The 701 Club: Case #1052 February 11, 1952
Don Berlinner describes the event as:
Feb. 11, 1952; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 3 a.m. Witnesses: Capt. G.P. Arns and Maj. R.J. Gedson flying a Beech AT-ll trainer. One yel- low-orange comet-shaped object pulsed flame for 1-2 seconds of a 1 minute straight and level flight.1
Examination of the Blue Book file produced a few more details. There are several different documents describing the sighting but the following specifics can be determined :
• The plane was heading towards the NNE (azimuth 350).
• The UFO appeared at the one O’clock position, which was almost due north.
• The UFO disappeared above or behind a cloud bank at the 5 O’ clock position, which was to the Southeast.
• Duration was about one minute
ATIC suggested it might have been a meteor because the “description was similar to a meteor” .2 However, the intelligence office of Tactical air command disagreed. In a memo dated 6 May 1952, Major Gedson was quoted as stating:
“That he has observed meteors and in this instance the course of the object appeared to be a straight line and did not have the charac- teristic orbit of a meteor.” 3
This statement, in itself, indicates the pilot was not familiar with meteors. Meteors, for the most part, always travel in straight lines. They do not arc across the sky, which is a common misperception by observers. Even more telling is this description of the object:
At first I though an aircraft was on fire because of the brilliance and large size of illumination.4
The object disappeared above and beyond the cloud build-up on our right. Intensity and size of object varied only slightly throughout sighting.5
These are the kinds of descriptions found in bright fireball meteor events. The only reason it might not have been a meteor is the one minute duration that was used to describe the event. However, such estimates can be inaccurate and there are examples of bright meteors reporting such long durations.
The bright fireball of January 12, 1934, which was visible from Argentina, was estimated to have lasted one minute by observers.6 A more accurate measurement for a recent fireball event, on March 31, 2014, indicated a duration of roughly 34 seconds on video.7 The March 31, 2014 fireball appears to mimic the potential fireball for February 11, 1952. It started low one horizon and ended near the opposite horizon. This is the kind of trajectory one sees in an “Earth-grazing” meteor. They enter the earth’s at shallow angles resulting in them “skipping” in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result they can have long durations.
The fact that long duration meteors do exist and can be quite spectacular is something not to be ignored. Blue Book is full of pilots who, upon seeing a bright fireball, reported a UFO because it was unlike meteors they had seen before. There is also the possibility that the time estimate was in error and may have been lower. This gives me all the reason to suspect that it was a bright meteor that the pilots saw and not something “unknown to science”. In my opinion, this case should be reclassified as a probable meteor.
Quelle: SUNlite 1/2016