Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

top navigation:

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008 | ISSN 1556-5696

eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

Share this eSkeptic with friends online. Subscribe | Donate | Watch Lectures | Shop



Physics of the Impossible now on DVD

One hundred years ago, scientists would have said that lasers, televisions, and the atomic bomb were beyond the realm of physical possibility. In this lecture, based his new book, Physics of the Impossible, the renowned physicist Michio Kaku explores to what extent technologies and devices deemed equally impossible today might become commonplace in the future. READ more…

ORDER the DVD


In this week’s eSkeptic, Tony Ortega debunks the Phoenix Lights: the mysterious “vee” configuration that people reported seeing flying over the state of Arizona in March 1997.

Ortega became editor of the Village Voice in March, 2007. Prior to that he was a writer or editor at several alternative newsweeklies, including Phoenix New Times, Kansas City’s The Pitch, and New Times Broward — Palm Beach. He is originally from Los Angeles, has had a lifelong interest in astronomy and other sciences, and over his career has debunked not only the Phoenix Lights, but also a well-known Wyatt Earp historian who turned out to be fabricating his sources, as well as various “new religions.”


The Phoenix Lights Explained (Again)

by Tony Ortega

UFOs make great ratings, so it isn’t surprising that NBC’S Dateline aired a special on Sunday, May 18, entitled 10 Close Encounters Caught on Tape. To its credit, the NBC program at least made an attempt to provide prosaic explanations for each of the events it presented. In most cases, those explanations were actually pretty good, and the “UFO experts” for the most part came off as yahoos.

But when I realized that they were saving “the #1 UFO event caught on tape!” for last — the lame Phoenix Lights, the 1997 event that I helped debunk years ago as a reporter in Arizona, I prepared myself for yet another time that so-called journalists wouldn’t get even the most basic facts right. I wasn’t disappointed.

For starters, there were two separate events on the night of March 13, 1997 over the skies of Arizona. The mysterious “vee” configuration of lights that so many people across the state witnessed was seen over Prescott at about 8:15 p.m. and traveled south to Phoenix at about 8:30 and then passed over Tucson at 8:45. That’s 200 miles in thirty minutes which means the vee was moving at about 400 miles per hour. Some early eyewitnesses perceived that it was high in the sky, others swore it was low and moving very slowly. (And I mention “early” purposely. As the months passed, more and more elaborate — and ridiculous — claims were made by eyewitnesses who were clearly trying to one-up each other.) As I’ve pointed out many times, the eyeball is a poor instrument for judging the altitude of point sources of light in a night sky. Simple physics, however, suggests the vee was high in the sky and moving very fast, even if it looked like it was moving slowly due to the altitude.

This kind of image is widely assumed to be the “vee” or first incident.
It actually shows the later flares. (This is a digital recreation.)

The images of the Phoenix Lights presented on the web further confuse the fact that two different incidents happened. The first incident, the original “vee,” passed overhead with almost no one photographing or filming it. Only one video seems to exist, and since it was shot of an overhead object it does not show a cityscape. This film was never promoted by UFO enthusiasts, perhaps because it doesn’t show the famous optical illusion of the “dark triangle.”

Most of the photos and video of the lights were taken of the second incident — the flares — as people came out in response to the first. These images show the flares in an arc over the Phoenix cityscape, which is sometimes confused with the earlier, overhead “vee.”

As I first revealed in the Phoenix New Times, a young man with a 10-inch Dobsonian telescope, Mitch Stanley, spotted the vee from his backyard, and saw that it was a formation of airplanes. Using a magnification of 60X — which essentially put him 60 times closer to the vee than people only using their naked eyes — Stanley could see that each light in the sky was actually a double, with one light under each squarish wing. The planes still looked small in his scope — suggesting they were flying at high altitude — and he didn’t know what type they were. But there was no doubt, he told me, that they were planes.

After his sighting, Stanley tried to contact a Phoenix city councilwoman who was making noise about the event, as well as a couple of UFO flim-flam men working the local scene, but he was rebuffed. I was the first reporter to talk to him, and, as a telescope builder myself, I made a thorough examination of his instrument and his knowledge of it. (For the inexperienced: a Dobsonian telescope is much easier to move than the typical department store scope; it’s child’s play for an experienced observer like Stanley to get a good look at passing planes at altitude.) And he had a witness: he had told his mother, who was standing nearby, that the lights were planes. After my story, the Arizona Republic also found his story credible and wrote about it.

On the night of March 13, news of the 8:30 pm sighting traveled fast, so a large number of people were outside with video cameras when the second and unrelated event, at about 10 pm, happened in the sky southwest of Phoenix. A string of lights appeared in the sky, and slowly sank until they disappeared behind the nearby Estrella Mountain range. This was later shown to be a string of flares dropped by the Maryland Air National Guard over the North Tac military range. Dr. Lynne Kitei, featured prominently on the Dateline program, can repeat all she wants to NBC and other media that these lights were magical and “intelligent” and later showed up just outside her living room window, but the videotapes taken that night by many people show without a doubt that this was a string of mundane lights that fell and disappeared behind the range, exactly as a string of flares dropped by the military planes would have.

The problem developed later when people conflated reports of the two sightings. For the many people who had seen the earlier vee pass directly over their heads, the explanation of the flares made no sense whatsoever. News organizations didn’t differentiate between the two events or report on the Stanley identification — even the Republic stopped referring to its earlier solid reporting on the Lights and began promoting it as “unexplained.”

To this day, programs like Dateline invariably question people who saw the earlier “vee” event, and quote them saying that flares couldn’t possibly explain what they saw. They are right. They didn’t see flares, they saw a formation of planes. Dateline repeatedly showed people talking about their memories of the 8:30 vee while showing video of the 10 pm flares. Talk about misleading.

There was at least one person who videotaped both the 8:30 vee and the later event. I saw his tape myself. It clearly showed the five lights of the 8:30 vee moving in relation to each other, exactly as you’d expect in a formation of airplanes.

As for the people who swore they saw a black triangular shape joining the five lights of the vee, that’s a classic contrast effect of the human eye. In a very telling case, a man who swore he saw a black shape joining the lights of the vee saw it pass directly in front of the moon. At that point, he saw not a black shape but wavy lines pass over the undimmed moon. But rather than conclude that he’d seen the contrails of planes, the man, whose perception had already been heavily influenced by the UFO explanation concluded instead that the pilot of the alien craft had turned his spaceship transparent right at that moment so the man could see the moon through it. How convenient!

SUBSCRIBE to eSkeptic and get free science articles in your inbox once a week.

Part of what fueled so much confusion over the Phoenix Lights event was the input from a couple of UFO “investigators” on the scene — one of whom was literally put of business after my stories about him came out. For example, when it became obvious that the hundreds of people who saw the vee pass overhead had many different ideas about it — some said it was just over their heads, other said it was high in the sky, and no one could agree on the colors of the lights — instead of concluding that human beings naturally come up with different perceptions of the same event, these UFOlogists instead began to promote the idea that everyone had seen different vees! Again, going by the early reports, there was no doubt that a single vee crossed over the state that night in about a half-hour. But by the time the UFOlogists were through, the credulous came to believe that Phoenix was practically under attack by dozens of mile-wide triangular space-cruisers!

Also at fault was the local TV news fraternity, which not only couldn’t get the basic facts straight, but also cynically exploited the event for ratings. We’re still dealing with the misconceptions they promoted, such as…

Claim: The vee made no sound. (Not true. I talked to witnesses in Prescott, a quieter environment, who clearly heard jet noise.)

Claim: The vee didn’t show up on radar. (None of the UFO investigators bothered to ask for tapes from the FAA in Albuquerque, whose officials at the time told me they only kept tapes for 11 days. So we’ll never know what the radar picture looked like that night.)

Claim: The 10 pm lights fell in front of the mountain range, so they couldn’t be flares dropped in the distance by military planes (Videotapes taken by observers from higher elevations in the Valley saw the flares for a longer period of time than those who were in lower places, confirming that the flares dropped behind the Estrellas.)

Perhaps it’s a good thing that NBC has now declared this the numero uno UFO sighting of all time. Few sightings have been so thoroughly investigated by reporters, and so well debunked. But you won’t hear that from the networks, who can’t get enough of the ratings that come with “the unexplained.”


Dr. Gregory Benford will be speaking on Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm

lecture this weekend!

Beyond Human:
Living with Robots & Cyborgs

with Dr. Gregory Benford & Dr. Elisabeth Malartre

Sunday, May 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech

Concepts once purely fiction — robots, cyborg parts, artificial intelligence —  are becoming part of everyday reality. Soon robots will be everywhere, performing surgery, exploring hazardous places, making rescues, fighting fires, and handling heavy goods…

READ MORE about this lecture >

Important ticket information

Tickets are first come first served at the door. Sorry, no advance ticket sales. Seating is limited. $8 Skeptics Society members & Caltech/JPL Community; $10 General Public.


new this week on MichaelShermer.com
a Scientific American extravaganza!

This week on MichaelShermer.com we’ve made available the four most recent Scientific American columns written by Michael Shermer.

51 Comments »

51 Comments

  1. Sablicious says:

    Hmmm… I agree on the second incident being more than likely flares — seems obvious.
    But what of the “vee” shaped sighting? How does one explain:

    a) Why the government didn’t proffer a valid explanation for all the hysteria if it was nothing but mere planes flying in formation?

    b) What the ‘orange, orbicular, swirling lights’ were and how they pertain to conventional aircraft?

    c) Why these ‘lights’ did not emit glare as conventional lights tend to and why they dimmed out completely at times? (Something that navigation lights would not do).

    d) The varying [perceived] duration of the event (flyby) where some assert hours while you yourself only minutes?

    e) The reputable persons’ (air-traffic controllers, military personnel etc) accounts of the incident being in line with what attention-seeking, easily ridiculed ‘average Joes’ were spouting?

    Moreover, seeing as how seemingly indubitable your acceptance of what that one solitary fellow (kid?) with the telescope apparently perceived the sighting as being (ie. airplanes) as fact over what hundreds of others contradict (interesting to see how a judicial system like that would work!), your skepticism* seems to err dangerously over into subjective territory. Not to mention the not so subtle sarcasm you display when referring to the the possibility of the incident being of a *gasps* extraterrestrial origin. <_<

    (*http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=skeptic)

    • RobertWagner says:

      Don’t bother searching for answers from this “debunker” who’s ignoring whatever he wants just to get his “theory” sustained!
      I’m pretty sure he’s able to explain the BigBang just as easy!

    • Geneviève says:

      It’s an excellent comment. I think skepticism is not to ridiculate, or refuse. It is to ask questions and not admit any pseudo-scientific affirmation. The author of this article is not a skeptic. He is a non-believer.

      • Adam says:

        When the subject matter is considered ‘ridiculous’ it doesnt matter what the conclusion is for debunking (Weather ballon, swamp gas, the planet venus) actually is. The childish explanation
        Is considered ‘best fit’ and whats more people believe it.

        If you were to look at all the evidence in the case report objectively and scientifically you would and
        could not reach the conclusion of anything other than that which was reported my the thousands
        of witnesses.

  2. Will Gleisberg says:

    Very nicely written. Just want to add that I am very disappointed that skeptics and debunkers always have to be sarcastic about such things they disagree on. I cannot recall a single person belonging to the camp of believers scoffing or being insulting in any way. But the fore mentioned skeptics and debunkers ALWAYS speak the same language, always with the same tone and with the same insulting half grin that clearly states “You are either a fool or a liar. Is it actually possible that you could be any more ridiculous?”. Like those two horrible men you always have to endure on every recent UFO doc. broadcast on tv. The first being the silver-haired gentlemen from S.E.T.I., and the awful editor of ‘skeptic’ magazine. They MUST be heard. They MUST debunk. They MUST ridicule. Why? Again, I simply cannot remember a single ‘believer’ being so psychotic in there insistence that one believe what they want them to. “Can’t we just get along here?” Grin!
    Anyway, I find it humorous and typical that thousands of witnesses be ignored in favor of “one young man with a 10-inch Dobsonian telescope, Mitch Stanley”. The lights I have seen, IF they had been single aircraft flying directly to wards me, would have either passed overhead eventually, or would have veered off their ‘perfectly’ straight course. Wouldn’t they? I saw neither. I heard neither.
    I could go on with more than a dozen reasons why I believe the debunkers are incorrect, either unintentionally or otherwise…but it’s all been said before. I WILL state a couple of favorites however, first being the computer analysis(I believe it was a histogram?)where every known light source in the area was proved to have a graphical variance while the orbs presented a straight line graph, and the final conclusions that there were no independent movements, no smoke and no glare onto any parachutes. This has been confirmed over and over again. There are so many tests that have been made, and personally, I didn’t make myself believe due to hype, I took my time to study what evidence there was available and finally had NO CHOICE but to whole-heartedly believe that the DEBUNKERS are the fools and liars. And nope, I do NOT have a smirk on my face right now! I WILL NOT lose any sleep if Mr. Ortega or anybody else can’t except my views. I have made MY decision based on learning what has been discovered and I won’t be over zealous or overbearing if you feel differently. One of these days, soon, I believe, one camp or the other is destined for a real eye-popper! Which will it be? I really don’t care!! Just, enough with the sarcasm, Mr. Ortega and all other ‘Phil Klass wannabees’. That makes YOU look foolish.
    Thanx much,
    ciao

    • stacey says:

      I have been reading about is and watching somethings about it…. I know its weird but I would like to ask you about it since you were there. Ive become very interested in the “Phoenix Lights” and cant stop googling it and trying to learn more about it. Look Im not crazy or pulling your leg. Please email some time at staceymilbrandt@gmail.com. I live in Iowa. Looking forward to hearing from you and about your amazing experience! Please take me seriously

  3. cindy says:

    Just one question — if those were airplanes fling overhead trailing lights, why didnt the pilots of those aircraft come forward and admit flying overhead that night? Wouldnt that simple explanation have been pretty easy to obtain? Wouldn’t there be records of a flight formation over the PHoenix skies that evening? Or are MItch and his mother the only ones who have that knowledge? Ortega is relying on second hand information that he immediately trusts, without, it seems, researching the back up data to reach a conclusion. Where’s the data, Ortega? I’m happy to believe whomever comes up with the most reasonable explanation with the most irrefutable evidence – and Ortega has the burden of proof now – so prove your statements, man. I’m all eyes and ears.

  4. james says:

    A lot of fluff here…

    Nothing was debunked. A couple “stories” and quote some tv shows, get real. Hundreds/Thousands of witnesses from all walks of life see it- The governor of AZ even lied about it when it happened. And he’s finally speaking out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLUAhVkGmj0

    Just like the many military officers and astronauts that speak out. Ahh.. yes they are all delusional expect the skeptics. that’s naive and arrogance.

  5. Brian says:

    A few questions for the debunkers:

    1) How did a formation of planes travel 400 miles in 30 minutes?
    2) If it was planes in formation, did they pass through restricted airspace as reported? If so, why wasn’t an investigation conducted?
    3) If it was planes in formation radar returns were available for 11 days, why weren’t they reviewed, saved and shown to the public?
    4) Why wasn’t triangulation used on all the available video of the 10 o’clock “flares”. This would prove if they were in front or behind the mountain range?
    5) The air traffic controller did not see anything on radar during the “flares”. Why didn’t he see the military plane that just dropped them?
    6) Why do debunkers only give answers and never have any questions? Are they really that much smarter than the rest of us?

  6. Inanna says:

    Its like these so called scientists – lets call them what they are – rigid dogmatists for a new religion of atheism and pseudo-rationalism are completely condescending to hundreds of adult people who have experienced normal behaviors of this reality all their lives – as if they cannot tell the difference between the normal and abnormal – as if they are children, while at the same time basing the whole “debunking argument” on one childs(!) testimony! Its patronizing, condescending, arrogant, offensive and disgusting.

    On 24 September 1235, while General Yoritsume was camping with his army, mysterious sources of light were suddenly seen to swing and circle in the southwest, moving in loops until the early morning. The General ordered what we would now call a ’full-scale scientific investigation’. His consultants finally reported that the event had a completely natural explanation: it was only the wind making the stars sway [4]!”
    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cienciareal/cienciareal10a.htm#3.%20Extraterrestrial%20v.%20extradimensional

  7. Random Guy says:

    Just wanted to take some time to respond to some of the comments here since it looks like the skeptical point of view isn’t being represented (where’s the fun in that?).

    -“The varying [perceived] duration of the event (flyby) where some assert hours while you yourself only minutes?”

    Seeing an object at 8:15 and then thinking you saw the same object at 10 you would assert the incident lasted over several hours. Also notice how Mr. Ortega specifies that he was looking for sources that were reported closer to the event. This is because over time eyewitness recollections become less reliable even in the case of first person, honest accounts. This is why for historical research it is so important to collect information closer to the event (diaries, new articles, etc).

    -“The lights I have seen, IF they had been single aircraft flying directly to wards me, would have either passed overhead eventually, or would have veered off their ‘perfectly’ straight course. Wouldn’t they? I saw neither. I heard neither.”

    Of the two events that Mr. Ortega mentions in the article it seems like perhaps you witnessed the 10pm flares? That would explain why they never passed overhead, made no sound, etc… Also the article states that the earlier sightings were a formation of planes, not a solitary aircraft.

    “seeing as how seemingly indubitable your acceptance of what that one solitary fellow (kid?) with the telescope apparently perceived the sighting as being (ie. airplanes) as fact over what hundreds of others contradict”

    It seems pretty obvious that if thousands of people were to see something that is unexplained and one person notices something that explains it, that persons observation trumps all of the unexplained ones. I can’t really think of a good analogy, but it reminds me a bit of a magic trick. One person with a different vantage point can trump the claims of the rest of an audience claiming that an object has really disappeared, even though they are more numerous.

    -“…first being the computer analysis(I believe it was a histogram?)where every known light source in the area was proved to have a graphical variance while the orbs presented a straight line graph”

    The only reference to computer analysis of the light sources that I can find were the spectral analysis performed by Jim Dilettoso who concluded that the lights could not have come from a man made source and did not match any known flares. It has been pointed out that you can’t do spectrum analysis from a photograph because the rendering of the photography (digitally or through photography) changes the information from the original light source.

    -“How did a formation of planes travel 400 miles in 30 minutes?”

    It traveled 200 miles not 400 miles in 30 minutes according to the article. That’s 400 mph or about Mach .5, about the speed of a 747 and easily achievable by jets flying in formation.

    -“pseudo-rationalism are completely condescending to hundreds of adult people who have experienced normal behaviors of this reality all their lives – as if they cannot tell the difference between the normal and abnormal – as if they are children”

    Experience by no means guarantees that our perception of something will be more objective. In fact in many cases the opposite is true. We overlay our experience on our perception of the world creating biases in what we observe. As Mark Twain put it “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

    Hope this helps. I don’t think that skeptics mean to come across as condescending. It’s just that in their line of work they encounter the same arguments over and over and I think it becomes a bit frustrating. Whereas within the believers’ camp there is so much speculation that the creativity involved is probably much more stimulating.

  8. Edgin Putermon says:

    Mr.Ortega you are dumb, so dumb you can’t see pass it. Reporting is one thing, experiencing it is quite another. You came to this story with a mindset that left you out, and all you can do is throw rocks. Shame. If you honestly believe it was only flares, or planes flying in formation, you have made my point.

  9. Mike Evans says:

    I notice that Edgin Putermon is an anagram of demon gripe nut. Kinda says it all.

  10. StevenErnest says:

    What fascinates me is the psychology of why people believe in ufo’s, etc. I think people want to think they can trust their senses, and there is a human desire to be right.

    Many people live lives of quiet desperation, and having an amazing vision, especially with a group of people, takes them out of the mundane, and adds something special to their lives; they were allowed to participate and witness an “amazing event.”

    Another claim is that this was a secret test of a new military plane, not a ufo. But if so: why did it have those bright lights? Running lights? Not very stealthy. Also: why fly over a heavily populated city? Finally, it would be impossibly large for a man-made craft.

    I’ve communicated with a fairly well-known journalist who covers Microsoft products; he saw one of the events. An otherwise rational man. Part of his reply: “I mean no offense. …And I am absolutely not interested in debating it with someone who didn’t see it…” At least he basically concluded that it was unknown, and not necessarily an alien craft.

    I would appreciate anyone’s feedback on the psychology of this phenomenon.

    • marky says:

      I whole-heartedly concur with the observation that the psychology of these sighting events is of great importance and should be investigated as much as the circumstances of the events themselves. One ultimately asks, ‘Why are all of these people seeing all of these things?’. You pointed out that many people very much want to see something mysterious and outside of their ordinary lives. Our species has an unlimited imagination and part of that can well serve to put someone into a class of people that can be admired for seeing something truly mysterious and extraordinary. You also give some account of individuals that are highly reputable and rational and agree on a very important aspect of all of these sightings: It is unknown. The cold, hard fact is that about 99 percent of all of these sightings are a matter of individual perspective and in there rests the aspect of psychology. Nothing in the world (or outside it) can prove an otherworldly existence except from the pure concrete evidence which has yet to manifest itself. We have to take each person at their word and the eyes that have filtered the light that has been transmitted to the brain that processed the information that has been turned into an account just ain’t it. We are nothing but a human strainer of reality that cannot be trusted. We are a potentially faulty piece of equipment and so the psychology of this becomes apparent. Why are all of us seeing all these things? Why do we go to scary movies or read mystery novels? Why has our cultures made gods of the night sky and the stars over hundreds of thousands of years? J. Allen Hynek, noted scientist of UFOs came up with that very term: “Unidentified Flying Object”. It only means one thing and that is what ever was perceived could not be identified. It certainly does not equate exactly into a space-craft from outer-space. I really don’t know why skeptics and debunkers are making a big fuss. There is no real evidence, anyway.

    • Geneviève says:

      I think you’re right. Everyone jumped to the conlusion that it was piloted by beings from elsewhere vessel. But in fact, these are just unexplained lights. People are struggling with what is not said, as if the mind could not admit that sometimes … there is simply no response or explanation. It’s just an exciting phenomenon to discuss.

  11. joe sokal says:

    The psychological analysis is likely a distraction from the more critical task of comparing, side by side the data that supports and refutes either a ” believer” or a ” debunker” position. Just as a strong argument can be made that people want to believe an equally strong argument can be made that having such a belief is profoundly frightening and disorienting. In fact I would suggest that data that has the potential to rock the fundiments of our current world view is more likely to be rejected than accepted.
    Having just read Leslie Keans new book on UFOs I find myself ready to believe that about five percent of sighting defy explanations that our easily compatible with what we currently know about our universe. This does not mean we are being visited by aliens. It does mean it is a legitimate area for scientific explanation which might ultimately have profound philosophical, social and political meaning as well as advancing science. This is clearly based on the trust I have placed in Kean and her contributors. I can not claim to have the requisite scientific skills or data to say I “know” anything. This is why I seek an honest effort to place side by side competing explanations of various UFO events and have them analyzed by a group of scientists, aviation experts and perhaps highly regarded lay people in an effort to determine if certainty in any direction is justified by the data. This has been done in France and here with the Condon report but I do think there is evidence that the Condon report was biased. I believe this effort should be funded by our government. I also think that if there is agreed upon uncertainty we would want to take the evidence supporting the existence for Unknown Aerial Phenomenon and try and develop a detection system that is superior to the way our current radar equipment is designed. Perhaps our GPS system could be re-equipped for such a purpose?
    I like to think of myself as a rational empiricist and by nature I am very skeptical. In the past I comfortably dismissed UFO ” believers” as hysterics, psychotics and scammers. Now I see that position as a product of ignorance. In changing my view I do have the sense of being close to something profoundly meaningful/world changing but it also feels isolating and scary to change my position. If the UAP’s are from other planets/ dimensions/ times etc there is no reason to presume that such advanced species would have much regard for our well being. It is nice to think that with technological advancement comes ethical evolution but how is one to know if this is so or what the trajectory of ethics would be in a different society? In short while there is a certain psychological gain for me in revising my views there is also clearly a down side. Given this efforts to apply psychology should be restricted to known ways in which human perception can be altered by states of arousal and also by belief systems but not taken to a de facto ad hominenm position by treating interest in this subject as the modern manifestation of religion or mythology.

    • marky says:

      I agree with your point. The establishment of an organized board of highly reputable scientist from the top of all tiers of our present society would be paramount in helping to decide this touchy issue of the realization that their are entities from outside our boundary of earth and space that actually exist. The fact that the aliens aren’t very cooperative in this issue seems to put a dull on this premise. Now that is a fact on which we can all agree: There are no aliens from space on the White-house lawn. The president of any country has not decreed with empirical evidence that we as a world are really not alone in this universe. On top of all this is the fact that the media fueled by the money-making idiots around every corner have put a damper on the credibility of any of these incidents. If there is a credible amount of truth to anything that these thousands of people, reputable or not, have experienced than the government has been highly successful at covering this up. We have no recourse but to react to what people have seen, not what they can present as definite evidence. This would tie the hands of any scientist or psychologist of making a legit examination, side-by-side or not. Once again, their is no real evidence. The evidence is in the concrete and not in the mind of eye. That makes the evidence fallible and in the scrutiny of anyone wishing to challenge. This concurrently puts the credibility of what YOU have seen and what YOU have experienced and not what you can believe from others. It can’t come from a book that you read. To the possible argument: Yes, over the years there have been very credible reports from more than one humans seeing something that they all insist that what they saw was something that feasibly could be considered outside of this world, as no other explanation could resolve. I think the psychology of these events are of the most importance and could possibly keep the distraction of the media and the government at bay just enough to prove one thing: Do they really exist? From now on, I’ll keep the religion and mythology aspect apart.

  12. YupSure...OK says:

    I wish I had conclusive evidence that aliens are real. I wish UFO’s are real. The joy we would all have knowing we are not alone in the universe would be overwhelming. Somehow it would make us all feel like there is a purpose to life and that each of us isn’t just a lonely blip on a radar, but part of a vast network of civilizations scattered throughout the galaxy and the rest of the known universe. But remember all you gullable assholes!! Repeat after me!! Wishing doesn’t make it so! AGAIN! Wishing doesn’t make it so!

  13. Jeff says:

    Tony, I find it amazing that these lights could be perceived as flares or a formation of planes, but I wasn’t there so what do I know really. In your article you seem to be putting a lot of weight on the testimony of a 10 year old boy and disregarding the other 10,000 that we’re moved by this unexplainable event. If you are someone who bases all his reasoning on fact then you should be able to draw no conclusions in this case because there are no facts. You seem to be taking select witnesses whose accounts I’m sure are accurate by what they perceived but still does not give you the facts to discredit the whole thing to high flying air force planes or flares. As far as the networks go, they have nothing to do with this, they’ll do anything to heat up ratings, so what. I also find it somewhat insulting to call these peoples eye witness accounts ” elaborate and ridiculous” I believe the world needs people like you because there needs to be both sides of a case represented but I have to say it bother’s me that you can be so sure you’ve got this all figured out.

  14. Marcel says:

    As a filmmaker, I have been waiting for many years for any footage… from any sighting… that would be worth examining. I’m looking forward to it. I hope it will be soon. Growing up with the Roswell incident in my family I have enjoyed all the enthusiasm and great insights in the examination of the unknown. I have met and talked with Dr. Michael Shermer and I think he is providing a great service. A skeptic is a very important part of believing. I camp often and have one of the best cameras made. Keep your batteries charged!

  15. Bill says:

    Mr. Ortega’s explanation is not founded in any facto whatsoever. I am suprised that this article was
    Even allowed on skeptic.com. As a seasoned air traffic controller in the Phoenix area I can tell you that commercial aircraft would never, never assume a v position at anytime during flight-especially on approach. I do not know about the Phoenix lights or what they were but I recommend that mr Ortega’s completely false and ill-researched “explanation” be removed
    From this great site.

  16. aliens says:

    how disappointing. you failed the test!

  17. Dan says:

    I find it interesting that skeptical explanations of UFO sightings, especially when thousands of people have seen them, boil down to – they were all bored with life so they saw a UFO.
    So, 10,000 people all get very bored one evening, saw some flares and then colluded, in a state of hallucinatory wonderment, to invent a story of UFO visitation?
    As a rational person, does that really sound very likely? Is life really that boring in Arizona?

    I can think of other mass hallucinations, like there being WMDs in Iraq. But of course that was explained fully from a single, credible source so it had to be true

  18. Howard says:

    I notice that with these UFO/Alien believing nut cases ,theres no reasoning with them.They want so badly to believe we were actually visited by advanced civilizations they become hard headed.They always think our Government is hiding something on us,and sometimes they are right,but not in the case of UFO’s.I think anyone who truly believes in this stupidity is mentally defective.They go by emotion,not facts.I myself would love to know that aliens are real,it’s an exciting notion,but to believe in aliens you have to believe that an advanced civilization figured out how to travel close to the speed of light,or created a wormhole to get here just to check us out,then take off.So what if a civilization maybe thousands,maybe millions of years more advance then us.I truly think there are things that simly cannot be physically done. What would an object in space,like a meteorite do to a craft traveling that fast? These UFOlogist bring up the fact that pilots,air traffic controllers,missile silo operators,ex-presidents,ex-astronauts have all seen UFO’s.They distort the facts.Jimmy Carter said he once saw something he could not identify but he also said he didn’t think it was a alien spaceship,but the Ufo nut jobs have him quoted as saying it was a Alien ufo.Edgar Mitchall admits he never actually saw the UFO,but is going by people he new who did.Missile silo,and air traffic controlllers see a blip on their radar screen,what the hell does that prove.
    This will happen when you get a large flock of migratory birds.Lets face it,there is absolutely no proof of the existence of UFO’s. Proof IS NOT what he said/what she said.There is not one daytime video footage,or still photo that can be considered
    as evidence.Listen,we are not talking about a once thought to be extinct animal being discovered alive in the Colorado mountains,cause that could be plausible.
    Again,we are talking about beings traveling from 13,18,100 light years away.Not to go off topic but it’s funny that the same people who believe in all this UFO nonsense are 911 truthers,and every other conspiracy which tells me aot about these people,and it aint positive.I once put up my $18,000. Harley Davidson as a prize for anyone on utube who had proof of the existence of Aliens/UFO’s.Before I made my offer I had comments back to me calling me all foul names and what not.As soon as I made my offer,the comments stop coming.There you go !

  19. TJ says:

    Howard is dead on.

    Its amazing how viscerally angry so many “believers” are at Ortega here. Why? Could it be because he is bursting the “magical fantasy” bubble that so many have been living with after having seen the “lights”?? Seems to me people dont WANT to have a rational explanation here because it would burst that feeling of being “special” for having seen something that their imagination can call whatever they want.

    Ive seen jets in person and numerous videos of jets dropping anti missile counter-measure flares and illumination flares during training. The 10 PM “Lights” are absolutely and obviously flares. The appear in the sequence and in the pattern that the jet is flying in. The brightness is affected by the different types of counter measures used, and the military is often trying out new types of countermeasures and different types of flares.

    The 10 PM lights is absolutely a no brainer IMO. The Cognitec analysis of the flares where they superimposed the mountains from a camera placed in the same spot should absolutely settle this issue once and for all.

    As for the “V”. Obviously that was a totally separate event altogether. Here again though, a little common sense and logic seem to escape people who just dont want to accept reality. People keep talking about Commercial aircraft not flying in formation. Why on Earth would anyone assume it was commercial aircraft? You have multiple military air bases and facilities all over Arizona and the whole SouthWest. Military aircraft routinely fly in close formation, from higher altitudes they would appear in exactly that formation. Could also have been experimental aircraft flying in formation. You actually HAVE a witness who looked at it with a high power telescope, and confirmed they were aircraft, and yet those who saw it with their naked eye, and couldnt determine what it was, refuse to accept that. Now why would that be? Except that those people dont WANT to accept a logical explanation.

    Lets also not focus on one of the most obvious issues here. Why would an Extraterrestrial Spacecraft need to be flying over the state of Arizona, including near population centers, using “lights”? Aircraft have lights for only 2 reasons, for landing/takeoff, and so they can be identified in the air. Why would an Alien spacecraft, which presumably isnt interested in making “contact” with humans, need to have “lights” on flying over Phoenix? It is completely illogical.

    This type of thing tends to happen, because the Military often remains quiet, even after something obviously has taken place, which just fuels suspicion and conspiracy buffs. What most people dont realize, is that TONS of things in the military are classified, even routine stupid things, and the military CANT confirm things often times, no matter how trivial or stupid they may seem. Whereas often times these situations can be rapidly cleared up with a simple explanation, the military creates the entire environment for these conspiracies to flourish, because they cant so much as even say “yes we shot some flares off”. So by playing dumb or just ignoring it, which they HAVE to do by law, they set off these grand conspiracies which find happy homes in the minds of people who WANT to believe in fantasy and exotic adventures.

    Note the hate towards Ortega here. Why? Well, people dont like Skeptics. Skeptics are the party poopers. The guys who force you to have to look at reality and pull the veil back from the exciting fantasies we like to lose ourselves in.

    As Howard said above, I want NOTHING MORE than to find real evidence of Alien spacecraft. I really do. But I have been an investigator, a REAL one, for over a decade and a half. I have to use rational deduction, logic, and evidence to uncover secrets and unravel mysteries. The problem with almost all of the UFO stories out there, are that they just dont stand up to REAL scrutiny when broken down logically, rationally, and based on evidence. Roswell, Kecksburg, Phoenix, Stephensville, they all break down after close scrutiny.

  20. C A says:

    Jimmy Carter said he saw something he could not identify, and that the object acted strangely. That’s it. In his own words: “And then the light, it got closer and closer to us. And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white. And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance.” (It was only many years later that he felt any pressure to narrow down the possibilities.)

    Do you think all of those 20 people who saw this unknown object were “mentally defective”? If so, does that say more about them, or about you?

    And lumping those who believe there may be something to the UFO phenomenon in with birthers and 9-11 truthers, etc., only shows a narrow-mindedness and willingness to generalize. Those are not admirable qualities in a “skeptic.”

    Also, I genuinely wonder how you explain away the many cases where radar corroborates the testimony of multiple, high-quality witnesses? (People with nothing to gain, and quite a bit to lose when coming forward.) I’m curious to hear how you’d explain away the RB-47 case, for example. (Multiple Witnesses to a strange and reactive object near the aircraft, confirmed by multiple radars, both active and passive.) More of your geese?

    I’m a former skeptic. It’s only in the last 6 months that I’ve said “wait a minute here.” Kean’s book presents plenty of surprisingly good evidence that there is, indeed, something solid and unknown flying around in the skies. She does not claim to know what it is. Nor do I. And that is the proper scientific position to take: agnosticism. But it’s clear that there’s something there… something much more than unidentified lights in the sky… something solid, often huge, lacking obvious power plants or lifting surfaces, and maneuverable in ways that, it can safely be said, our military flying machines are incapable of. (Or we’d win any war in minutes.) What is it flying around up there? I’m shocked that more people do not feel they have the *right* to know, or a right to know that, perhaps, our officials don’t know.

    I’m also a former fan and supporter of Dr. Shermer. (I loved his and Sam Harris’ videos with Chopra, and his writings on evolution vs. creationism are great.) But I find it difficult now to maintain respect for him. What he did to Leslie Kean in his recent SciAm piece was, to me, intellectually unforgivable. It shows the true rigidity of his thinking, and just how low he’ll go in order to “win” an argument. He took Belgian Air Force General DeBrouwer’s description of night one of the Belgian wave, and compared it to Kean’s own summary of the *entire* (months long) Belgian wave, trying to show Kean in the act of inflating the General’s conclusions. (She clearly did nothing of the sort. Her entire description was backed by the General’s conclusions. See the comments section on SciAm’s web page for details.)

    To show you how alarming and dishonest what Shermer did truly is (it is *far* from trivial, and presents him with quite a credibility problem), here’s an analogy: Suppose that Scientist A does some experiments, resulting in Data Set A, and other scientists do further similar experiments, resulting in Data Set B. Expert writes a summary of Data Set A. Journalist then writes a summary of Data Set A + Data Set B. Skeptic then compares Journalist’s summary to Expert’s summary, to try to show that Journalist’s description does not match Expert’s and that, therefore, Journalist cannot be trusted. (Nevermind that they’re two summaries of *completely different sets of data*!) Geeze. Is this tactic really okay with any of you? I doubt it. What Shermer did should turn your stomach and make you wonder what other shortcuts he’s willing to take.

    Why are scientists like Shermer, Tyson, Shostack, et al., NEVER willing to address the *best* UAP cases, cases involving sensors other than human eyes? I’ve noticed (only recently) that the scientists always try to characterize the whole phenomenon as if it were just unknown distant lights in the sky. Why? Isn’t that odd to anyone, given the facts (of what people actually have claimed to see)? Six months ago, I would’ve given the scientists a pass on that, based on my un-researched assumption that there could be nothing to the whole UFO thing… and scientists are seekers of truth, right, so surely they can be totally trusted. What I’ve come to see, however, is that it is more irrational to *deny* that there is something strange and solid (but unknown) flying around out there. There is surely a kind of scientific provincialism or territorialism at play here.

    Those of you here on this board call yourself skeptics, and rationalists, and I’d agree with most of you in most every other thing – creationism, 9-11, Obama’s birthplace, climate change, God, etc…. However, just look closely and openly at the evidence for UAP — concern yourself with nothing more than the radar cases, for instance — and ask yourself how it is that you’ve never heard of those cases? (That was my biggest hurdle: “No… surely I would’ve heard of this by now?!?!” Nope.) I know that the UFO movement is full of cooks and frauds, absolutely. (Face it, UFO crowd, it’s true to an extent.) But no one is asking you to embrace their beliefs, unquestioned. You need not believe in Roswell, abductions, gov’t conspiracies, cattle mutilations. crop circles, etc. But it is silly and ignorant (by the very definition) to deny the core truth of the UAP matter just because of a fear of association.

  21. Dave says:

    I’m a former military pilot and currently fly for a major airline. A couple of points:

    – I’ve seen flares used at night before, and these definitely are similar to those others I have seen.

    – Objects seen isolated in the sky, without other nearby references, can be very deceiving. A number of years ago I was inbound to a major Midwestern airport after a “red-eye” flight from the west coast (early in the morning). At approximately 10,000 feet the other pilot and I saw an object trailing a contrail ahead of us. That altitude is far too low for a contrail, so the object really drew our attention. As we watched, it arced to the north and disappeared. We asked ATC if they were showing any traffic (we were the only ones on the frequency at 6:00 AM). They replied that we were the only aircraft within 25 miles. This object looked to be closer than that, so we were left puzzled.
    After landing we found that there had been a military shuttle launch that morning. It made sense as we were looking to the SE and the object arced to the north as a military launch would do for a polar orbit. But, we were convinced that the object was 10 to 15 miles away. In reality it was closer to 1,000 miles from our position!

    Unfortunately, “seeing is not always believing” as the eye can be easily deceived.

  22. Bob Carr says:

    I was in Viet Nam in 1970 and saw flares used every night and never saw flares behave in the same manner as these ‘lights’ over Phoenix did. How does this explanation square with what the witnesses ( people who ACTUALLY SAW the object in question) report as a solid object that blocked out the view of the stars?… It’s easy to ridicule things that one has never had any experience with.
    In 1968 I and several friends were witness to something I’ve never forgotten, a formation of 5 ‘stars’ caught my eye traveling low along the NW horizon. We saw these ‘stars’ abruptly halt in mid flight, zig-zag once. and disappear in a second in the opposite direction that they had been traveling. This was witnessed by about 15 of us on a summer night near Los Angeles. None of us could speak for a few minutes until one guy shook his head and kept repeating ” No, no, no, it didn’t happen, we didn’t really see that!” Nothing I’ve ever seen in my life can fly like that. So, all you smart-asses, what the hell was it?

  23. satanical says:

    Tony how do you explain the Governor and many others clearly being able to see its silhouette as it flew over their heads and off into the distance while totally aware of the other planes in the sky which they described as miniscule. Why would you be so willing to dismiss so many eyewitness accounts? I guess everybody but you is just stupid and unable to tell the difference from planes flying in formation and a giant star blocking object floating silently thru the air over their heads and off into the nights “illuminated” citiscape. Skepticism is important in science but sadly I dont believe you respect science and the urge to discover. How often has an eyewitness account sparked so many scientific discoveries. There is no doubt that the eye can play tricks and things this large floating thru the sky would be bizzar for the brain to comprehend but come on, you honestly believe a guy with a telescope explains this by planes flying in formation which were obviously flying around as well??? They may have not been aliens piloting the vessel but it shore as hell wasnt lol!! planes lol!! flying in formation heheheeee!!! Good lord your obviously being paid by the C.I.A. or someone to spew this crap! lol!!! This site has no credibility even for skeptics….. 1986 Anchorage Alaska!

  24. Steven Blonder says:

    For the actual data, video, triangulation information and day/night composites photos that can be used by anyone familiar with Google Earth and Photoshop, please see http://www.oracleofthephoenix.com/triangulation.html

  25. Don Pepe says:

    “People don’t like to know what the boring answer would be,” said Stanley, now 30 and a computer technician. “People like to know fantasy stuff. People like to think there could be things out there, I guess.”

    For a while, Stanley would attend meetings of people who saw the Phoenix Lights.

    He wasn’t popular.

    “No one paid attention to me. They just didn’t care,” he said. “They completely dismissed (his sighting). No one asked me a question.”

    Stanley’s story just wasn’t as interesting as those who thought the objects were mysterious craft. Some stories had the objects flying silently and close to the ground. Another had the craft suddenly turning translucent as it passed.

    “It was pretty weird,” Stanley said, “I met a whole bunch of weird people with (a) bunch of strange ideas of what they were.”

    Complicating matters was the fact that, initially, people were talking about two separate events.

    Thousands saw a giant formation of lights move north to south across the city sometime around 8 p.m.

    Almost no one saw the mysterious orbs that floated in the sky west of Phoenix around 10 p.m. But a few people captured those lights on videotape, and television news played them extensively.

    Those lights came to represent the Phoenix Lights.

    It was later discovered that pilots training at the Barry M. Goldwater Range west of Phoenix had dropped an unusual amount of flares that night.

    Again, that would have been the simple explanation. But by then, it was too late.

    “People believe what they want to believe,” Stanley said.

    That belief has been turned into dollars.

    There have been books, T-shirts and a documentary that was briefly shown at a movie theater.

    Stanley was at a bookstore recently and saw a book that purported to tell the story of the Phoenix Lights. But it left out the best eyewitness.

    “I skimmed through it and said, ‘My name’s not in here,’ ” Stanley said. “I know where this book is going.”

    Stanley still has the telescope he used to see the supposedly mysterious formation over Phoenix. But he doesn’t use it much anymore.

    “It’s hard to see anything in the city here,” he said, “other than planes.”

  26. James says:

    Will Gleisberg could not have said it any better.

  27. Filip says:

    C’mon, there are many pilots who had incidents with UFOs that can’t be explained no chance, the ones when the objects are playing with them and can go into greats speeds in a second, those can be only two things, man made super secret machines or something that is not man made. And those military personel with those nuclear warheads incidents? With so many unbelieveble cases there you realy need to want to think that something is not there.

  28. James Love says:

    Forget about the Lights. That is too controversial.

    The real story is there were about 6-8 aircraft spotted by hundreds/thousands of witnesses
    http://www.thephoenixlights.net/GAP.htm

    Tim Ley and Fife Symington are two to Google.

    Some of the aircraft were from 1-3 miles wide. The 3 mile wide one had two witnesses standing on street corners 3 miles away at the same time the gigantic craft went over there.

    There is absolutely no doubt there were epic aircraft flying around. The only debate is whether it is possible for the military to be that advanced? Disappearing craft which project an image of the sky in between wings, crazy instanteous speeds. No sound.

    I don’t think so.

    The author trys to say there were different stories. But there were actually a multitude of different aircraft. The author says people were simply trying to one up each other. Like the former government of AZ would come out for what reason? Not getting enough attention?

    Watch the Fyfe Symington interview.

    The problem with a skeptic webpage is the skeptics have alreeady made their mind up. More helpful are those that search for truth either way.

  29. Weeee says:

    The only thing that you reasonably spoke of debunking the ‘vee’ incident is the ONE man who ‘allegedly’ saw airplanes and witnesses who heard jets . You decided to ignore everything else and trust that one man to prove the credibility of your debunkinking? Hmm, I don’t think that’d work so well. Also, the very fact that they were outside and in a quieter environmentt might’ve played a role , as normal sounds couldve been in account such as the usual noises in the city, or real jets passing by,

    I’m watching a documentary, and the second incident were indeed flares.
    They used flares over an hour ‘after’ the first incident, probably to cover it up.
    if the ‘vee’ were indeed formations of planes, then why would couldn’t they come up with a better excuse for the event rather than telling the people live in media ‘you’re all taking this too seriously’ while bringing a man in an alien suit?They went into investigation for a clear reason. In the documentary, the governor also reveals that there were actually aircrafts sent to chase it, and they returned baffled and shaken by what they had seen.\ This wasn’t made into record.

    From the investigation mentioned in the documentary, it was also revealed how there were no radar records. It’s been deemed that there was a fatal flaw on the date that was written on the report for the U.K . So by the time they had realized, the recording for the right date of the event was GONE.

  30. We are just babes in the woods says:

    I’m not sure if we are being visited by beings from outer space but my scientific mind hints that there is a very high probability that intelligent life does exist outside of this planet. We live in a Galaxy where there are more than a hundred thousand billion stars and perhaps as many if not more planets. Sure we don’t know how many harbour life, but then also consider that there are more than a hundred thousand billion galaxies. Multiply those numbers : Number of Galaxies x Planets per Galaxy and you get a very very very very very big number. Now with that in mind also realise that everyone you have ever known resides on this single planet and no-one has even travelled further than the moon. We are really just babes in the woods and haven’t even started our journey beyond this planet.

    My scientific mind says there is a 99.999999999999999999999% chance of other life
    My gut instinct suspects we are being visited

  31. Ray says:

    Anyone trying to debunk what is completely and utterly unexplainable, doesn’t matter what it is, is the all time attention seeking opposing force. Must be heard, must be judging upon at all times, thinking he or she is smarter than everyone else, thinking he/she knows exactly what it is. Along with the sarcasm comes the ridicule, insults and constant patronizing towards people who truly believe what instinct and the naked eye is telling them.

  32. criscros says:

    these would be the same debunkers who believe men came from apes,that edison invented the light bulb (not)and electricity (not),that marconi invented the grammaphone,radio (not) that Scot was the first man to the Antartic(not)that the Queen is the rightful heir to the throne of— (not)that we are all her subjects (not)not not,not,not,not.The world is full of lies,lies,lies and more lies ,and it’s IDIOTS like them, that help to propagate the continuum of lies.They are the people that get paid to bury truth,because the truth is not in any of them.These are the people that treat the world(US) like mushrooms (that is) keep them in the dark and feed them shite.THE TRUTH IS NOT IN THEM.

  33. John wright says:

    I’m glad that people are still talking about this sighting, i found it very interesting. It is pretty hard to believe that we have not been able to figure out what everyone had seen, but so many had seen something they could not explain.

    I had seen a show where the former governor of az said that he too had seen it and it was some kind of craft that was unlike anything he had ever seen. I think he was an air force pilot at one time also. I think we as a people have to understand that even if 99 percent of sightings can be explained, one percent cannot which translates into thousands of unexplained objects being seen all over the world, not just here , and for any skeptics my only question would be, what about the thousands of sightings that cannot be explained, feel free to explain those sightings, thank you.

    I think our government should be bypassed they have no answers that will be truthful so lets just ignore them and move forward as a people and find the truth ourselves, as far as i am concerned they can all go to hell.

    I would hope that the stiff shirt scientific community would come down from their ivory towers and realize that there is something going on now and there nas been something going on for decades, what are they scared of, being laughed at, hey you will get over it believe me. When you have an experience you cannot explain you will at first keep quiet then say something to close friends or family, then other people and at some point you will not care what anyone says and you absolutely will look into what it was you experienced. That much i guarantee.

    One last thought on seti who have been listening to sounds in space for decades “hey guys we have unidentified craft right here right now, how about thinking outside of the box” have they ever found anything, i dont know but maybe the system they are using isnt working or maybe they should try alternative methods, maybe they should interview private pilots,military pilots, astronauts etc. And that may be a good starting point to put together some type of an outline as to what would be the best way to start.

    Naviste’/john

    At some point i would think even the scientific community would want to try to find out what we are seeing

  34. John Rennie says:

    I’ve got something to say to you sir. You are a full-fledged idiot. Thousands upon thousands saw this thing over a mile wide. Passing directly over their homes, actually blotting of the night sky. You know what you’re interested in doing making a name for yourself and selling books and DVDs. I thought you were a little smarter than this??

  35. illiminati says:

    I think its not only naïve to believe intelligent life in the Universe doesn’t exist but also arrogant. But to be a skeptic of such topic and without any substantial proof is idiotic!

  36. Jezebelle says:

    I was there. I saw both “sets.” This guy is full of it….

  37. Brian says:

    A few simple observations from a simple mind (which remains openn and unbiased.

    I see the lunacy of the extremes, on the one hand the staunch alien believers and on the other hand the ultra pragmatic skeptics. I see that the government is often quick to provide bogus explanations, and the end result which is division and misty memories, but not much else.

    I like the comment that “UFO” has come to mean alien spacecraft from another world, when all it really should mean is “a flying thing I saw but have no idea what it was.” Interesting that people have come to believe that any such visual phenomena MUST be alien spacecraft.

    So thousands have seen something in the sky they cannot explain– lights, discs, orbs, saucers. OK, I believe that unless they were taking halucinagenic drugs they did see something. So…..what was it? An alien spacecraft? An angel, fairy, god or other cellestial diety? A Wizard’s magical folly? A military experiment? Some geeks’ idea of a laugh with projectors, lasers and mirrors? Who really knows?

    Why can’t we just admit it? We don’t know and possibly neither does the government – or if they do know more than the general public they don’t want us to know. Why? I’d say simply so we don’t panic and rock the stock market. (Let’s face it, everything everntually boils down to money).

    After all, if there is life from other worlds visiting us then it would obviously be more advanced, thus it stands to reason they could outwit anything the government/military could do. So I find humor in some of the accounts of indignant people who saw something and demand the government admit it happened and do something about it. OK. Do what???

    True, people see unexplainable things; lights in the sky. Is there residual physical evidence? No. Is there ever a hi-res photo or hi-def video? It seems not! (I wish it were otherwise). Obviously if there is a higher inteligence at work here they don’t WANT us to know, and they aren’t getting close enough to us to be any kind of threat. So why should we get all riled up? Why should we fight with each other as to whether it’s bunk or not. Truth is nobody knows for sure what the unexplainable is. To convince one’s self otherwise is….well…..creative, or dillusional.

    I think if I see something UFO-like I will try to soak it in and enjoy the experience – then ponder and wonder privately–perhaps share the story with a few friends, or perhaps not – but in either event, what good will it do?

    Thanks for reading.

  38. skeptikd says:

    Brian, to answer your (rhetorical) question “Why should we fight with each other as to whether it’s bunk or not.”, I’d say that we, humans, are insecure creatures, afraid of anything that is different. And I’m not talking about UFOs, I am talking about other people’s opinions. If they don’t match ours, then we tend to argue, and we try to convert the others to our point of view because this is the only way we feel safe – if the others think like us, then they pose no threat. If they don’t then who knows what they might do, and we have no control over them. Hence the feeling of insecurity. This mentality is at the bottom of all conflicts, be it a simple argument with a friend, religious wars, or what might have flown over Phoenix.

    Unfortunately, although this attribute of our psyche was essential to our survival in the past, it does more damage than good now, and, I believe, it is the source of a lot of our problems as a species.

  39. Matthew Ward says:

    Im about two years too late for the most recent comment on this site, and about 15 years too late for the actual event… so thank you in advance for your patience.

    I recently came across the “Camp Kitei” narrative of the event of March 13th 1998, and one key aspect of the sighting, clearly visible in any video taken, remains a huge dilemma for me. I want to believe these Lights were a formation of planes, that would make sense. But here’s the thing A.) On the video, IF each light is representative of one plane, then I’m quite confused since planes have multiple lights (collision etc), why would planes ever need to fly without these other lights; in flagrant violation of FAA regulations? And B.) This story has generated so much attention, national level attention, why wouldn’t the pilots of these planes, come out and say “Hey! it was US, we were flying planes that night, without the FAA required lighting…it would be amazing if it was a confirmation of life outside out solar system, but it was just US humans in planes….”
    I would appreciate your debunking skills on this one…I’m still confused…Thanks!
    Matt

  40. Tommy Maguire says:

    I AM A FIRST HAND WITNESS TO THE PHENOMENON KNOWN AS “THE PHOENIX LIGHTS.”

    MY VANTAGE POINT WAS NOT FROM THE SURROUNDING HILLS, NOR WAS IT FROM THE CITY (20 PLUS MILES AWAY).

    I WAS STANDING DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH THE LIGHTS (ON THE FIRST OF SEVERAL OCCURRENCES)

    AT THE TIME, I WAS A BASE POLICEMAN STATIONED AT LUKE AIR FORCE BASE.

    IT WAS A SUNDAY NIGHT, AND I KNEW THAT WE DID NOT HAVE ANY SORTIES FLYING THAT NIGHT.

    I HAPPENED TO BE AT THE MAIN GATE WITH MY SUPERVISOR, WHEN SOMETHING
    CAUSED ME TO LOOK STRAIGHT UP. I WAS DUMBFOUNDED BY WHAT I WAS SEEING AND SAID SOMETHING LIKE… “HOLY CRAP A &*%$ U.F.O.!

    MY BOSS SAID “TAKE IT EASY, IT’S JUST FLARES.” I ARGUED THE POINT, SAYING THAT THERE WAS NO WAY IN HELL THAT WHAT I WAS LOOKING AT WAS FLARES!

    REMEMBER, I WAS DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH!

    HE TOLD ME TO KEEP WATCHING. WITHIN MOMENTS, I COULD CLEARLY MAKE OUT A C130 TYPE AIRCRAFT BEING ILLUMINATED BY THE FLARE IT HAD DROPPED.

    NOW SOME ANSWERS FOR THE DIE HARDS:

    WHEN AIR FORCE OFFICIALS AT THE COMMAND POST AT LUKE WERE QUESTIONED, THEY STATED THAT THERE WERE NO AIR OPERATIONS ON THAT EVENING. MOSTLY TRUE. LUKE HAD NO AIR OPERATIONS THAT NIGHT. BUT…

    THOSE SEEKING ANSWERS WERE JUST ASKING THE WRONG PEOPLE. THE TARGETING EXERCISES INVOLVED A-10 WARTHOG AIRCRAFT AND C130 TYPE
    AIRCRAFT , WHICH WERE STATIONED AT DAVIS MONTHAN AFB IN TUCSON. (NOT LUKE AFB)

    AS THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS LIASON FOR THE BASE POLICE, I WOULD HAVE EXPLAINED THE EVENT, BUT WE RECEIVED NO CALLS.

    THESE ARE THE FACTS:

    FLARES ARE DROPPED FROM THE C130. THE A-10 USE THE FLARES TO SIMULATE BOGEY CONTACT.

    THOUGH IT SEEMS UNBELIEVABLE THAT FLARES CAN REMAIN (SEEMINGLY)
    MOTIONLESS FOR SUCH A LONG TIME, THEY ARE SUSPENDED BY PARACHUTES
    WHICH KEEP THEM ALOFT. I

    THE TRIANGLE SHAPE OF THE LIGHTS APPEAR BECAUSE THE AIRCRAFT DROPS THE FLARES WHILE BANKING, CREATING THAT ILLUSION.

    I HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT THE EDITOR OF UFO MAGAZINE. HE STATED THAT MY EXPERIENCE ONLY EXPLAINS THE INCIDENTS IN PHOENIX, NOT THE SEVERAL OTHER SIGHTINGS AROUND THE COUNTRY – AND HE LISTED THEM.

    BEFORE RESPONDING TO HIM, I LOOKED UP THE LOCATIONS OF EVERY A-10 SQUADRON IN THE COUNTRY. EVEN I WAS AMAZED TO LEARN THAT WITHIN EIGHTY MILES OF EACH LOCATION HE CITED, THERE WAS AN A-10 SQUADRON.

    WHEN I NOTIFIED HIM OF MY FINDINGS (WHICH I SUSPECT HE ALREADY KNEW)
    HE NEVER RESPONDED BACK.

    THAT HAS BEEN TYPICAL OF MY ATTEMPTS TO RELATE THE FACTS AS I KNOW THEM TO BE.

    IT MAY SOUND PESSIMISTIC TO SAY THAT I MAY NOT BE SO TRUSTING OF FINDINGS PUBLISHED BY THOSE WHO MAKE A LIVING ON THE QUESTIONS.

    IF A PALEOANTHROPOLOGIST DISCOVERED WITHOUT QUESTION, THAT MODERN MAN HAD NO EVOLUTIONARY LINKS, AND PREDATED ALL OTHER ANIMAL LIFE ON EARTH; WOULD HE PUBLISH THAT INFORMATION KNOWING THAT IT WOULD PUT HIMSELF OUT OF A JOB? THE THOUSANDS OF OTHERS IN RELATED FIELDS? NOT TO MENTION THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AT STAKE. AND OF COURSE IMAGINE THE WIDESPREAD SOCIAL AND IMPLICATIONS THAT WOULD MEAN?

    I DOUBT YOU’D EVER HEAR ABOUT THE GUY WHO SELLS THE T-SHIRTS AT LOCHNESS THAT THERE IS NO “NESSY.”

    QUESTIONS?: t.maguire911@msn.com

    • Matthew Ward says:

      Mr. Maguire,

      Well that’s disappointing. But I appreciate the human cause explanation. The thing about the die-hards is that they want these things to be true…and I get that, so do I, but not at the expense of what really happened.

      Therefore, in keeping with a human technology/science explainable narrative of the events of March 13th 1998:

      The Flares: (All accounts of the flares had no smoke trail and no relative motion to each other. All flares fell at same rate??)

      In order for these flares to fall like they did, I have to figure that there was no real cross wind, so that they would seem to fall at the same rates, instead of different rates (causing apparent relative motion). This could be verified by looking at the wind direction data over the city that night. Also, I’m sure you’ve seen flares dropped a hundred times in person, so forgive my internet/book knowledge, but don’t flares leave a smoke trail as they fall? In fact don’t the flares illuminate this smoke trail, clearly visible to all?

      Thanks for clearing up these last few questions.

  41. The Mad Zak says:

    This doesn’t debunk anything. You’re essentially dismissing the tesimony of hundreds by saying “No, that isn’t what you saw”.
    There are literally thousands of people that have seen it. Among those witnessws were educated people such as doctors and people trained in observation such as police. Not everyone could have mistaken those 5 lights for a UFO when they were really planes in formation. Also, many people said the structure of the craft blocked out the stars, not just the moon, so it was doubtful it was the contrails. Many said, “We saw the flares after we saw the craft.”
    I’ve also seen the videos. The videos of the craft do not look like the videos from the flares. The color was different, and the flares fluctuated in brightness as they burned. The lights on the craft were steady and didn’t “twinkle”. Also, the flares were not in a perfect formation where the lights on the craft were.

    I believe that almost all UFO sightings can be easily explained. This one is not one of them. Sorry dude, but your argument doesn’t convince me at all.

  42. elgobbes says:

    I saw around 6 to 8 orange lights about an hour ago. My wife and I watched them until the lights disappeared one by one. They didn’t seem to be in any formation. They were all clustered together and slowly spread until they weren’t visible anymore.

    Since then I have been doing some searching online to find a reasonable answer to what they were. I have found nothing. There isn’t any indication that I could find online that stated that there is any aircraft that has orange lights. Bright orange lights.

get eSkeptic
our free newsletter

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic is our free email newsletter, delivered once a week. In it, you’ll receive: fascinating articles, announcements, podcasts, book reviews, and more…


Popular Articles
on skeptic.com

Here are the articles that people have been sharing over the last few days.

Carbon Comic

Carbon Comic (by Kyle Sanders)

Carbon Comic, which appears in Skeptic magazine, is created by Kyle Sanders: a pilot and founder of Little Rock, Arkansas’ Skeptics in The Pub. He is also a cartoonist who authors Carbon Dating: a skeptical comic strip about science, pseudoscience, and relationships. It can be found at carboncomic.com.

Help the
Skeptics Society
at no cost to you!

Planning on shopping at Amazon? By clicking on our Amazon affiliate link, which will open the Amazon Store in your Internet browser, the Skeptics Society will receive a small commission on your purchase. Your prices for all products remain the same, yet you’ll provide essential financial support for the work of the nonprofit Skeptics Society.

amazon.com

See our affiliate links page for Amazon.ca, Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk, and iTunes links.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

Copyright © 1992–2014 Skeptic and its contributors. For general enquiries regarding the Skeptics Society or Skeptic magazine, email skepticssociety@skeptic.com or call 1-626-794-3119. Website-related matters: webmaster@skeptic.com. Enquiries about online store orders: orders@skeptic.com. To update your subscription address: subscriptions@skeptic.com. See our Contact Information page for more details. This website uses Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and AddThis tracking software.