Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UFO over Tucson!

Well, not quite. It is just a blimp. Or is it?
Although, it may be that blimps are U.F.O.s. Whenever I see one I am reminded by an old Weekend Update segment on an episode of Saturday Night Live from the 70s. Father Guido Sarducci was giving the weather report, when he got around to talking about U.F.O.s:
Skies clear in Bologna tonight. A good night for spotting U.F.O.’s — “oofoes” we call them in Italy. 

I once saw a UFO near Bologna. I was driving from Assisi on this road here, and it was late at night, and from nowhere there were these two giant white lights and it just zoomed right past me real fast and it just seemed to disappear. It was about ten feet long I would say — real sleek looking — looked a lot like a Corvette. And as soon as it was gone I said to myself, did I see that or not? And you see, that’s what they do to you. They shoot you with something, some kind of ray gun — and it makes you doubt that you saw them. If you think you’ve never seen one, you probably see them all the time. 

And after what happened to me, I started carrying my camera with me at all times, just to prove to myself that I’m not hallucinating. Was just a few months ago that I spotted one again. I was in Los Angeles at the home of a friend of mine, Rainbow is her name. Fortunately, I had my camera with me. You can’t tell much from the photo, but it was kind of silvery looking. And it was in the air a long time, just kind of hovering there. And Rainbow says “Listen: all the dogs are barking.” And it was true — all the dogs were barking. 

And then it just kind of very slowly drifted away. I had this blow-up made of the UFO. I know what you’re thinking: you think it’s just the Goodyear blimp. That’s what everybody says. But I did some research and called the Goodyear Blimp people and they told me their nearest blimp was miles away from where I spotted this UFO. And that’s when it dawned on me. Don’t you think that if these aliens are smart enough to get here, they’re smart enough to disguise their spaceships as Goodyear Blimps?

Come on — they weren’t born yesterday. They’ve been spying on us like this for years and years. And my research proves that about one out of every five sightings of Goodyear Blimps is actually a flying saucer in disguise. So, don’t take any chances. If you ever see what you think is the Goodyear Blimp, call the police, call the mayor of your town, call the president, even call your senators – you can never tell.
This U.F.O. blimp was flying by our place yesterday and while Goodyear may not be the most common blimp around these days, many people do report unidentified objects in the sky. In virtually all cases these objects are just waiting more evidence and an explanation.

I know the night sky pretty well and in all my years I have seen just a handful of things that were, for a short while, "unexplained flying objects".

One evening back in the early 90s I was driving westward after sunset, coming home from teaching an astronomy class. I noticed a bright object in the western sky. It was "planet" bright, easily as bright as Jupiter--yet there were no planets in that position. In time I noticed that it was gradually changing position. Thankfully it did not take me too long to get to a telescope. I was amazed to see what it was - a beautiful tear-drop shaped weather balloon with a gleaming instrument package hanging below. I was standing in darkness, yet it was high enough in altitude to be in sunlight. It was an amazing thing to behold.

I few years later I was working at Lake Afton Public Observatory in Wichita, Kansas.  I was in the observing room showing Saturn to a small number of people. I was explaining about its rings and the moons that were visible. A boy was looking through the eyepiece and said that he could see one of them moving. I replied that, yes, they are all moving but they are so far away that you can't actually see them move. He insisted that one of them was moving.

So I took a look and, sure enough, one of them was moving slowly across the field of view. I had no idea what it was, but grabbed the telescope's hand paddle controller and moved the telescope a bit so that the U.F.O. would drift across the field of view.

I gave others a chance to look and for a while I had no idea what this was, that is until I realized that to keep the mystery object in the field of view I had to move the telescope so as to counter its clock drive. The clock drive slowly moves the telescope to counteract Earth's rotation. If I turned off the clock drive the U.F.O. should stay stationary and the stars should slowly drift pass.

That's exactly what I did and what we saw. I had correctly identified the "U.F.O." as a geostationary satellite. We just happened to be looking at the right moment when it was in the same field of view as Saturn - an amazing, but wonderful, coincidence.

There are amazing things to see in the skies, they are sometimes natural phenomena and sometimes created by humans. There is no evidence that aliens are disguising their spaceships as blimps or that they are visiting Earth at all. The recent small asteroid that broke up over Russia demonstrates that when something amazing happens in the sky, there's lots of credible evidence to back up. As Carl Sagan once said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

I provided some proof above of my recent blimp passage, but you'll have to take my word about the U.F.O.s I described.

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