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Science Column

can dazzle the eye, at times appearing

Lights seen at night A type of rotating reflective kite called
t Nocturnal lights Bright
the UFO SAM has also made its own
Usually oval or disc-like contributions to sightings. Further, small
t Daylight disks decorative hot air balloons called Sky
Those detected by radar Lanterns or UFO Balloons have joined
t Radar-visual the list of culprits, generating reports of
Visual sightings of an orange-coloured ‘saucer fleets.’
t Close encounters of the 1st kind
unidentified object If real alien spacecraft were whizzing
around in orbit they would rapidly be
Visual sightings plus physi- noticed both by amateur satellite spot-
t Close encounters of the 2nd kind cal effects on animate and ters and by defence radars.
inanimate objects A new breed of UFO culprits is a
series of satellites launched to relay
Sightings of occupants in or signals for the Iridium mobile phone
t Close encounters of the 3rd kind around the UFO system. There are over 70 of these,
launched since May 1997, and they
it was stated that, usually, a descrip-
tion such as “it seemed to hover for an
hour” is diagnostic of a star or planet
(people get fed up watching after about
an hour, or the object sets). Often there

UFOs and ET Brothers

are other descriptions such as “flashing
coloured lights” or “it appeared to be
rotating” which is how bright stars ap-
pear when they are twinkling, notably
Sirius on a cold, frosty night. Binocu-
lars do not always help identification
“If you’ve never seen a UFO, you’re not very observant. And if you’ve seen as many as I have, if they happen to be cheap and with
you won’t believe in them.” Arthur C. Clarke optical defects that produce spurious
colours and shapes.
An interesting thing is that many
Madhuparna Bhattacharjee The scientific study of it, called Ufol- UFOs became a major subject of in- people do not realize that stars rise and
ogy can be described as the mythology terest following the development of set during the night. So, information
“If you’ve never seen a UFO, you’re of the space age. rocketry after World War II and since such as, ‘it wasn’t there before’ or ‘it
not very observant. And if you’ve Just as fairytales talk of fairies and then were thought by some researchers appeared to move slowly’ are still con-
seen as many as I have, you won’t be- angels, Ufology talks of extraterrestri- to be intelligent extraterrestrial forms sistent with characteristics of stars and
lieve in them.” Arthur C. Clarke als (ET), which seems to be a much of life, visiting planet Earth. planets. Thin clouds can make stars
Just in the recent past, many of you more familiar term. Can we call it the Almost every civilization that has appear to dim and brighten, as if they
must have followed news channels product of the creative imagination? kept a written history has recorded the were receding or approaching.
and newspapers across the world It is not that UFO is a latest con- sighting of strange objects and lights Another delicate effect, technical-
carrying news of an UFO sighted in cept. American Kenneth Arnold had in the skies. Today, unexplained aerial ly known as the Autokinetic Effect,
Mexico. I watched it on TV and the claimed a UFO sighting way back in phenomena are generally referred to makes natural movements of the eye
entire thing seemed to be pretty inter- the year 1947 on June 24, near Mount as unidentified flying objects or flying make stationary object appear to move
esting. Do most of us actually know Rainier, Washington. Arnold claimed saucers. irregularly, sometimes zooming up and
the real story behind these objects, to have seen as many as nine brightly Descriptions of UFOs have ranged down or swinging from side to side.
like what they are, where do they lit objects soaring across the sky at from glowing wheels to coloured balls Interestingly, planet Venus, the big-
come from, etc etc.? speeds he estimated up to 1200 miles of light to cigar-, disk-, or crescent- gest UFO culprit of all, popularly
According to layman’s term, an Un- per hour. He had also reported that the shaped objects. known as the ‘evening star’ (although
identified Flying Object or a UFO is objects appeared to have disc or ‘sau- Just the other day, while surfing it can also appear in the morning sky as
any flying object or phenomenon that cer’ shaped. It is after this that the term through various websites, I came the ‘morning star’), is the biggest ob-
cannot be identified by an observer. ‘Flying Saucer’ became so popular. across Ian Ridpath’s UFO page, where ject in the night sky after the moon. It

 June 08