701 club: Case 5227 November 6, 1957
According to Berlinner’s summary:
Nov. 6, 1957; Radium Springs, New Mexico. 10:50 p.m. Witnesses: one Las Cruces policeman, one Dona Ana County Deputy Sheriff. One round object--changing from red to green to blue to white-- rose vertically from a mountain top. Sighting lasted 10 minutes.1
Brad Sparks states:
Nov. 6, 1957. Radium Springs, New Mexico. 10:50 p.m. Las Cruces policeman [Barela?] and a Dona Ana County Deputy Sheriff saw a round object changing from red to green to blue to white rising vertically from a mountain top. (Sparks; Berliner; Saunders/FUFOR Index)2
At first glance of reading this, I wondered if the event might have an astronomical explanation. The changing colors sounded like a bright star, or planet, scintillating. The only problem was that the object “disappeared” after ten minutes according to these sum- maries. I had to wonder if there might be more information in the Blue Book file that could help explain this.
Blue Book investigation
Blue Book’s file is rather interesting. There are two cards. One of them, with the title of “UFOB record card”, lists the case as having an astronomical explanation. However, the remarks section, which reads “Concur with reporting officer that this sighting was caused by stars” is written over in a squiggly line3. This appears to be a record of the investigation conducted by the Air Intelligence Service Squadron assigned to the case. The Blue Book10073 record card for this event makes no mention of an astronomical expla- nation and has “UNIDENTIFIED” in the comments section4.
The file consists of a long teletype message describing the events. What is not mentioned by Berlinner and Sparks is that the USAF sent personnel to investigate at the time of the sighting and that there was 60% cloud coverage that night. The UFO had disap- peared into these clouds after rising above the mountain. While the AF personnel were present, they saw another “light” rise above the mountains and slowly enter the cloud bank. To them, the lights were nothing more than stars. The explanation was there for both Berlinner and Sparks to examine but they missed it.
At the end of the message, the reporting officer states:
It is the opinion of this officer, T/SGT Albro, and other US Air Force personnel involved that the object observed was merely a star rising from behind the mountains. The two previous objects were sighted at the same point and it is our conclusion that these were also stars.5
I am surprised this is listed in the Blue Book file as “unexplained”. Is there a reason to reject the conclusion that these were just stars misidentified?
The Astronomical explanation
We are told the objects rose above the Organ mountains. Organ peak appears to be the most prominent of the mountains visi- ble from Radium Springs and was at a rough azimuth of 115 degrees. This value depends on where the observer was precisely located. At 10:50 PM MST, the star Sirius was at azimuth 112 degrees at an elevation of just over 4 degrees. Sirius had risen around 10:27 PM MST about azimuth 110 degrees. Organ peak was over 21 miles from the observers and, at a height of roughly 9,000 feet,
would only extend about 1-2 degrees above the horizon. Therefore, Sirius was in the right location and elevation to be the possible source of the sighting. At such a low angle of elevation, Sirius would have been scintillating giving the changing colors described in the report.
Everything points towards this being nothing more than a star, very likely Sirius, scintillating and entering a cloud bank. The airmen, who were present, personally observed another star rise above the mountains and do the same thing. They all felt the objects being observed were stars. This case should be listed as “identified - Astronomical”.
This case has another twist that needs to be mentioned here. For some reason, somebody at Blue Book decided that the AISS investigation was incorrect and gave it the unidentified label. It is popular UFOlogical mythology that Blue Book personnel were purposefully changing as many “unidentifieds” as they could into explained cases. This is based on the writings of Donald Keyhoe and statements later made by Dr. Hynek:
When Major Quintanilla came in, the flag of the utter nonsense school was flying at its highest on the mast. Now he had a certain Sgt. [David] Moody assisting him...[Moody] epitomized the conviction-before-trial method. Anything that he didn’t understand or didn’t like was immediately put into the psychological category, which meant “crackpot.” He would not ever say that the person who reported a case was a fairly respectable person, maybe we should look into it, or maybe we should find out. He was also the master of the possible: possible balloon, possible aircraft, possible birds, which then became, by his own hand (and I argued with him violently at times), the probable; he said, well, we have no category “possible” aircraft. It is therefore either unidentified or aircraft. Well, it is more likely aircraft; therefore it is aircraft.... An “unidentified” to Moody was not a challenge for further research. To have it remain unidentified was a blot... and he did everything to remove it. He went back to cases from Captain Gregory’s days and way back in Ruppelt’s days and redid the files. A lot that were unidentified in those days he “identified” years and years later.6
According to Hector Quintanilla’s unpublished manuscript, Dr. Hynek did not get along with Sgt. Moody and vice-versa7. This might have affected Hynek’s recollections of Moody in later years. This case indicates either it had escaped the ever watchful eye of Moody or Hynek was guilty of over-exaggerating what Moody did. Is it possible that the one guilty of not wanting to look closely at the “un- identifieds” was actually Hynek? As the astronomical expert, he should have identified this case (as well as a few others previously mentioned in SUNlite) quickly. Instead, he seemed to have “dropped the ball” or was “too busy” to look at these unidentified cases.
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2015