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How To Identify UFOs In Thirty Minutes Or Less

Contrary to what the skeptics will tell you, it is possible for anyone to easily identify or distinguish UFOs from any man-made objects and natural phenomena in the sky. Once you've had your first sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) and you've familiarized yourself with the night sky, you'll quickly become a good observer and you'll know exactly what to look for, the next time you're skywatching.

Even when you've had as many sightings as I've had, you can still make mistakes! But you learn to make very few of them because you can't afford to look like a fool in front of your family members, friends...and especially, the public - if and when you decide to report your sighting to the media.

The only mistake I made was embarrassing, to say the least. One particular night, I stood in a field and waved my flashlight at what looked to be a cluster of three lights coming head-on...one large white light flanked by two smaller lights. They were completely silent...until, that is, a few minutes later when they got closer and I heard the distinct sound of a motor. I then realized I was looking at a small plane coming in for a landing at our local airport. It took a few more seconds or so for the aircraft to pass right over my head and I could finally see the flashing wing-tip lights and the anti-collision light on the vertical fin...not to mention hearing the loud roar of the engine!

So before jumping to any conclusions as to what you're seeing, I would suggest that you stay put, look carefully at the object(s) and watch for any tell-tale signs of an earthly origin. Through trial and error, it may take as much as fifteen to thirty minutes to identify a true unknown and set them apart from all the other aerial - and celestial objects in the sky...but only if you use the following checklist of characteristics as a guideline:

1) Shape
2) Color(s)
3) Sound
4) Size
5) Speed
6) Behavior
7) Level of High Strangeness
8) Duration of Sighting

1) Shape

All flying saucers are UFOs but not all UFOs are flying saucers. A UFO's appearance may vary because there are as many models of them as there are of man-made vehicles. Eyewitnesses have reported a number of shapes: cigars, footballs, triangles, rectangles, ovals, balls of light, and so on. The following image contains a large number of these reported objects of unknown origin.

Click on images to enlarge

Commonly reported UFO shapes. (Courtesy ICUFON/NICAP)

A selection of UFOs (some of which are proven hoaxes). (Courtesy ICUFON)

In the less interesting sightings, the object may appear as a bright, white star, preventing you from discerning any specific shape...even if you were to zoom in with binoculars, a telescope or a video camera.* And when it moves away from you, it looks exactly the same as when you first spotted it...a single pinprick of light as bright as Jupiter (at its brightest) or a faint star.

Some objects will have an extended apparent diameter, or "fuzzy" luminosity. Some star-like objects will be motionless for extended periods of time, or will be seen rapidly crossing the sky, possibly with peculiar trajectories.

* When you zoom in for a close-up of any light source with a video camera, you may end up with what is known as the "batman emblem" - a circle with one or two bites taken out at the top and one at the bottom. This is an artifact of the camcorder because the automatic focus of the camera is unable to compensate for the brilliance of the object you're looking at, and as a result, you get a distorted image of the UFO.

"Batman emblem"

2) Color(s)

At night, some UFOs will display very unusual light patterns, as well as shades of colors not typically found on conventional aircraft. You may see a dark oval shape with multicolored lights around its perimeter, or the object itself can be one large, blinding light of one color or another.

The colors may be so vivid that the observer is able to make them out...even in the darkest of night skies. Some of the more commonly reported colors are: red, lime green, sky blue, yellow, amber...and sometimes, pink.

Another good example of these brightly-colored flying objects are the Green Fireballs.

"This is a scrupulously accurate eyewitness painting of a mysterious
green fireball rushing through the night sky over New Mexico . . . by Mrs.
Lincoln LaPaz," LIFE magazine, April 7, 1952.


3) Sound

UFOs, in general, are extremely silent. But there are some cases when an audible sound is heard either before, during or after the sighting of a UFO. What follows is a list of some of the sounds that have accompanied these rare sightings:

A beeping sound - or series of beeps
• sound of a diesel engine
• sound of a washing machine
• a whistling sound
• a whooshing sound
• a humming sound

A Southern Ontario researcher by the name of Lindy Tucker has not only gathered information on such cases, but has been a witness to it, as well.


4) Size

Determining the size of an unknown object is not always easy, especially if the object itself is located quite a distance away from your eyes. But if the object is close enough to the witness, figuring out its approximate size may not be a problem...especially if you have other objects of reference nearby, such as a tree, a house, etc.

In most instances, the object is reported to be the approximate size of an aircraft or larger.

But in cases where a "mother ship" is spotted, the reported size of the object is gigantic. One such case took place in the Yukon Territory on December 11, 1996. A very large object was seen by at least 31 people near Fox Lake.

After several calculations in triangulation, and considering the best six estimates that researchers came up with, the object appears to have been the size of several football stadiums!

5) Speed

Not so well known is the fact that a good number of Unidentified Flying Objects have been tracked on several types of radar instruments which, in turn, have recorded these objects travelling at speeds in excess of 10,000 miles an hour or more.

August 1967 UFO Incident -
Copper Cliff, Ontario, Canada.

One particular event that took place in the Sudbury area happened in late 1967 over the INCO complex in Copper Cliff. Twenty witnesses stood and watched in awe as a UFO maneuvered twice around the middle stack, then proceeded to pass in front of them, travelling at an estimated speed of 15 miles an hour. Shortly thereafter, the object angled up at a 45° angle and sped up into the sky in seconds! The next day, one of the men who worked there contacted the Falconbridge Radar Base and was told that the object had been clocked travelling at the incredible speed of 22,000 miles an hour!

Another perfect example of the incredible acceleration performed by UFOs took place on September 15, 1991 and was captured on film by the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery:

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-48) films UFOs
September 15, 1991, between 20:30 and 20:45 GMT

On September 15, 1991, between 20:30 and 20:45 Greenwich Mean Time, the TV camera located at the back of Space Shuttle Discovery ’s cargo bay was trained on the Earth’s horizon while the astronauts were occupied with other tasks.

A glowing object suddenly appeared just below the horizon and "slowly" moved from right to left and slightly upward in the picture. Several other glowing objects had been visible before this, and had been moving in various directions. Then a flash of light occurred at the lower left of the screen; and the main object, along with the others, changed direction and accelerated away sharply, as if in response to the flash. Shortly thereafter a streak of light moved through the region vacated by the main object, and then another streak moved through the right of the screen, where two of the other objects had been. Roughly 65 seconds after the main flash, the TV camera rotated down, showing a fuzzy picture of the side of the cargo bay. It then refocused, turned toward the front of the cargo bay, and stopped broadcasting.

Clip from NBC broadcast on STS-48 UFOs

Diagram of Traced Trajectories

The distance from the Discovery to the Earth’s horizon is 2,757 kilometers.
The UFO's speed before accelerating into space is 87,000 kph (Mach 73).
Three seconds after the light flash, the UFO changes direction sharply and accelerates off into space at 340,000 kph (Mach 285) within 2.2 seconds.
Such an acceleration would produce 14,000 g of force.

One of the most spectacular video footage of a UFO encounter was taken by cameras on board the Discovery space shuttle, STS-48, on 15 September, 1991. The video sequence was picked up live by a number of amateurs who were directly monitoring the transmissions. The material has been shown in news broadcasts worldwide.

The video shows several small bright objects maneuvering on screen, apparently interacting with one another in a complex fashion. Skeptics have usually insisted these are merely shots of some of the many small ice particles which inevitably end up in orbit with every space shuttle.

UFO investigators were quick to dispute this interpretation, and US scientist Richard C. Hoagland soon conclusively demonstrated the objects were actually large in size and many hundreds of kilometers away from the shuttle.

One UFO in particular appears to rise up from below the Earth’s dawn horizon and can be clearly seen emerging from behind the atmosphere and the ‘airglow’ layers. It is certainly in orbit around the Earth, some distance out in space, and traveling quickly.

A sudden, bright flash of light is then seen to the left of the picture, below the shuttle. The UFO then turns at a sharp angle and heads out into space at very high speed. Two thin beams of light (or possibly condensation trails) move rapidly up from the Earth’s surface towards where the UFO would have been if it had continued in its original orbit.


The light flash and light beams (or contrails) that shoot into space have variously been described as a ground-based attempt to disrupt or destroy the UFO. Hoagland interprets the incident captured by the Discovery's video camera more specifically as a "Star Wars" weapons test against a Star Wars drone (the UFO). Other UFO investigators prefer to describe it as a Star Wars attempt against an extraterrestrial UFO. Whichever version you prefer, the technology implied is most certainly impressive - at least of Star Wars caliber.

More recently, from New Zealand, investigators have reviewed the video and corrected the actual time it was taken. They have found that the UFO incident was recorded over Australia and not the Philippine islands as was originally thought. Discovery's trajectory had already taken it across Surabaya in Java and above the Simpson Desert, Western Australia.

The UFO is first picked up coming over the horizon when the shuttle is close to Lake Carnegie, WA. Later, the light flash and one contrail can be tracked back to Exmouth Bay near the North West Cape military facility. A second contrail can be tracked back to the Pine Gap military facility in central Australia.

US investigators have been asking their Australian counterparts to provide further information which they don't have and which they probably can't get. All the information we have on this incident so far comes from the US or New Zealand.

And, of course, there are Australia's stringent secrecy laws to contend with. The scenario was probably captured on video purely by chance. Along with other UFO incidents recorded on video by NASA, this material has contributed significantly towards NASA's recent decision to discontinue live television transmissions from space.

Reprinted from the September 1995 issue of UFO REPORTER, the quarterly publication of UFO Research (NSW), P.O. Box Q95, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia). The video footage itself (including a detailed investigation of the incident) can be found on the tape "Hoagland’s Mars Vol 2: The UN Briefing (Extended Version)."

* Diagram & text based on/borrowered from: http://www.mufor.org/sts48.htm

6) Behavior

UFOs behave in ways that are not consistant with man-made aircraft. Having the ability to reverse direction without turning around, for instance, is a good example of their technological prowess.

UFOs can also travel at supersonic speeds without causing sonic booms! Others can hover for extended periods of time, then suddenly blink out in the wink of an eye, only to reappear further away, either at a higher altitude or in another part of the sky.

Some observers have reported seeing UFOs moving erratically through the sky in a wavy or zig-zagging fashion. Others have said that the aerial objects they saw would interrupt their continuous flight, hover momentarily, and then continue on their trajectory.

Some UFOs seem to abruptly alter their trajectory during continuous flight to fly slowly above a certain area, circle, or suddenly change course. In other cases, the objects seemed to hover between two periods of motion with "falling-leaf" descent or pendulum motion.

Some UFOs seem to alter their appearance while hovering or accelerating at great speed - e.g. change of luminosity, generation of secondary object(s), etc.

UFOs have been seen flying in formation or swarming among several objects.

On occasion, a UFO's trajectory is affected by nearby conventional aircraft. Pilots have reported that UFOs have performed evasive maneuvers just as their aircraft would get within visual range of the unknown object(s). These reported sightings have led researchers to believe that UFOs have purpose and are under some type of intelligent control.

UFO formations and maneuvers. (Courtesy ICUFON/ACOM)

7) Level of High Strangeness

In the category of High Strangeness, you will find characteristics associated with UFOs that are way outside of the performance envelope of any conventional aircraft. Once you've reached that point of High Strangeness, you can only come to one conclusion: UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin!

As early as the 1950s, UFOs have been captured on infrared cameras! One recent case took place on March 5, 2004, in the Campeche region of Mexico. The video, filmed by pilots using an infrared camera, shows 11 bright objects moving rapidly in the sky. The objects were reported to be invisible to the eye - the pilots turned on the infrared camera to track them after three of them were picked up by the radar.

Some of the objects were reportedly
picked up by air force radar.

There are many other cases when UFOs were visible to the naked eye, and yet, totally undetected by radar instruments!

UFOs have the ability to split in two or more parts. In some rare cases, the object is stationary and produces secondary objects (sometimes referred to as "satellite objects"). In other cases, small lights of various colors have been seen merging with the main object!

It has also been reported that UFOs have the ability to switch themselves off like a light bulb when intercepting military jets would approach them. Once the jets have left the area, the object would then switch itself on again!

UFOs also have the ability to change shape or camouflage themselves as conventional vehicles, which would make it easy for them to perform their "job" without attracting too much attention.

UFOs have the ability to make 90° right angle turns without slowing down, which is something conventional aircraft cannot do.

UFOs have the ability to submerge into lakes and oceans with ease, becoming USOs or Unidentified Submerged Objects. Incredibly, they have been tracked on sonar at depths of 20,000 feet, which is impossible for man-made submersibles because the crush depth of submarines is at 7,000 feet! After being under the water for a certain period of time, they re-surface and fly off at great speed. No power on Earth has this kind of technology!

UFOs also have the ability to "suck" or drain electrical power directly from high voltage lines, which sometimes results in power interruptions or power blackouts. Several such incidents have taken place in the Sudbury area and elsewhere!

UFOs that have been seen on or near the ground have left behind physical traces of various kinds: burn rings, flattened grass, unusual oil-type residues, total dehydration of the soil, landing gear marks that are deep enough to indicate something of tremendous weight. In cases of Close Encounters, UFOs have had physiological effects on witnesses, as well as plants and animals in ways that do not conform with any natural phenomena or man-made devices.

The incredible dimensions of the so-called "Mother Ships", and the way they hover and slowly navigate our skies, not to mention the lack of engine sounds or visible means of propulsion negate the possibility that these are super-secret, experimental aircraft developed by the U.S. military. The sophistication and highly advanced level of technology demonstrated by these otherworldly objects makes it impossible for us to deny their extraterrestrial origin.

If these extremely large and silent objects were truly the product of earth-based technology and development, the United States Air Force would be using these amazing vehicles instead of noisy jet fighters to fight their wars. They would attain absolute control of the air space and they'd have the power to attack any country in the world with impunity!


8) Duration of sighting

Most UFO sightings last only seconds or a few minutes, but there have been many instances when UFOs have remained in full view for an hour or more, giving eyewitnesses the opportunity to observe and "soak in" their observations for an extensive period of time. Then later, when they report their encounter, they can remember everything in great detail.

Unlike a three-second car accident, which is something we normally see and happens fairly frequently and where details can be easily forgotten over time, UFO eyewitnesses will recall every detail of their sighting because it is etched in their minds. When you see something that you are not accustomed to, you remember it forever!

UFO sightings are so much out of the ordinary that the witnesses remember the incident as if it happened yesterday. I've had recent cases where the witnesses have come forward to report things they saw way back in the 1950s! It is something they will remember until the day they die!




9. Description of Craft

Documented extraterrestrial craft (UFOBs) are classified in one of four categories based on general shape, as follows:

a. Elliptical, or disc shape. This type of craft is of a metallic construction and dull aluminum in color. They have the appearance of two pie-pans or shallow dishes pressed together and may have a raised dome on the top or bottom. No seams or joints are visible on the surface, giving the impression of one-piece construction. Discs are estimated from 50-300 feet in diameter and the thickness is approximately 15 per cent of the diameter, not including the dome, which is 30 per cent of the disc diameter and extends another 4-6 feet above the main body of the disc. The dome may or may not include windows or ports, and ports are present around the lower rim of the disc in some instances. Most disc-shaped craft are equipped with lights on the top and bottom, and also around the rim. These lights are not visible when the craft is at rest or not functioning. There are generally no visible antenna or projections. Landing gear consists of three extendible legs ending in circular landing pads. When fully extended this landing gear supports the main body 2-3 feet above the surface at the lowest point. A rectangular hatch is located along the equator or on the lower surface of the disk.

b. Fuselage or cigar shape. Documented reports of this type of craft are extremely rare. Air Force radar reports indicate they are approximately 2 thousand feet long and 95 feet thick, and apparently they do not operate in the lower atmosphere. Very little information is available on the performance of these craft, but radar reports have indicated speeds in excess of 7,000 miles per hour. They do not appear to engage in the violent and erratic maneuvers associated with the smaller types.

c. Ovoid or circular shape. This type of craft is described as being shaped like an ice cream cone, being rounded at the large end and tapering to a near-point at the other end. They are approximately 30-40 feet long and the thick end diameter is approximately 20 per cent of the length. There is an extremely bright light at the pointed end, and this craft usually travels point down. They can appear to be any shape from round to cylindrical, depending upon the angle of observation. Often sightings of this type of craft are elliptical craft seen at an inclined angle or edge-on.

d. Airfoil or triangular shape. This craft is believed to be new technology due to the rarity and recency of the observations. Radar indicates an isosceles triangle profile, the longest side being nearly 300 feet in length. Little is known about the performance of these craft due to the rarity of good sightings, but they are believed capable of high speeds and abrupt maneuvers similar to or exceeding the performance attributed to types "a" and "c".

Theories and False Explanations for UFOs

Throughout the modern age of flying saucers and UFOs, authorities from the scientific community and the military establishment have put forth several theories and proasic explanations for UFO sightings.

Leading skeptics and debunkers also take advantage of these explanations as quick-fix solutions to explain away what people have been reporting for years.

Planets and Stars
Northern Lights
Sprites, Elves and Blue Jets
Weather Balloons and Skyhook Balloons
Temperature Inversion
Lenticular Clouds
Hole-Punch Clouds or Fallstreak Hole
Lens Flare
Sun Dogs and Moon Dogs
Ball Lightning
Swamp Gas
St. Elmo's Fire
Earthquake Lights
Swarm of Glowing Insects
Satellites and the International Space Station
Shooting Stars, Meteors, Fireballs and Bolides
Chinese lanterns

Military Flares

Planets and Stars

If, by any chance, the sighting lasts beyond thirty minutes, I would then record the additional length of time that the object is in sight. If the object is nothing more than a bright source of light that isn't moving, I would suggest that you go outside on consecutive nights and see if the object is still visible at the same location and around the same period of time; if it is, then what you are looking at is a planet!

It is easy to make the distinction between planets and stars. For instance, planets are extremely bright because of their close proximity to us. And because of their brilliance, they are not affected by our atmosphere and they do not twinkle or blink.

Stars, on the other hand, will twinkle in the night sky due to the fact that they are very far away, and the atmosphere that is located between us and them easily affects the visibility, preventing us from having a clear view of them.


Northern Lights

Northern Lights are an atmospheric phenomenon consisting of bands of light caused by charged solar particles following the earth's magnetic lines of force.

Northern Lights

Northern lights look more like curtains of colours and could not possibly take on the shape of a UFO, nor do they behave like one.


Sprites are luminous flashes occurring in the mesosphere, above the cumulonimbus. Approximately 1 storm out of 20 will be powerful enough to generate them up to altitudes of 90 kilometers over a width of 15 kilometers.

First color image of a sprite


Elves can appear with sprites, but always by preceding them, and their duration is more transitory. They are the electromagnetic impulses released by the powerful flashes from which originate the Elves. From lightning, these impulses are propagated in every direction at the speed of light. When the upper part of this "sphere" reaches a critical altitude located between 75 and 100 kilometers, the electrical field conveyed by these impulses then will accelerate the electrons. The latter will strike the gas molecules and will excite them in such a way that they will emit a surplus of light energy in the form of a ring, resulting from the intersection between the spherical propagation and the critical layer. The phenomenon occurs in a manner so fast that this ring will be seen like a flattened disc.


Blue Jets

Blue Jets were observed for the first time in 1994. These conical jets of night-blue light are propagated from the top of the clouds going higher, at a speed approximately 120 kilometers a second and never seems to exceed an altitude of 40 kilometers.

Blue Jets


Weather Balloons and Skyhook Balloons

A weather balloon is used to carry instruments aloft to gather meteorological data in the atmosphere.


Project Skyhook

In 1947, the U.S. Navy began Project Skyhook, which used very large unmanned plastic (polyethylene) balloons to loft research payloads of various kinds (e.g. cosmic ray research) to altitudes of up to 30 km (100,000 ft). The initial prime contractor for the Navy's Skyhook balloons was the Aeronautical Division of General Mills, Inc. Skyhook eventually became a very successful program, and its balloon technology was also used by the Air Force. In fact, the name Skyhook became a synonym for large high-altitude plastic balloons, even if they were launched by other agencies under different programs.

Photo: Office of Naval Research

Skyhook balloon

At low level immediately after launch, the lifting gas (hydrogen or helium) in Skyhook balloons formed a small bubble at the top of the envelope, giving the whole balloon a rather "limp" look. At the lower air pressure at higher altitudes, the gas expanded and eventually filled the whole envelope, which could reach diameters of more than 30 m (100 ft) in some balloon models. High-flying Skyhook balloons provided an excellent stimulus for UFO/"Flying Saucer" sightings, and several balloons, which were lost by the military's visual and radar tracking systems, were "tracked" by following local UFO reports across the continent.

Project Mogul

Project Mogul (sometimes referred to as Operation Mogul) was a top secret project by the US Army Air Forces involving high altitude balloons, whose primary purpose was long-distance detection of sound waves generated by the turbulence of the rising hot air from Soviet atomic bomb tests and ballistic missiles. The project was carried out from 1947 until late 1948 and was obsoleted by seismographs and spy satellites.

Project Gopher

When the Cold War began soon after the Second World War, U.S. military planners had the problem that they had virtually no information about what was going on in vast areas of the Soviet territory. Photo reconnaissance aircraft were used to obtain coverage of areas near the borders, and there were even very few overflights of the Soviet interior in the early 1950s. But these missions were extremely risky, and couldn't provide enough information for a good assessment of Soviet military strength. Satellites were still too far in the future, and therefore reconnaissance balloons were proposed as a solution for the problem.

In July 1950, Charles B. Moore of General Mills had conducted four test flights of Skyhook-type balloons with a camera payload. To the U.S. Air Force he presented the concept of camera-equipped balloons, which could float across the Soviet Union using strong winds (the "jet stream") at very high altitude, above the reach of Soviet air defences. In November 1950, the USAF officially began the development of a balloon reconnaissance system under secret project MX-1594 Gopher.

Design goal for Project Gopher was a balloon, which could carry a 225 kg (500 lb) payload gondola to 21000 m (70,000 ft), and remain there at constant altitude for at least 16 days. Originally it had been hoped that Gopher could conduct the first operational missions by the end of 1951, but this proved to be far too optimistic. A series of test flights in 1952 was only partially successful, mainly because of continuing problems during balloon launch and with payload reliability. Because the USAF was dissatisfied with General Mills' progress, the balloon production contract was terminated in August 1952, and further balloons were ordered from Winzen Research. Project Gopher was a top secret project, but the balloon test flights could obviously not be hidden from the public. Therefore all test flights were officially part of Project Moby Dick (MX-1498), the USAF's unclassified research balloon project. Moby Dick had been started around the same time as Gopher, and used Skyhook balloons to measure global high-altitude wind patterns. Gopher's camera gondolas, which could parachute to earth anywhere after a test flight, were accordingly labeled as Air Force property (together with a fire hazard warning to discourage potential souvenir hunters).

Drawing: USAF

Typical Gopher balloon layout



In July 1953, the USAF finally decided to develop Gopher into the WS-119L operational balloon reconnaissance system, codenamed Grandson. In spring 1955, WS-119L was finally ready for operational training, and the program's code name was changed again, to Grayback. Between May and October that year, more than a hundred WS-119L balloons were launched under operation "Moby Dick Hi" (as usual, the Moby Dick name was used as cover). Although only 11 successful mid-air recoveries were made in 33 attempts, WS-119L was considered ready for use at the end of 1955. President Eisenhower gave approval to begin the overflights in January 1956, but had the flight altitude of the balloons limited to 16800 m (55,000 ft). This was reportedly done, because the higher-flying Lockheed U-2 aircraft was under development at that time, and the Soviets should get no unnecessary motivation to develop new very high-altitude interceptor aircraft and missiles before the U-2 had begun its overflight program.

Photo: Robert Burch

Launch of WS-119L balloon

Whether we're talking ordinary weather balloons or the types launched by the Navy, these objects go up and down and are at the mercy of the winds. They cannot move from side to side, hover or even accelerate from 0 to 10,000 miles an hour (or more) like UFOs do.


Temperature Inversion

A temperature inversion is a meteorological condition that happens on clear, cold, still evenings and is caused by radiation cooling of the ground which occurs faster than the cooling of the air right above ground giving you a layer of warm air above cooler air. This prevents pollutants and other airborne substances from escaping into the atmosphere.


Lenticular Clouds

Lenticular clouds, technically known as altocumulus standing lenticularis, are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction.


Hole-Punch Clouds or Fallstreak Hole

A leading hypothesis holds that the hole-punch cloud is caused by falling ice-crystals. The ice-crystals could originate in a higher cloud or be facilitated by a passing airplane exhaust. If the air has just the right temperature and moisture content, the falling crystals will absorb water from the air and grow. For this to happen, the water must be so cold that all it needs is a surface to freeze on. The moisture lost from the air increases the evaporation rate from the cloud water droplets so they dissipate to form the hole. The now heavier ice crystals continue to fall and form the more tenuous wispy cloud-like virga seen inside and just below the hole. Water and ice from the virga evaporates before they reach the ground.

From left to right: A hole-punch cloud over Mobile, Alabama - December 11, 2003; A hole-punch cloud over Alabama - January 12, 2004;
A fallstreak hole visible over Omarama, New Zealand in May 2006 and a
fallstreak hole over Austria - August 2008.


Lens Flare

Lens flare is created when non-image forming light enters the lens and subsequently hits the camera's film or digital sensor. This often appears as a characteristic polygonal shape, with sides which depend on the shape of the lens diaphragm.

Photograph of NASA lunar lander containing lens flare.

Lens flare in a CCTV camera.


Sun Dogs and Moon Dogs

A sun dog (scientific name parhelion, plural parhelia, i.e. "beside the sun") is a common bright circular spot on a solar halo. It is an atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Often, two or more sundogs can be seen on opposite sides of the sun simultaneously. Sometimes called "Mock Suns".

Sun dogs

These patches of light are occasionally seen around a very bright, full moon. In that case, they are called moon dogs.

Moon dogs

Sometimes, a luminous circle or halo can be seen around the sun or moon, and is caused by the refraction of light through crystals of ice in the atmosphere. There are often white bands, crosses, or arches connected with halos, resulting from the same atmospheric conditions.

Moon halo


Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning (BL or Kugelblitz, Boules de Feu) is recognised by science but has eluded attempts at a generally accepted explanation. It can range from high intensity ones like this one through to semi-transparent orbs or other shapes of white or coloured plasma light. Earth Lights may be of a similar nature or perhaps of another kind of process altogether. Ball Lightning occurs most often during thunderstorm activity.

Having once been a witness to ball lightning, which is a rare event in itself, I can tell you that the phenomenon doesn't last more than a few seconds and could not possibly account for any UFO sighting because of the way it looks and behaves.


Swamp Gas

Swamp gas or marsh gas is a gaseous product, chiefly methane, formed from decomposing vegetable matter, as in marshes. The late J. Allen Hynek had used the term "swamp gas" to explain away a rash of UFO sightings that took place in Michigan in 1966. It is said that he later regretted this statement when he became convinced that there was something to UFOs.


St. Elmo's Fire

St. Elmo's fire is a popular name for so-called coronal discharge, which frequently happens during thunderstorms. Unlike lightning, coronal discharge is much less spectacular and less transient in nature. It looks like a blueish flame or glow engulfing tall sharp objects, such as powerlines, roof pinnacles, chimneys, and lightning rods. Unless the electric field is extremely strong, the glow is only visible at night, but can still be heard during the day as a hissing or crackling sound.

St Elmo's fire, or coronal discharge, is a
weakly luminous continuous discharge
caused by strong electric fields near sharp objects.


Earthquake Lights

Earthquake lights are a strange luminous phenomena that preceeds earthquakes. They have also been used as an explanation for some of the UFO reports in the recent past. But once you compare the behavior of these lights with that of UFOs, you will notice a distinct diference between the two phenomena.

Luminous phenomena at Tianshui, Gansu Province,
just before an earthquake - May 12 2008.

Dr. Michael Persinger, neuroscientist at Laurentian University here in Sudbury, Ontario, offered the tectonic strain theory or Earthlight theory to explain away UFO sightings. Most scientists have disagreed with his theory and are not even contemplating the idea that such lights of short duration can account for UFO sightings.


Swarm of Glowing Insects

As crazy as it sounds, a "swarm of glowing insects" indeed was used as an explanation for the reported sightings of flying saucers in the 1940s and 1950s. But as we all know, fireflies cannot sustain a continuous glow, nor can they fly at high speeds at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet.


Satellites and the International Space Station

A satellite is any object, man-made or natural, that orbits the Earth. In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavor. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon.

To the naked eye, satellites will appear as a single light source with the same brilliance as a star. These objects move in a straight trajectory, as they follow the curvature of the earth within their respective orbits. They are always white in color and there are no flashing lights visible.

Geosynchronous satellite

Also called geostationary, or simply GEO, it refers to the movement of communications satellites where the satellite circles the globe over the equator, in a movement that is synchronized with the earth's rotation. Because of this synchronization, the satellite appears to be stationary, and they also offer continuous operation in the area of visibility. These types of satellite are said to have a geostationary orbit, and it is the most common type of orbit for communications satellites. Bird is the slang term given to a communications satellite that is in geosynchronous orbit.

The International Space Station

Orbiting some 240 miles above the Earth, it's one of the brightest objects in the night sky, comparable in size to Venus or Jupiter. And just like artificial satellites, it moves in a straight trajectory and does not have any flashing lights.



Comets are small Solar System bodies that orbit the Sun and, when close enough to the Sun, exhibit a visible coma (or atmosphere) and/or a tail — both primarily from the effects of solar radiation upon the comet's nucleus. Comet nuclei are themselves loose collections of ice, dust and small rocky particles, measuring a few kilometres or tens of kilometres across.

Comets originate in the outer solar system; they are thrown inwards towards the Sun by gravitational perturbations from planets or nearby stars. They have a variety of different orbital periods, ranging from a few years, to 50 or 100 years, to thousands of years, while some are believed to pass through the inner Solar System only once before being thrown out into interstellar space.

The comets move through the sky on an extent of several days.

Comet Hyakutake (March, 1996)


Comet Hale-Bopp (April, 1997)


Shooting Stars, Meteors, Fireballs and Bolides

A shooting star or meteor is a streak of light in the sky at night that results when a meteoroid hits the earth's atmosphere and air friction causes the meteoroid to melt or vaporize or explode.

A Perseid meteor passes close to the red star Epsilon Eridani.

A meteoroid is a small sand to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar system. The visible path of a meteoroid that enters Earth's (or another body's) atmosphere is a meteor, commonly called a "shooting star" or "falling star". Many meteors are part of a meteor shower. The root word meteor comes from the Greek meteo-ros, meaning high in the air.

A fireball is brighter than a usual meteor. The International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as "a meteor brighter than any of the planets" (magnitude -4 or greater). Usually, fireballs streak across the sky in a matter of seconds, but can leave a faint ionization trail visible for minutes.


Astronomers tend to use the term bolide to mean an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes (sometimes called a detonating fireball).


A meteorite is a portion of a meteoroid or asteroid that survives its passage through the atmosphere and impact with the ground without being destroyed. Meteorites are sometimes, but not always, found in association with hypervelocity impact craters; during energetic collisions, the entire impactor may be vaporized, leaving no meteorites.


Chinese Lanterns

Chinese lanterns have also been used to explain away some UFO sightings. But these devices are very light, and will float in whatever direction the wind is blowing in. UFOs, on the other hand, have been known to fly against the wind, or even hover during very windy conditions, day or night.

Chinese lanterns



Unless you are unfamiliar with aircraft and how they appear in the night sky, determining whether or not you are looking at an airplane or at a UFO can easily be accomplished.

Light Configurations On Aircraft

At first sight, it is true that it can be difficult to tell the difference between a UFO and a common object such as a plane or a helicopter during the night. But once you've become accustomed to seeing aircraft at night, it'll be a cinch to do so.

In order to easily distinguish a UFO from a man-made aircraft, it is important to be able to recognize aircraft by their light patterns and configurations.

The CIA has claimed that during the 1960s, sightings of UFOs were attributed to flights of the U2 Spy Plane. If one is to take a closer look at this aircraft, the first noticeable feature of this aiplane are its large wings. The simple fact that the U2 flew at extremely high altitudes made it impossible for anyone to see it from the ground. And the shape of it is easily recognizable...unlike that of a UFO, which is why it is called an Unidentified flying object.

Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane

UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and military drones have also been used to explain away UFO reports. Although they come in different sizes and shapes and are highly technological devices developed for the USAF and other agencies, UAVs and drones are remotely-operated vehicles that are incapable of hovering in total silence.

Left: RQ-1 Predator MAE UAV. Right: RQ-3A DarkStar Tier III Minus

Left: CL-327 Guardian. Right: Tacit Blue

Note that most of these UAVs have fixed wings and do not look anything like the types of UFOs that witnesses, worldwide, have reported or described. Although they are exotic in their appearance and manner of flight, these remote-controlled vehicles do not have the same flight characteristics as genuine UFOs and flying saucers.


Military Flares

A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signaling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications. Flares may be ground pyrotechnics, projectile pyrotechnics, or parachute-suspended to provide maximum illumination time over a large area. Projectile pyrotechnics may be dropped from aircraft, fired from rocket or artillery, or deployed by flare guns or handheld percussive tubes.

Illumination rounds are fired during Operation Tora Arwa V in the Kandahar province
during Operation Enduring Freedom. The illumination rounds were fired from M777
howitzers and are used to help illuminate a certain area the soldiers need to see.

Flares dropped by a flight of A-10 Warthogs was the explanation used to explain away the famous Phoenix Lights which were witnesses by hundreds of people on March 13, 1997.


Flares launched by an F-16 at dusk

F-16 dropping flares

Flares dropped by a military plane
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