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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Jul > Jul 4

Saucers In The Sky

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Wed, 04 Jul 2007 08:44:32 -0400
Archived: Wed, 04 Jul 2007 08:44:32 -0400
Subject: Saucers In The Sky

Source: BBC News 24 - London, UK


Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Saucers In The Sky

By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

It's 60 years since the term flying saucer was coined and the
most celebrated "extraterrestrial" episode - Roswell. Alien
believers are dismissed as cranks, but even the earthly
explanations of objects in the sky are fascinating.

Sixty years ago Kenneth Arnold saw something which changed his
own life, the life of millions of others and impacted on popular
culture like a shockwave.

Flying his plane near Mount Rainier in US state of Washington he
observed a line of strange objects either crescent-shaped or
disc-like, flying with the motion of a saucer skimming on water.

Arnold's sighting, quickly picked up by the press, was followed
a fortnight later by the revelation of perhaps the most
notorious episode in the history of UFOs, at Roswell in New

Having announced it had recovered a "flying disk", the Army
airfield backtracked and referred only to a weather balloon.

What followed was perhaps one of the greatest conspiracy
theories of all time, involving post-mortem examinations of
swollen-bellied grey aliens, the cloning of sophisticated
extraterrestrial technology and an epic cover-up. Or not, as the
case may be.

In the 60 years since 1947's first major wave of sightings,
thousands of ordinary people have claimed to have seen
inexplicable objects in the sky.

When the Ministry of Defence released papers on its own
investigations into the phenomenon in 2006, it was revealed more
than 10,000 eyewitness accounts had been collected.

And for every sceptic who prefers explanations of weather
balloons and freak atmospheric conditions there is someone who
genuinely believes intelligent life is visiting the planet.

Alien belief

A national newspaper survey in 1998 suggested 33% of men and 24%
of women thought aliens had already visited the earth.

Such polls are testament to the powerful impact of six decades
of media coverage, disputed science, heated mythology and
Hollywood films. We have now completed six decades of projecting
our hopes and fears onto the UFO phenomenon.

David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism, has spent 30 years
studying UFOs and the sociology of the flying saucer sighting.

He is no believer in little extraterrestrial men, but believes
mainstream scientists should recognise the rational explanations
for sightings are themselves worthy of study.

"They wouldn't touch it," he says. "It's got such a bad press.
Anything that people don't have an immediate explanation for -
 it must be little green men."

The "ufologists" who study the phenomenon comprise both sceptics
and believers. They seek to "resolve" each incident, explaining
away each aspect. And there is a wealth of explanations for most
sightings that is as fascinating for sceptical enthusiasts as
the notion of space visitors.

Cold War projection

Sundogs, or strange refractions of the sun in another part of
the sky, burning space debris, weather balloons, ball lightning,
meteors, disc-shaped or lenticular clouds, mirages, even the
planet Venus low in the sky, are all classic methods of
resolving UFO sightings.

But underlying them is a need also to explain people's desire to
believe that a UFO sighting can be explained by alien activity.
The timing of the start of the golden age of the UFO, in a
Western world recovering from World War II and gearing up for
the start of the Cold War, is significant.

"We were projecting things to reflect our fears and concerns
about the Cold War," Mr Clarke says.

"Organised religion was in decline but when worried or concerned
it is comforting to feel there is a greater power looking after
us. It is quite nice to think there is another civilisation that
has been able to overcome the things destroying our

The UFO phenomenon is also linked with the modern reliance on
conspiracy theories, a mixture of a need to believe in something
more than the mundane in an increasingly rational world and an
all-pervading distrust of authority.

As the Fortean Times, which this month dedicates an entire issue
to the UFO anniversary, puts it: "UFOs fill a niche in the human
spirit that thrives on wondrous ideas."

Earlier generations had also seen UFOs but without the term
flying saucer in existence, they were labelled as other things.

UFO students say there are peaks and troughs in sightings that
are probably based on cultural, social and political trends.

Golden age

Expert Paul Devereux says a new golden age during the 1990s,
particularly after the broadcast of the cult television series
the X-Files, has given way to a current wave of indifference.

Mr Clarke concurs, suggesting: "It could be the case that post-
9/11 people are more concerned about the threat from terrorism
or the environment."

Mr Devereux has drawn on the work of controversial Canadian
academic Michael Persinger and believes many unresolved UFO
sightings can be explained by "earthlights", clouds of plasma
being charged by strong electromagnetic fields occurring in
areas of seismic activity.

Having nearly witnessed a UFO that could not initially be
explained, Mr Devereux has dedicated his life to research.

"It bugged the hell out of me, almost gave me a mental
breakdown. I couldn't make it fit into the everyday mundane
world view."

Pilot Ray Bowyer was the principal witness to the most recent
publicised UFO sighting in the UK.

Flying a commercial plane from Southampton to Alderney in the
Channel Islands in April this year, Mr Bowyer saw two objects up
to a mile across in the sky over Guernsey.

"I saw a bright yellow object, a light in the sky some miles
ahead. I could see this specific shape of a flattened disc, like
a CD on its edge, slightly tilted."

He says some of his passengers, as well as another pilot, saw
the objects and he has been told they were picked up on radar.

Mr Bowyer's sighting may be a prime candidate for the
"earthlights" theory, coming just days before the Dover
earthquake. He accepts this as a possible explanation.

"I'm open-minded about everything. It would be a fairly perverse
universe if we were the only inhabitants."

Despite the drop-off in interest in UFOs, the ufologists and
their acolytes carry on their work, and the UFO-loving public
continues to believe in conspiracies.

"No matter how much material the authorities produce and release
the people who want to believe a conspiracy to hide aliens will
never be satisfied," Mr Clarke says.

"It is such an emotional thing. They are convinced they are
here, that they are walking among us."

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