"Is this a squadron of UFOs flying over California?", asks the London Daily Mail, adhering strictly to the First Law of UFOlogy: any unidentified object spotted must be presumed to be an alien spacecraft until conclusively proven otherwise. And there were other stories in the press. What they had in common was: somebody photographs something in the sky that he doesn't understand, and thousands of people jump to conclusions about alien craft.
In brief, an anonymous photographer known only as "KevinMC360" took two videos of unidentified (to him) objects, using an image intensifier ("Night Vision") device, one that (unlike the human eye) is sensitive to infra-red light. He posts them to YouTube with the suggestion that these are objects visible only in the infrared, and unknown to science. Then thousands of viewers, including "serious" journalists who should know better, think they are seeing something extraordinary, but all it means is they don't understand how these "night vision" devices work. In some cases, the anonymity of the photographer creates the strong suspicion of a hoax, but I don't think that is the case here. The video looks absolutely unmodified. This is what you see when you look into Night Vision devices. I wrote a recent "Psychic Vibrations" column about the uses (and misuses) of Night Vision devices by UFOlogists (Skeptical Inquirer, September/October, 2010), and here we see another instance of that.
In this video, the interesting objects are the three that fly in a triangular formation. These look very much like the triad of NOSS satellites operated by the U.S. Navy for reconnaissance (see http://www.satobs.org/noss.html ). However, most information about these satellites and their mission is classified for security reasons. According to that website, there are still two such configurations of three satellites in orbit, NOSS 1-7 and NOSS 2-1. I have seen these myself, using binoculars, and this looks very much like what I saw. Notice that the three objects keep the same position with respect to each other, except that the configuration flattens as the objects move further away. This is exactly what you would expect to see as the configuration recedes to the horizon. The single object that brightens is not too interesting, it is probably just a satellite moving into a position where its sun angle is more favorable toward the observer.
In the second video, the objects do not behave the same. There are four of them, and they do not stay in strict formation. Probably they are birds. The problem is, however, that in low-resolution devices such as this, practically any object is simply a white dot. The argument that these UFOs must be giving off infra-red, because his wife could not see them with her naked eye, doesn't wash. The night vision device amplifies available light, infra-red or otherwise, making faint objects become visible. Had she been using binoculars, she probably would have seen them better than he did. The video also shows the lights of a jet aircraft. Is the jet using infra-red lights? Of course not.
Night-Vision UFO watching is becoming a popular activity. The leader of this pack is Ed Grimsley, who claims to have videos of "Objects in Earth's space shooting it out," which he is happy to sell you. He even has a Meetup Group in San Diego, where for a mere $20 you will be taken out to dark skies to see these amazing night vision UFOs yourself. As I noted in my column, I was present when this group brought its night vision equipment to a star party of the San Diego Astronomy Association. What none of these intrepid explorers seemed to realize was that the "mysterious" objects they thought were visible only in their green goggles were also visible to anyone who has a pair of binoculars - and the binoculars show the objects in better detail.