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The 701 club: Case #10247 MIMS, FLA March 20, 1966

Don Berlinner’s list describes the case as follows:

March 20, 1966; Miami, Florida.. 12:15 a.m. Witness: USAF Res. Maj. K.C. Smith, employee of NASA at Cape Kennedy. One pulsating light which varied from white to intense blue made a jerky ascent and then rapidly accelerated away to the north after 5 minutes.1

Brad Sparks has no additional information. 2

The Blue Book file3

Don Berlinner mistook Mims, Florida for Miami, Florida. Sparks apparently copied what Berlinner wrote because he also identified it as Miami. However, the record card and description clearly identify it as Mims, which is located just north of Titusville over 150 miles north of Miami. It does not change the conditions of the sighting much but it identifies a common problem with UFOlogical lists. They often copy each other without even trying to perform a simple check to see if the information is accurate or not. 

The file consists of nothing more than a single letter written by the witness on April 7, 1966. On the top of the letter there is a handwritten note that states to check with “other Orlando area (?)”. There was no other case from Florida for that date. It seems there was little, if any, follow-up/investigation on this case. 

The witness mentions that he had been driving from Miami and stopped in Mims for a coffee. It was around 0015 EST. He was driving on US-1, about 2-4 miles north of Mims, when he saw the UFO. It was to the left and front of his vehicle. While it is indicated he might have been an engineer (he stated he was a trained pilot), his positional data left a lot to be desired. Azimuth and elevation angles seemed foreign to him. According to the letter, the object’s altitude was 3000-4000 feet. He covered it with his index finger but could still see the object’s light around his finger. It varied in brightness at 80-100 times per minute. 

After his initial observation, the object then began descending in steps of 500 feet and then pausing for about 30 seconds before descending again. When it reached 1000-1500 feet, the object paused for about 60-90 seconds. It then accelerated away to the north in about 3-5 seconds. 

He saw no other cars on the highway. Nobody else reported such an object in the region.

Analysis

US-1 goes North-Northwest for about 9 miles north of Mims. Two to four miles to the north of Mims’ center, the terrain today is pretty developed but there are still a significant number of trees along the highway. Historical aerials from 1984 (they did not have any pre-dating this) shows a pretty good quantity of trees in the region along this stretch of road.4 Examining Google earth, it seems that one would expect that the side of the road would have been mostly pine trees and palmetto bushes.5 The witness would not have been looking over a flat horizon.

mims-fla-march-20-1966-a

Above: This is a stretch of US-1 a little over 3 miles north of SR-46 and US-1 (Mims center) showing the type of tree line one is to expect along the road. This shows from about azimuth 260 and 340 degrees (image from Google Earth).

We don’t quite know how accurate his time estimate was. We were told the time was about 0015 and the duration was listed as 5 minutes. The letter was written 18 days after the event so one has to consider it possible the values may be in error. Additionally, the values were listed as approximate by the witness. The duration could have been longer and the time could have been off by fifteen minutes or so. It is even possible the date may have been incorrect. For the purpose of this analysis, I will assume the time and date are correct. 

This witness had driven up from Miami and it was late at night. He had driven roughly 200 miles, mostly on old US-1 (not an interstate). My recollections, as a passenger with my father (Late 60s/early 70s), was that those roads went through all sorts of small 

mims-fla-march-20-1966-aa

towns and could be very tiring on the driver. I remember the stretch of US-17 around Brunswick, Georgia (The section of I-95 was incomplete in this location) was particularly annoying on a family trip from Baltimore to Jacksonville in 1972 (we got home after midnight). Driver fatigue could have contributed to the accuracy of the witness’ observations. 

This brings us to what the witness might have been observing. Anytime a witness reports a light changing colors at night, I start to think the object might be a star scintillating. The witness stated he was looking towards the left and front of his vehicle when he saw the object. This puts it at an azimuth of somewhere around 270-360 degrees. There were two bright celestial objects visible low in this sky. Jupiter was to the West-Northwest (azimuth 292) and Capella was to the Northwest (azimuth 314). Jupiter was at an elevation angle of about 8 degrees and set around 1AM (at an azimuth of 297 degrees). Capella was higher at 15 degrees and set around 2:10 AM (at an azimuth of 326 degrees). 

Both Jupiter and Capella could have been the source described. Capella is more likely to scintillate but Jupiter could as well under the right conditions. It was low to the horizon and probably nearer the tops of those pine trees I mentioned. It also would have been brighter and more likely to glow to the point his index finger might not appear to cover it completely. His finger would cover Jupiter but we are not sure how he conducted this exercise or if the brightness of Jupiter gave the impression it was extending beyond his finger. 

Assuming the witness saw the events at the time described, I suspect he was looking at an object near tree level and could see the astronomical object approaching the trees as it descended. Even five minutes would have been enough to see motion of the stars when one has a point of reference. The sudden disappearance could have been to it fading behind a distant cloud/fog or just going behind the trees to the point it could not be seen anymore. One can’t say for sure but these are possibilities. 

Conclusion

It is disappointing that nobody from Blue Book bothered to investigate the case and it was simply thrown in the “Unidentified” pile with little follow-up. With the “Swamp gas” fiasco fresh in the news, the April 7th letter probably was looked as, “Let’s not make too many waves” or “We are too busy to be bothered with this report” (March and April 1966 had a total of about 300 sightings). I think a brief investigation might have revealed more information (or at least having the witness fill out the reporting form) that might have revealed the source of the sighting. In my opinion, this case can be listed as “possibly” Jupiter or Capella. It could even be classified as insufficient data. In either case it should be removed from the list of Blue Book unknowns.

Quelle: SUNlite 2/2022

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