Project Blue Book case review: May-August 1966
This is the latest edition of the Project Blue Book case review covering May through August of 1966. Like the previous evaluations, I tried to examine each case to see if the conclusion had merit. I added comments to help clarify the explanation or if I felt it was not correct or adequate.
The cases during this time period had a significant number of cases that were difficult to evaluate. The difficulty had a lot to do with very poor reports and descriptions exaggerated by excited witnesses not familiar with objects in the night sky. Evaluating each individual sighting can be exhausting. Many are not that difficult but others either lack details or contain errors in the reporting, which results in me trying to find additional information (like weather, winds aloft, etc). The resultant work load eats into a lot of my time.
Satellites continue to big producer of UFO reports. Luckily, there is a great Two-line element database at Jonathan McDowell’s space home page. I counted 92 possible/probable satellite sightings in the list. That is about 24% of the total number of sightings. Echo 1 and Echo 2 were the primary sources. However, several were of the Cosmos variety. Additionally, a new contender had been launched in late June. That was Pageos-1. It had a magnitude of about 1 and moved slower than Echo 1 and 2 because it was in a higher orbit. I recall seeing Pageos-2 in my early years of astronomy. It moved slow enough that its motion was not easily perceptible with the eye until one watched for a few seconds and as it passed near stars. It was visible on the same track the following evening around the same time. I had seen plenty of satellites in the past but this was different. Being not that experienced, I went for help and brought it up with some more experienced observers at the next club meeting. I remember their answer was that I saw a satellite that was very high up and it was probably a spy satellite. It wasn’t until many years later that Ted Molczan suggested to me that what I had seen was the Pageos satellite.
There were some very interesting cases on the list. One involved an individual in West Galveston Bay (July 4), who saw a bright flash with a resultant comet shaped cloud that was relatively stationary and slowly faded out after 15 minutes. The witness even gave pretty good star positions for the event. I was disappointed that Blue Book listed this as “insufficient data”. Presumably, this was because there was enough data to make a judgment. The data was there but Blue Book chose not to examine it. Hynek’s signature was missing on this one and he probably might have come up with a conclusion had he reviewed it. It might have been a firework display but it was late at night and very high in the sky. It was also probably not a venting booster in orbit, which would have moved over time. Eventually, I classified this is a possible fireball with resultant long duration ion trail. The description matches that kind of event.
Another interesting case was from Atlanta on July 25-27. These witnesses, who would be considered “expert observers”, mistook celestial objects and satellites for UFOs. One of the major UFOs seen was the planet Venus. They saw it on multiple mornings but continued to believe it was something unusual. These were Air Traffic controllers and communications specialists but they still made the same kinds of mistakes that casual observers make. This case was also listed as insufficient data and Hynek was missing from this one as well. Once again, the data was there. It just took time to examine it and identify the sources.
Next issue, I will perform a check of the last four months of 1966.
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2022