Wednesday, 4 March 2009

MoD publish UFO reports 2008

In February the MoD updated its website with brief details of 285 UFO sightings logged by their ‘UFO desk’ during 2008. This total is more than double the number recorded in 2007 and the highest since 1988 when 397 reports were logged.

But a brief perusal of the list reveals the perceived increase in numbers reflects greater public awareness of UFOs rather than more sightings. All were simply filed away rather than investigated. The majority can be classified as Thai lanterns, aircraft, birds reflecting street lights and meteors. As personal details of the witnesses are removed by the MoD it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to follow up the more interesting cases which may also have straightforward explanations.

The increase in numbers of reports made during the summer months can be traced to the silly season campaign launched by The Sun in June last year. Since then the tabloid has uncritically proclaimed any sighting of a light in the sky or fuzzy photograph submitted by readers as evidence of an imminent alien invasion. Add to this the hype generated by the ongoing release of files at TNA and the TV series Britain’s Closest Encounters (Channel 5), broadcast last summer, and hey presto we have a media created “UFO flap”.

The Sun, 5 February 2009


Meanwhile, Britain’s policy of openness concerning UFO records has had a knock-on effect elsewhere. In January the Royal Danish Air Force opened its archive of reports to the public via a website which allows access to some 15,000 reports covering 30 years. Unfortunately so far this collection is only available in Danish! And across the Atlantic, the Canadians have begun uploading UFO reports from their archive – previously only available on microfilm – onto a website that allows visitors to search by keyword.

Danish UFO archive
Canadian UFO archive

The recent surge in UK UFO reports has highlighted a basic UFOlogical tenet: the fact that people haven’t a clue what can appear in the sky above them. Thus, when the UK is in the grip of a UFO wave any aerial oddity becomes newsworthy, more so if it appears on film. Such was the case with footage of an object seen at Brean,Somerset, in July 2008, sent anonymously to a news website.

The film is indeed most unusual showing a long, dark cylinder rising and falling for over ten minutes at altitude. The usual crop of UFOlogists immediately rushed to its defence, Malcolm Robinson, of Strange Phenomena Investigations, claiming “…research has shown that it is totally consistent with other UFO sightings, none of which have been hoaxes or naturally-occurring phenomena.”

Unfortunately research by proclamation is why UFOlogy is not taken seriously and it was left to Somerset UFO researcher Robert Moore to investigate the likely cause of the sighting. The Brean area is well known for wind-based activities such as kite flying. The object wasn’t a kite but Robert recalled cylindrical balloons marketed as ‘UFO Solar’, and everything began to make sense.

The Brean ‘UFO’ exhibited the appearance and flight characteristics of a UFO Solar: long, cylindrical, dark coloured, rising and falling with changes in air temperature. The balloons are still available from Argos and can even be made at home, as Robert demonstrated in a video on his web site.

Of course it is not 100% certain Robert has solved the case, but when all the facts fit and there is no other likely explanation good UFOlogists know when to draw a line under an investigation and move on.

Daily Telegraph, 12 February 2009

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