Archives For ufos

ufo vector

Different people who want Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 want her to win for many different reasons. Some believe that a female president is long overdue. Others, believe that of all the presidential contenders, she is the most electable. Yet others dislike her greatly, but with some complicated political calculus arrived at the conclusion that her ability to nominate four of the future Supreme Court justices makes her the only choice that won’t plunge the country into despotic arch-conservatism. But others still couldn’t care less about any of that because such, can we say, earthly, concerns are trivial to them. You see, to them, the most important part of a potential second Clinton administration is that they’ll finally get access to all the top secret files detailing our ongoing contact with alien civilizations. You know, after the last great reveal of our apparent alien alliances failed to materialize in 2012 as predicted, I started losing hope that an alien that’s been taken to our leaders will address the world, but hot damn! Another chance!

As said many times before and will say again, there’s absolutely nothing in the laws of biology that prevents an alien species on another planet from becoming intelligent, building spacecraft when their civilization is advanced enough, and exploring the cosmos, eventually making it to a little blue planet around an otherwise unremarkable yellow sun in the galactic suburbs. In fact, if we run the numbers, it’s almost a certainty. But the odds of this happening with a species close enough to detect us over the last century or so are astronomical. Think of meeting aliens a little like winning the lottery. Someone is going to hit that jackpot, but the chances of it being you just as you really need the money are basically nonexistent. Still, our dedicated ufologists are totally and irreversibly convinced that aliens are among us, whether we’re secretly waging war with an extraterrestrial army on the dark side of the moon, exploring their artifacts on and around Mars, meeting in secret with their representatives, or some combination of the above, and nothing will possibly change their minds, nor will any disclosure be adequate enough.

Again, the government could tell the ufologists everything it knows and even admit to every top secret drone and stealth aircraft test it may have chosen to cover up as a UFO, which would be fascinating for aviation buffs and historians. But that’s not the narrative that ufologists on whose behalf organizations like the Paradigm Research Group advocates, want to hear. Nothing short of the plot of Stargate SG-1 or Doctor Who turning out to be a documentary will do. For them, speculative astrobiology has reinforced a faith instead of acting as a fact check and they’re just hoping for a confirmation that an alien empire doing business with humans in every government report with enough reactions, like Evangelical Christians patiently await The Rapture and take every war or earthquake as a sign of the impending end of time. Although I would argue that the former is much more plausible than the latter in the grand scheme of things, either is so unlikely that it’s probably a bad idea to base our lives on either belief. If you really want to find alien life and get full disclosure about alien contact, I’d point you to SETI rather than any politician…

ufo city

Please pardon the lack of posts. Things have been rather hectic on and off and the news from the usual sources have been rather slow, reporting on experiments and ideas which I’ve written about before in their previous incarnations, or ones that seem to be of little interest to virtually anyone outside the field in question. But I did come across something from Ray Villard that gave me a good idea for a post. Basically, Ray explores the question of whether UFO sightings were culprits in accidents and finds that cases of mistaken identity can certainly cause you to crash a car or make a military pilot do something risky with his jet, but overall, you don’t have to worry if an alien spacecraft will run you off the road or out of the sky. This is all old news of course, but the incident mentioned in his opening paragraphs regarding a pilot who crashed his plane in a spirited pursuit of a UFO likely to have been a weather balloon, is noteworthy because it lets me try and address a very common and often hard to counter claim made by many ufologists.

A while ago, a small group of former high ranking Air Force officers claimed that UFOs regularly showed up during nuclear tests, occasionally disabling the warheads, something a lot of ardent conspiracy theorists and ufologists took as concrete proof of a long-standing idea that nuclear weapons attracted the aliens who come to Earth. Having military personnel talk about having no idea whet was in the sky above them or recalling chasing down bizarre objects which they could not identify and which their commanders seemed very reluctant to discuss, if they discussed the objects at all, sounds like a slam dunk to a UFO believer. If anyone would know what was in the skies, it should be the Air Force and if it doesn’t know, it must be an alien, right? There’s no way that crazy people are flying bombers and interceptors, and operating radar stations on such a massive scale that hundreds of honorably discharged specialists and career officers will come forward to talk about their UFOs sightings. And they’re right. There aren’t. But the issue is not a question of whether someone not entirely sane servers in the military. It’s military secrecy.

The defense establishment has a lot of secrets and these secrets are stratified. If you have top secret clearance while your colleague has a secret one, you know things he or she doesn’t and you’re not allowed to say anything about a top secret level project without those with the same exact clearance as you. This is important because clearances can also be project specific which means that two officers with top secret clearance may actually not be cleared to know about an extremely important project, or only one of them may be involved with it but is not allowed to say anything about his work to his counterpart. Getting pretty tangled isn’t it? Usually, this happens to minimize the potential leaks because the fewer people know about a critical project which has to stay in the shadows, the fewer people can spill any details and if they do, it’s easier to track down who talked and to whom. And during the cold war, the golden days of UFO sightings, very classified, compartmentalized work was constantly happening at military bases.

Former military pilots, specialists, and officers talking about UFOs isn’t crazy or poorly trained, they simply didn’t know what they saw or why because they weren’t allowed to know. Spy plane prototypes flying overhead, highly experimental detectors and weapons systems flew across an impressive swath of the country in total secrecy and whoever detected them with no clue what a bizarre objects like that was doing in the air, was unlikely to have the clearances to find out what they actually were. And the same trend continues today, so even as the number of clearances grows, there are still few people who can accurately connect the dots on today’s black projects, ones likely to involve very oddly shaped robotic craft that have been mistaken for UFOs by the public when being trucked from base to base, even when they were already known to exist and had their own Wikipedia pages for years. Just imagine what’s happening behind closed doors at the infamous Area 51 base, the birthplace of the world’s most advanced military jets. How many experimental planes are flying in the skies today and how many are so secret that only a room full of people are allowed to know about them? How many have been spotted as UFOs?

Apparently, there was a large flatbed truck driving down a major through way carrying a UFO last week. Maybe someone at the Men In Black headquarters forgot to issue a memo to the Area 51 drivers not to parade alien spacecraft traveling from one top secret base to another for more reverse engineering. Or maybe, it was really the captured aliens making a break for it, unaware of how much of a stir they would cause. But at any rate, the people of Kansas living along a stretch of  U.S. 77 called their local newspapers and police departments with questions about whether a mysterious truck was carrying an honest to goodness flying saucer. So what was that mysterious, otherworldly-looking object trucked around the country under a thick gray tarp? An X-47B, the Northrop Grumman built killer drone intended to launch from and land on aircraft carriers in the near future. It is definitely a much more exciting cargo than pipes or big industrial machine parts that sort of look like a UFO in the right light from the right angle, but alas, it’s not a flying saucer. Just a drone on its way from a test.

Now the fun thing about this incident is that it shows just how quick Americans are to reach for the UFO label when they seem something unusual and sleek, reaching for that label almost reflexively as has become very customary in some parts of our culture. In one region, unusual doings are attributes to gods and demons, in others, to aliens and their technological prowess. Even high ranking Air Force officers do it, with three former colonels claiming that UFOs interfered with their nuclear test projects to send a message earlier this year. But what if for the sake of argument, we take this classic misidentification and say that there really was a tiny flying saucer transported to an USAF base for reverse-engineering. Could we actually disassemble any alien spacecraft that wasn’t so much like our own technology that we’d quickly grow suspicious of its origins? True extraterrestrial spacecraft are almost physically bound to be extremely large since they’ll need huge reactors, massive engines, and thick armor to make their way through the cosmos. Real UFOs are not going to be the size of drones, they’re going to be the size of the USS Nimitz, if not bigger, and something that big could easily be seen by amateur astronomers with a good telescope as it approaches or orbits the Earth.

Obviously capturing something like that would be far beyond our means. We could shoot it down with a volley of massive KKVs and pick up the pieces, but we’d damage the technology we want to reverse-engineer if we do that. So let’s say that it deploys an unmanned drone to take survey of the planet and that’s what we happen to bring down with an EMP or a well-placed shot. We get it onto a truck as inconspicuously as possible, rush the alien craft down to the closest military lab, open it up, and then… actually then what exactly do we do with a vessel built on another world? We could analyze the materials form which its made and its overall design, but there’s not that much we could do with it. Just knowing the ingredients for an exotic alloy doesn’t mean that it’s now possible to accurately replicate it, much like just knowing the ingredients for a complex cake doesn’t give you the knowledge of how to put them together and what tricks to use to replicate the finished product. Trying to hack its software would be an even bigger pain because the computing protocols will vary greatly, down to the simple binary signals, and that’s assuming that aliens even use binary signals in their machinery. Try to decompile alien code and I pretty much guarantee that you’ll get nothing but binary garbage. And don’t even start thinking about deconstructing interstellar propulsion. It may rely on the physical phenomena we haven’t a clue about theoretically, much less in terms of practical applications.

Oh and just a thought on the idea of deconstructing an alien craft. When Iran claimed to capture the wayward drone which crossed into its airspace and either got caught or suffered from a major glitch and went down, a number of experts said that its software was built to be tamper resistant. Putting self-destructs triggered by a typical engineer’s attempts at a dissection has a long tradition in weapons design. What says that aliens will simply allow random Earthlings to paw at their ships willy-nilly rather than put in an explosive charge that can reduce the drone and any facility in which we could contain it to supersonic shrapnel? Or unleash some toxic or radioactive contaminant? Or even some nefarious nanomechanical virus? To assume that aliens would be more than happy to share their technology with us and are generous and understanding enough not hurt us if we wanted to cut up a craft of theirs to see how it works, seems rather naive. Of course they’d be willing to kill anyone who goes near their ships. They have no attachment to life on this planet and killing curious humans would probably not bother them any more than exterminating mice does us. And this is why we have serious, highly respected scientists warning us about the prospect alien invasions and wondering if we really, really want to pursue active SETI rather than quietly avoid interstellar marauders which may dominate space

Some residents of Denver are really, really curious about alien life. And obviously, I don’t blame them for their desire to know whether we’re alone in the universe or not, and if the latter is the case, what real aliens from a different solar system look like. In their desire to know, they proposed a commission to handle extraterrestrial affairs and succeeded in putting it on the ballot during the midterm elections. Fear not, your tax dollars had nothing to fear because the commission was supposed to be funded by grants and donations from citizens with an interest in alien life. Of course I say this in past tense because the proposition didn’t pass at the polls and the city of Denver won’t have it’s very own commission on otherworldly life. But why? Maybe the initiative’s appeal to long standing conspiracy theories involving government deals with UFOs had voters questioning if their city really needed to formally ratify UFOlogists’ lore, even if this wouldn’t be done at taxpayer’s expense?

You may remember some rumors about this proposition from late last year, when this blog hosted an edition of the Skeptics’ Circle and linked to a brief article on the subject. The whole thing was organized by UFOlogy buffs with a little too much time on their hands, one of whom even claimed to have real footage of a classic humanoid Gray alien peeking into a bedroom, and used this “evidence” to argue for a committee tasked with investigate UFO sightings and conduct exopolitical affairs for the city of Denver. And this isn’t the only time that zealous UFOlogists tried to create a legally recognized committee to deal with aliens. Over the summer of last year, European alien hunters petitioned the EU to form an exopolitical council and were summarily ignored, primarily because giving conspiracy theorists money and political clout to push their dearly held notions of an alien presence on Earth is a bad idea. Today, a lot of people are sure that aliens exist. There’s already a body that’s responsible for finding their attempts to communicate with us, and most of NASA’s current programs in space exploration are based on finding any possible scientific proof of alien habitats nearby.

So why give paranoid conspiracy theorists who convinced themselves that our governments are hiding aliens any influence in what scientists are already doing to find confirmed evidence of otherworldly life? So we could either waste money on chasing non-existent proof of their fervent beliefs, or justify their campaigns with votes and government seals of approval so others could throw their money down the same sinkhole? In case they haven’t noticed, money’s a little tight for everyone nowadays with the Great Recession and a job market that’s highly unlikely to recover until 2017, and will never be the same again, so spending it to order the military or bureaucrats to find documents that don’t exist is ridiculous to say the least. The public would quickly shift their opinion of UFOlogists, re-branding them from harmless conspiracy theorists with way too much time on their hands and not enough things to keep them busy, to expensive pests who need to be removed from positions of power. And even worse, most UFOlogists will just see the negative opinion of their actions as a conspiracy to derail them just as they’re getting close to “the truth” and obliviously press on.

It’s all in good fun when people who think we’re about to be attacked by aliens living on the dark side of the Moon, or that a sinister species of alien/human hybrids is using vaccines to cull our population, or that the valleys and craters of the Moon conceal ancient alien cities, or that the government was ready to show us the extraterrestrial diplomats with who they’ve been dealing for decades on the news last year, organize a club to vent their fantasies and float in the clouds for an evening or two. But when they decide to interfere with the real world and demand that scientists and governments show them something that simply isn’t there, we have to play the part of the bad guys and tell them to cut it out. Some amateur UFOlogists’ dreams of an alien intervention with our nuclear programs born of their concern for all living things, shouldn’t dictate policy or international law, much less how we spend our military and scientific dollars.

Oh those pesky aliens, whizzing between this planet and other distant worlds, kidnapping cattle and offering a free, if not necessarily consensual rectal exam to the hapless human. But if you believe a group of now retired USAF officers, while not up to their usual shenanigans, the aliens are trying to stop our nukes. Apparently, in their grab-and-probe missions, they’ve learned enough about our species to take an interest in our politics, so for a few decades, they’ve been visiting nuclear test ranges and shutting off or sabotaging missiles to send us a subtle message about the dangers of runaway nuclear proliferation and M.A.D. Obviously, since we’ve built and now maintain more than enough nukes to trigger a mass extinction if we wanted to, the aliens failed in their mission and some humans are still armed to the teeth and extremely dangerous. But seriously, if we put aside the jokes that practically write themselves here, what possible interest could aliens have in our nuclear ambitions and why would they ever want to interfere in our politics? What could they possibly gain and how?

Now, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I take my aliens very seriously, which is why I’m more than willing to explore and discuss astrobiology and side with all those who say that somewhere in this universe, a space-faring, intelligent, alien species must exist. It’s just simple statistics that one will. But the odds of this species invading our world, or actually existing long enough to find us are open questions which too many people have tried to answer by adopting sci-fi movie tropes, outlandish conspiracy theories, and even stark raving imbecility quoting navel-gazing New Age airheads and conspiracy writers. So when you tell me that an alien species may be headed towards our planet right now, I’ll ask you to go on and tell me how you know, and how I can confirm this myself. But when you tell me that there are alien craft casually buzzing around on a regular basis and they’re here to save us from ourselves according to a UFOlogical messianic fantasy, I will call you out on indulging in nonsense and an utter disregard for the laws of physics. Why would aliens be a completely selfless egalitarian culture that only wants to do what’s best for us? If they evolve to be social, they will have no attachment to, or consideration for, us because we don’t share their evolutionary lineage.

To be fair, I could see a high minded alien species sending us a stern warning that our military experiments or our nuclear arms race may backfire in spectacular ways, but for them to stick around and play head games by manipulating nuclear warheads in mid-test? Why would they do that? Out of some pseudo-spiritual calling for universal peace and love? As we discussed before, alien life forms capable of the kind of intelligence we can see inventing spacecraft are probably going to evolve from predators and be just as skilled in killing as we are because that’s what it takes to rise to the top of the food chain. Our sense of compassion only extends to each other, and only then in certain circumstances. Why would we expect real world aliens to get warm fuzzies from us unless they thought we’d be really cute pets? Because that’s what we aspire to be like? It seems more like the officers in question were fantasizing about a messianic force to step in to end our military tensions while diffusing today’s geopolitical conflicts with their soothing presence and sage advice. Call me a pessimist, but I’d think it’s far more likely that any species that could actually do this would probably budget out its mission to our world and say: “um, yeah… this idea is probably too expensive to pull off right now.”

Finally, the alien/nuclear connection in this story deserves another application of basic physics and astronomy because it’s been around for a while thanks to scientifically inept conspiracists and states that aliens can see our nuclear tests and decided to come down to either help, or control us. Which one depends on who you ask and his or her mental state. In the real world, our solar system would look like a tiny dust cloud to aliens, so with stars pumping out hundreds of yottawatts every second, a one minute, blink-and-you-miss-it flash of our nuclear tests which put out hundreds of times less energy would be instantly lost in the radioactive noises of the galaxy’s day to day events. We’re not going to attract alien attention with a gamma ray burp because they’re going to be looking at an entire sky full of gamma rays. The truth is that we’re overwhelmingly likely to be alone when it comes to managing our nuclear arsenals and wars, and we can’t rely on messianic aliens to strain in an effort to find species to save, and descend from the heavens to offer us peace and wisdom. That would be a religious belief, not a scientific hypothesis, and we need to find viable answers to our own problems instead of looking up to the sky, waiting for them to fall from the heavens in the form of flying saucers.

[ illustration from a Rayovac print ad ]

Give the web’s UFO enthusiasts another notch in the belt for discovering NASA’s attempt to hide a mysterious alien spacecraft captured by the Hubble orbital telescope and filed as an asteroid collision which left a highly distinctive trail shaped like an X. Or if you’re a conspiracy theorist, like a trident and obviously, a huge node of an extraterrestrial craft which appears to be roughly the size of the American Southwest from tip to what we should assume to be the engines extending far beyond the supposed node. One wonders how you would be able to analyze the rather blurry image to make sure it was really an alien craft rather than just debris from the comfort of a home office using just a few image filters, but it seems that if you play the conspiracy card, all that matters is claiming a UFO and every fuzzy outline and blurry shape are undeniable proof of alien presence…

For the sake of argument, let’s play around with the idea that the orbital telescope caught a blurry glimpse of a massive alien craft. Considering its sheer size, the civilization that would have to build it must be hundreds, if not thousands of years ahead of us technologically. Besides having to put together trillions of tons of material into a working ship and powering it up with enough reactors to provide energy to half the Earth’s population at peak demand hours, its designers would have to work around the curvature of their home planet to build what amounts to a small, floating continent. Yes, when we account for the physical requirements of traveling across interstellar space we’ll end up with a huge ship comparable in size to our tallest skyscrapers. But this seems like a pretty major overkill and should raise a lot of questions unlikely to have an uplifting answer. Something this big could be used to transport anentire army, or a planet’s population. If they set their sights on our solar system, what do they want and what would it mean for us?

We should also take into account the very likely rarity of alien civilizations that could build spaceships like this hypothetical craft, their potential aversion to making contact with us, and how short ufologists tend to fall when it comes to providing solid evidence for their claims. Regardless of how old or wise alien empires might be, or how fair technology manages to advance during their existence, they’ll be still be subject to basic laws of biology and physics and any proof for their existence has to be more than a blurry image, promises of grand revelations to come, and indignant rants in response to any critique of their proclamations. But none of this matters to ardent ufologists. They need there to be proof of alien spacecraft visiting our planet, something to convince them that they’re not alone in the universe and that enlightenment from above will rain down from the heavens in the form of advanced alien technology from benevolent extraterrestrials. Alternatively, they’ll be perfectly happy to live in a world of government cover-ups and secret alien plots which is a far more exciting place than the dull routine with which many of us have to deal in our daily lives.

[ illustration by Guille Krieger ]

People persuaded beyond a shadow of a doubt that little gray creatures are coming down to Earth on a routine basis to trade high tech gizmos and study human anatomy with a rather disturbingly frequent use of rectal probes, have been petitioning governments to take them seriously for many years. This time though, a European group of ufologists wants the EU to set up an entire agency devoted to studying UFOs and how to make political overtures to alien species that would be a compete mystery to us.

Organizers and speakers from the European Exopolitics Summit have released a Declaration for the creation of a European Agency to study UFOs and extraterrestrial affairs. The Declaration was first presented to the public at a Press Conference preceding the Exopolitics Summit which featured international speakers discussing the public policy implications of evidence concerning extraterrestrial life. […]

The goal in releasing the Declaration is to spur European governments and citizen organizations to cooperate in collection and analysis of UFO data. An online petition has been started to collect signatures for the Declaration and promote its adoption by relevant governments…

via Michael Salia at

Ok. Where to begin? I’ve always been in favor of looking for alien life. On other planets. You know, places where they would actually evolve in a suitable habitat. Since this blog started in late 2008, I’ve lost count of how many posts I made on the practical and scientific problems aliens and we would have in traveling between far flung solar systems on a regular basis. As breathtakingly awesome as it would be to see an honest to goodness alien ship touch down in front of news cameras, it hasn’t happened yet and we have no proof that it ever did. Forming a government agency to study something that may be just a figment of some people’s fevered imaginations is simply wasteful.

Besides, there are already government agencies that fund missions to find extraterrestrial life. You may have heard of them. They’re called NASA and the ESA. Of course they fund real science rather than just say that flying saucers are real and throw money at another self-proclaimed exopolitics experts, which is why ardent ufologists just say these agencies are just covering up proof of alien civilizations and keep demanding that an official in a suit and tie gives some formal credence to their hopes and dreams.

It would be nice to know that we’re not alone in the universe sooner rather than later, but the universe does its own thing with absolutely zero consideration for our personal desires. No matter how much we hope and demand government investigations and funding, we can only find alien life when we can detect its signs and confirm the finding under stringent, scientific guidelines.

Bad information tends to spread on the internet, especially when that bad information has an audience willing to believe it. In this case, it’s an alleged UFO battle in the skies of Nuremberg, Germany in April of 1561 which was witnessed by the entire town. Makes perfect sense when we consider the events in question. If there’s an alien armada having a brawl in the skies above my city, I’d go out to have a look. And probably take a camera with me. Of course there were no cameras in Renaissance Germany so all we have is a woodcut and vague accounts from the Gazette of the Town of Nuremberg…

…the dreadful apparition filled the morning sky with cylindrical shapes from which emerged black, red, orange and blue-white spheres that darted about. Between the spheres, there were crosses with the color of blood. This frightful spectacle was witnessed by “numerous men and women.” Afterwards, a black, spear-like object appeared. The author of the Gazette warned that “the God-fearing will by no means discard these signs, but will take it to heart as a warning of their merciful Father in heaven, will mend their lives and faithfully beg God, that he avert His wrath, including the well-deserved punishment, on us, so that we may, temporarily here and perpetually there, live as His children.”

All right, you may be thinking, we have a woodcut and a published account from a historical source. What’s the problem? The first problem is the fact that a reference to the Gazette of the Town of Nuremberg doesn’t show up anywhere other than UFO and conspiracy sites. Most towns had some sort of official record documenting major events but they weren’t necessarily gazettes or newspapers, Actually, the first modern newspaper was printed in 1605, almost half a century after the incident. Before that, news were generally delivered by sheets or pamphlets with information intended for businessmen to help them in conducting commerce.

Having what sounds like a fully fledged newspaper with an official, localized title and a local news focus before publications like that were actually thought of sounds rather odd and gives us a clue why UFO and conspiracy cites are likely to cite it while there’s no reference to it anywhere else.There’s also a question about what the infamous woodcut by Hans Glaser really shows. While it’s attributed to the incident of 1561, the actual piece is usually dated to 1566 which would give plenty of time for exaggerations and legends to work they way into any unusual event Glaser may have heard of.

Finally, there are many examples of famous artwork which supposedly shows UFOs or alien spacecraft to our modern eyes, but are actually far more likely to be religious symbolism. To say that an artist’s work shows a UFO is a purely subjective judgment, especially when the art is as abstract as Glaser’s woodcut.

podcast iconSpeaking of aliens and technology, here’s a recent podcast with yours truly about UFOs, the ancient astronaut theory, conspiracies and transhumanism for alternative blog Occult of Personality. It was a very fun and challenging discussion in which host Greg K. put me through my skeptical paces, but be warned that the podcast itself is just over an hour long and we get pretty existential talking about the potential future of humanity, and the idea of our descendants merging with machines centuries from now to redefine what it means to be human in the first place.

We start off with an exploration of the UFO phenomena, top secret projects by the USAF and make our way to legends of ancient astronaut and the numerous conspiracy theories associated with them before heading into Ray Kurzweil territory to consider what humanity might be like in the far future as the show starts to wind down. Tune in, enjoy and let us know what you think!

UFOs. We know them, we love them, we made them an enduring part of pop culture over the last 60 years. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s all UFOs are. A pop culture phenomenon with seemingly countless reasonable explanations which range from mistaken identity, to black aircraft to natural phenomena that casts unusual lights. However, a recent explanation offered for the phenomena doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. says that sprites, electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere, may be the culprit of some unusual, high altitude UFO reports.

giant ufos

Sprites and their relatives, blue jets, are short lived atmospheric bursts of plasma which tend to be associated with an unusual form of lightning. Some 95% of all lightning bolts during a storm have a negative charge in which the electrons run from the ground to the air. In the other 5% of lightning strikes, the charge runs the opposite way to create positive lightning. And that’s not the only difference. Because positive lightning starts at the top of the thunderstorm, the charge it carries is usually a good deal higher and the burst lasts longer. When there’s a high number of positive strikes coming from a storm, the electrified mesosphere above creates a very brief and very powerful network of plasma tendrils (called candles) up to 15 miles high and 45 miles across. That burst of energy is known as a sprite. A much more concentrated column of these tendrils originating in the stratosphere is known as a blue jet.

Considering that we know what sprites are and the fact that they’re very short lived (only a few seconds), I wonder how they would explain a UFO sighting. The typical UFO encounter involves an object that’s moving across the sky slowly enough to be tracked by eyewitnesses but with a guesstimated velocity that places it in the realm of advanced alien machinery. Since the sprites are there and gone, how would anyone mistake them for an alien spacecraft? If anything, they’d look like enormous explosions overhead, each easily the size of a mountain, or flashes of light in the distance that disappear as soon as they’re spotted. Extremely few UFO reports talk about flashes of light but rather about triangular objects, the new trend in sightings which indicates a black aircraft or a test of an existing stealth jet is the culprit rather than lighting or an everyday airplane being seen at an odd angle during a maneuver.

Trying to explain the unknown that’s usually reported by passionate eyewitnesses with enough exposure to pop culture to make up their minds as to what happened just seconds after their encounter is a serious problem for skeptical investigators. It’s not enough to just throw out an explanation that sounds ordinary and innocuous. When dealing with the subject of UFOs or an occasionally mind boggling claim that just can’t be explained by someone who wasn’t there to see it firsthand, you have to offer explanations that are plausible and actually fit with the typical scenario of the event you’re trying to explain.