Friday, March 04, 2005

Local claims UFO sighting

By Sarah Young
Alaska Highway News

March 3, 2005

Whether it’s actually a speck of cottonwood fluff, a small bug darting around in the sun or an alien ship come to inspect life in Fort St. John, one local man is certain that for now, he has pictures of an unidentified flying object.

Mark Mann has been taking video footage of the sky for a couple of years now and has come up with some remarkable images by pointing his camera to a brightly lit area of the sky, where the sun has just tucked behind a building to leave a backlit area just to the side of it.

“There’s hundreds of these things, they’re just everywhere,” said Mann of the rounded objects he’s seen flitting across his video screen. When he slows down the tape frame by frame, Mann can spot the “spinning turnips” that seem to radiate light.

Mann has sent the footage to a UFO group in New York that estimated the object’s speed across the sky at up to 18,000 miles per hour and at a size of 15-25 feet in diameter.

“These things are highly polished and moving very fast,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what they are, but they’re solid and silent.

“The definition of UFO is an unidentified object…I can’t begin to imagine where they’re from, but they’re not ours. I’ve seen too many different shapes and different sizes, and too many people have been seeing them in different places.”

Mann has also been in touch with Brian Vike, a UFO enthusiast who collects reports of sightings. Vike, who lives in Houston, B.C., is a member of several national and international astronomical societies and appears regularly on radio programs in the Okanagan, Alberta and the U.S.

Vike has seen Mann’s nighttime footage and originally thought it could be a bright star. But when the object disappeared after two days, he wasn’t so sure.

“It stands out in the sky like a sore thumb…if it was a star it should have showed up again after two days.”

Vike said many sky observers have used a technique similar to Mann’s for daytime shots that reveal “little blobs flying around” that could be anything from cottonwood fluff to dandelions or, quite possibly, UFOs.

Environment Canada spokesman Bill Miller said they used to receive several UFO reports from the Peace region that were attributed to the lights of a weather balloon at night. But as for Mann’s sightings, Miller didn’t want to hazard a guess.

“Some could be bugs,” Vike offered. “With the sun behind the building if something comes between the camera and the sun it will look very bright. In Mark’s footage it looked like a giant hamburger, so I don’t know what it is.”

Graham Conway heads up a group called UFO B.C. And while he figures the bug explanation is reasonable, he doesn’t quite buy it.

“Depending on the time of year, say when it’s colder in the fall or winter, the insect theory doesn’t stand up.”

Vike has heard reports of sightings in the North Peace region from the 1970s but said there seems to be a lull right now, likely because people are afraid of the ridicule from friends and family.

Mann’s had his share of naysayers, but is adamant about what he’s seen.

“I’ve had friends who say no way, but seeing is believing. There’s nothing I can do to convince people until they see it for themselves.”

Vike can’t say for sure what’s in Mann’s photos, but he’s not ruling out some extraterrestrial visitors.

“We can’t be the only life form in this universe,” he said. “There’s a lot more questions and not enough answers, but we can’t be the only life form in this vastness.”

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