do not discount the declaration of "Mitch Stanley" (the amateur astronomer you cite) although some have questioned "planes flying wing tip to wing tip" at night.

In general however, his statement(s) is accepted as fact. That said, this certainly doesn't negate the daytime sightings that occurred on that date, as well as the multiple reports of a "huge low flying craft" that evening all throughout the state of Arizona.

You wrote:

"The second 1997 event was a string of lights that was visible over the city for quite a while (tens of minutes). This can best be ascribed to flares dropped during a (later announced) military exercise miles from the city."

Again you are mistaken; first this is one of many events (as stated above), and second this event only lasted minutes as evidenced by several video tapes of this particular happenstance. It is agreed by most however, that the images were of "flares."

You wrote:

"So, putting it bluntly, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the luminous phenomena that were on display on March 13, 1997 were anything other than human activity."

Since you have only cited "two events" that occurred on that date, both of which most researchers/investigators agree with your conclusion, one can only nod in the affirmative; however, to draw a conclusion based on a small portion of the data regarding the "observation of multiple phenomena" with respect, isn't prudent. Moreover, it certainly doesn't conform to scientific methodology, which given your position, title and academic credentials, one would anticipate.

Finally, I am reminded that you have said on more then one occasion that "you are not a Ufologist and you don't research the subject"; this is certainly "apparent" here as evidenced by your missive.

I equate this behavior to condemnation of a book one hasn't read.

Respectfully,
Frank Warren

3 comments :

  1. YOU SAID: "To me, the most convincing evidence that this is true is the report of an amateur astronomer who looked at the formation with his scope, and could see that they were planes. Amateur astronomers (unlike the general public) are experienced observers of the sky. They're also clever enough to realize that if they had seen true extraterrestrial craft, nothing could be more interesting. I don't think they'd lie. I don't think this amateur did lie."

    THIS IS TOTAL BS! --First of all, to suggest that you could follow a moving aircraft at night with a Telescope is ridiculous. I personally own a telescope and there is no way you could follow a moving aircraft and focus in on it, especially at night. Based on this statement alone I would seriously question anything this witness had to say.


    First you have to convince me that a group of pilots would be stupid enough and brazen enough to think they could pull off such an elaborate hoax without being caught. Every pilot knows that penetrating Class-B airspace (a 30-mile protective veil that surrounds every major airport in the country) without a proper ATC clearance, would get them into serious trouble. There is no way a fleet of aircraft could fly silently, even with the engines running at idle, and avoid radar detection.


    A fleet of aircraft entering Class-B airspace without communication or clearance would be considered a serious threat and they most certainly would have been forced down by military pilots. Once on the ground the perpetrators would be arrested, heavily fined and face possible prosecution and prison time. The FAA would permanently suspend their licenses due to the magnitude of the crime. They would be thrashed by the media and lynched by the public.


    Why would any pilot risk everything, believing that they could successfully pull off such an elaborate hoax, get away with it, go home, watch the 10'oclock news and have a nice laugh? Nobody ever got caught and nobody ever came forward to say "we did it." Private pilots would never take such a risk, commercial pilots would never risk their flying careers, and airline pilots are constantly monitored by ATC. They would never attempt such a thing especially with a plane loaded with passengers. Obviously this guy concocted the entire story to get his mug on the six o'clock news!

    Furthermore, your comment about astronomers being "trained observers" is an insult to the countless witnesses who were perfectly capable of describing what they saw. Many witnesses were active military and professional pilots who are also trained observers. When you have hundereds of matching descriptions of an enormous, silent craft flying low and slow over the entire state of Arizona, NOT distant lights in the sky, you have to give some credibility to those reports.

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  3. Seth, you are the perfect example of a scientist who is so focused in on one singular idea, such as listening to radio waves, that you can't see the forest through the trees. You, like so many others don't know or care about all of the facts. Only those that support your own presumptions and weak theories. You can spend 100 years looking for unusual radio waves, which is a complete waste of time and money in my opinion, when you have ET craft appearing right in your own back yard and all over the world for that matter!

    The most recent hoax and the flare drop that occurred at around 10pm on March 13th 1997, have no relevance or importance to the Phoenix Lights. The 8:30 sighting, witnessed by scores of reliable witnesses is the only sighting that matters. There are only three possible explanations to the 8:30 event. Flare drops are not one of them!

    1) Natural phenomenon - The skies over Arizona were clear that evening and there is no known natural phenomenon that matches what witnesses saw.

    2) Manmade - One of the air traffic controllers who was on duty that night admitted publicly that he saw the lights, but they did not appear on radar and he had no idea what they were. If the craft that flew right through the middle of Sky Harbor airspace was military or civilian, we would have known about it a long time ago, top secret or not. The controller would have admitted as much, but he didn't. I personally spoke to him two years ago and he still maintains that he does not know what the lights were. For all of you non-pilots out there, NO it is not possible for aircraft to enter into Class B airspace without the controller knowing about it, including military pilots who must comply with the same FAA rules in order to insure safe separation between aircraft in a busy airspace.

    3) Extraterrestrial Origin - All of the skeptical minds out there are quick to dismiss this idea. For the record, there is no evidence at all, certainly no proof, that can categorically explain away all UFO sightings, so this remains an open possibility, like it or not!

    It's a shame that the countless witness reports to Francis Barwood's office and the 911 call center have been muddled over by the flare theory and now a hoax perpetrated by some idiot. No doubt many people will now think that the original Phoenix Lights was a hoax as well.

    To learn more about the real facts and common misconceptions regarding the Phoenix Lights, be sure and read "The Phoenix Lights - Debunking The Debunkers" posted on Frank Warren's website 2-13-08 at this link:

    http://tinyurl.com/2tvk72

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Dear Contributor,

Your comments are greatly appreciated, and coveted; however, blatant mis-use of this site's bandwidth will not be tolerated (e.g., SPAM etc).

Additionally, healthy debate is invited; however, ad hominem and or vitriolic attacks will not be published. Please keep your arguments "to the issues" and present them with civility and proper decorum-FW






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