Thursday, August 13, 2009

"From Fireballs to Flying Saucers, Alberta is a Hot Spot for Extraterrestrial Tourists"

UFOs Over Alberta
Record number of Albertans report UFOs

157 sightings recorded in the province last year

By Tamara Gignac
Calgary Herald

     CALGARY - From fireballs to flying saucers, Alberta is a hot spot for extraterrestrial tourists.

A study of Canadian UFO sightings suggests a record number of people in the province spotted mysterious objects zooming through the sky last year.

From unusual lights to unexplained aircraft manoeuvring in mid-air, "Albertans are definitely seeing some unusual things," said Chris Rutkowski, a Winnipeg-based "ufologist" who has spent the past two decades studying reports filed by more than 15,000 witnesses coast to coast.

The number of UFO sightings in Alberta last year was the highest ever, with 157 residents spotting unusual celestial activities.

That doesn't surprise Rutkowski, who believes a combination of factors, including the ease with which people can report their observations to UFO-themed websites, has contributed to the uptick.

Flying saucers -- once the standard mode of transport for alien life forms--have apparently fallen out of vogue, with more people characterizing their observations as a fireball or mysterious blob.

"It's not egg-shaped, spherical or triangular in shape, but something with protrusions and the lights seem to change shape as you're watching," said Rutkowski. "The Hollywoodstyle flying saucer is really passe, in some ways."

Numerous sightings occurred in Calgary, including one in December, in which two people reportedly saw a yellow object moving over the city at 11 a. m. It was small and witnesses said it didn't behave like an aircraft.

A week earlier, another person allegedly saw a UFO-like object following a helicopter at 8:12 p. m.

Calgarian Jim Moroney spends much of his spare time meticulously logging these sorts of extraterrestrial encounters for his Alberta UFO Study Group, an organization that keeps track of sightings it deems credible.

People were once shy to come forward for fear of being ridiculed but they're increasingly comfortable sharing their stories, said Moroney.

That could explain the recent spike in the number of reported sightings --not just in Alberta, but across the country, he noted.

There were 1,004 UFOs recorded in Canada last year, compared with 141 in 1989.

"The public is demanding more open discussion and debate around the issue," said Moroney.

"It's one of the reasons why I maintain a website to allow for a venue for people to report sightings."

Of the 8,600 unusual observations logged in Canada during the past two decades, about 14 per cent were deemed "unexplained," meaning they don't seem to be aircraft or fireballs.

Skeptics say weather is often a factor in many mysterious sightings -- and lenticular clouds are a frequent culprit in Alberta.

"They are saucer-shaped and usually occur along the foothills," said Global TV weather expert Paul Dunphy.

"People that really want to believe in UFOs have in the past reported seeing a bunch of them hovering near the horizon for hours."

But if more people are catching a glimpse of visiting aliens, they aren't reporting it to the UFO Sightings Hotline in St. Paul.

The northern Alberta town--famous for its 12-metre-high landing pad for flying saucers -- has recorded a steady drop in calls over the years.

"This area used to be quite active. Maybe it's getting old," said tourist information officer Duane Zaraska.

The majority of UFO sightings are actually stars and planets, admits Rutkowski -- but some are less clear.

"There are always a residual number each year that we simply can't explain," he said.

He estimates that one in 10 Canadians have spotted a UFO-like object in their lifetime and many cases go unreported.

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