Friday, February 26, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 3)

For the past few years, Ben Hansen, formerly the star of the show Fact or Faked? on the SyFy Channel, has been representing a vendor of very expensive night vision optics  On Thursday evening, Ben held a night vision skywatch, as he did in several previous years. Unfortunately, the sky was mostly cloudy, although the moon and Orion peeked through the clouds briefly. Ben's commentary about what we are seeing has always seemed correct to me; he does not hype airplanes or satellites as UFOs. I brought my portable telescope, but there wasn't much to see. Some news crew that had been filming Hansen saw me with my telescope, and they filmed me, too. That video might have been shown somewhere, I have no idea where.

Yours truly with the Big Guy, Ben Hansen.
As I have written elsewhere, the use of expensive night vision optics (like, $6,000 each) is becoming a popular thing in UFOlogy. What people don't realize is that these image intensifiers and IR viewers were not made for astronomy, and are not suitable for viewing objects in the skies. No astronomer uses these devices. They are designed for surveillance and military applications, to spot people hiding in the bushes. UFO enthusiasts love night vision devices because of their frequent false positives. Every bird, airplane, satellite, etc. that crosses your field of view is magnified to a big white (or maybe green) blob. What you gain in sensitivity, you lose in resolution. If you think that UFOs are flying overhead, unseen, you should buy a really good pair of binoculars to look for them. 

The next day Ben and I spoke at some length about astronomy. He is interested in adding telescope viewing of astronomical objects to the occasional skywatches he arranges. He isn't familiar with the features of today's high-end amateur telescopes, and we discussed getting started using them. I told him how, as a member of the San Diego Astronomy Association, we hold frequent public observing sessions, and invited him to join us.
Yours Truly with Chris Rutkowski

Christ Rutkowski spoke on "UFO, eh?: Canada and UFOs." There have been many significant UFO sightings and events in Canada. Canada had the honor of having the world's very first Crop Circle in 1967. He spoke about the strange case of Steven Michalaka in Falcon Lake, Manitoba (known as "Mr. A," in Case 22   of the Condon report). The man suffered burns, which he attributed to a UFO encounter.The somewhat strange conclusion reached by the Condon Report investigation was:
If Mr. A's reported experience were physically real, it would show the existence of alien flying vehicles in our environment. Attempts to establish the reality of the event revealed many inconsistencies and incongruities in the case, a number of which are described in this report. Developments subsequent to the field investigation have not altered the initial conclusion that this case does not offer probative information regarding inconventional craft. 
Rutkowski also spoke about the famous Yukon, Canada sightings of December 11, 1996, which until recently was one of the best cases in Canada, or anywhere else. Then Ted Molczan (another Canadian) demonstrated that this sighting coincides almost perfectly with the fiery re-entry of the second stage of the Russian rocket that launched the Cosmos 2335 satellite earlier that day. I almost felt sorry for Rutkowski, having to insert caveats into his discussion of this once-solid case. He seemed to be saying that some of the observers saw the rocket re-entry and reported it, while others, whose descriptions were much more dramatic, may have seen something else. He apparently could not make up his mind about this question.

Rutkowski posted to Facebook "Ten things I have learned so far at the International UFO Congress:". One of them was, "Robert Sheaffer is the devil incarnate. At least that's what I'm told by people who saw me talking to him."

MUFON's Director of Research Robert Powell gave "A Detailed Analysis of an Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon Captured in a Homeland Security IR Video."  On April 25, 2013 a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft flying over Ahuadilla, Puerto Rico captured an object on infrared video that Powell said was the best UFO video he had ever seen. Working as part of a group calling itself the Scientific Coalition for UFOlogy, they have produced a 161-page analysis purporting to show that the object appears to possess a technology unknown on earth. The most interesting part of their report is the claim that the object, moving at close to 100 mph, went into the water and continued at that same speed underwater for several seconds when it emerged. Their report, and the IR video, are found on the SCU website.

During the Q&A period, I noted that there is a different group called the Puerto Rico Research Review (PRRR), consisting of many of the same people who worked on the Roswell Slides Research Group, that has been analyzing that same video, and coming to quite a different conclusion. (Most importantly, the object never enters the water. It is closer to the camera than the SCU estimates, and not traveling as fast. The optical aspects of an object seen in thermal infrared are quite different than if seen in visible light.) Because the PRRR group has been working only from the YouTube version of the Aguadilla IR UFO video, which is lower resolution, I asked Powell if he would be willing share the higher-resolution video that he has been working with. He was. After his talk, I obtained a copy from him, and shared it with the PRRR group.


  1. Bob felt sorry for me? He has a heart after all! (Being the devil incarnate and everything!)

    NB: "Michalak" is the name of the Falcon Lake witness.

    As for the Yukon case, it's true; I don't know what to think of the additional witnesses who reported seeing an object that didn't seem to be aligned with the rocket re-entry as described by Molczan. We can either reject them outright or simply accept them as incongruous reports. I don't have a problem with ascribing most of the other observations to the rocket re-entry. In either case, it doesn't mean that a spaceship was involved.

  2. I enjoyed Chris Rutkowski’s talk. Good stories and a good presenter. One of the highlights of the IUFOC.

    Somehow I missed hearing about Falcon Lake before the conference -- maybe because it was from Canada. But I appreciated a contact story that was different than the abduction tales recounted through hypnotic regression.

    Of course, what was contacted - if anything -- is up for grabs. I did not have to worry about whether Mr. Michalak happened upon an alien craft, a terrestrial experiment, was involved in a technological folklore experience, or simply hoaxed the whole thing. Burns, radiation, and a craft somewhat reminiscent of either Adamski's models or the Avrocar make for a good story - throw in a high pitched voice and Michalak calling out to help the Yankees. What more could one want at a UFO conference?

    Ultimately, Chris provided one more reason why my state should join Canada -- but that is another post for a different kind of blog.

  3. I totally disagree wit Robert's comments regarding night vision devices. If he ever spent few thousand hours with the technology , he would no doubt change his tune. The problem , there are way too many people with these expensive night vision goggles with no idea what they are observing and yes most are filming satellites and other mundane objects. I have been following UFO s in night vision for 5 years , some invisible to naked eye and many of what I have captured could not be explained, and are truly UAP's even Chri Rutkowski knows this to be true

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    1. [typo fixed]

      Couldn't find you in any video, Robert, but in this clip, Chris Rutkowski is allowed to say some sensible things amongst the throng of mystery mongers.


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