Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for September, 2007

Strange and beautiful "UFO" clouds

Location: Pirinopolis, Goias, Brazil
Date: February 2005

Regina Sylvia sent us this series of three amazing photos that she described as “UFOs disguised as clouds“. We suggested to her that they could have been just clouds, and she told us that:
“This ‘cloud’ was something strange… If it was just a cloud… I don’t know, but on this day we were going to the Pirineus (in Pirinopolis, Goias), and as we stopped at the city we saw this first cloud. Huge, amazing. Afterwards on our house, around two hours later, we saw the same cloud, huge, but it wasn’t just one, as there was another, smaller, a little to the left. The night came and… another cloud appeared in the same place, lit as if the Moon was behind it.”

At first sight, we thought these were just common lenticular clouds, as we told Regina. These clouds are formed with strong, vertical winds on irregular terrain. They also resemble “mountain cap” clouds, formed over the top of mountains.

But the images are not like the common lenticular clouds — as noted by Andreia Tschiedel, who remarked that these clouds are joined closely by other types of clouds. The first image shows a cumulus clouds along with the intriguing semi-spherical, translucent cloud. Were they UFOs disguising as clouds? Well, we Googled some more, and found a possible prosaic explanation.

Nuvem PileusThey are Pileus clouds. “Pileus caps are made of ice crystals high in the troposphere. They form as a slab of air is shoved upward, in the shape of a dome or cap, just above a rapidly rising convective tower. Moisture in the dome condenses directly into an ice fog as the air rises and cools, forming the pileus. Next, the convection shoots right through the pileus layer. The lifted layer above the convective tower can’t be too dry (must have high humidity), or the pileus cap won’t develop.

As images may be worth more than words, we present the image of the month for May 2005 of the Cloud Appreciation Society, taken by Justin Moore:

(source: CAS Cloud of the Month, May 2005)

With thanks to Regina Sylvia for the beautiful images.

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Video: Ghost in Colombia?

Terrifying! Watch as the Colombian news program presents the ghost video, complete with a horror movie soundtrack! They also interview a local Catholic bishop, who says matter-of-factly that it’s just a “parapsychological phenomena!” — Christians do not, or at least should not believe in ghosts, but paranormal is kind of OK. They also interview a spiritualist lady who tells us something we could never have imagined by watching horror movies or hearing scary stories: “The little girl [ghost] doesn’t realize she is dead”. The Others!

On the following day, the TV news followed the popular comotion and presented further stories and claims:

But, seriously, what was that thing in the video? As anyone may test with their cell phone cameras, filming a bright light source may produce a lens flare, that’s always pointing to the light source and whose movement is related to the movement of the camera. Exactly what happens in the Colombian “ghost of Cucuta” video.


And, as we could expect, a rival TV news program also debunked the claims:

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Peru crater: meteorite, secret satellites and zombies

Despite some initial skepticism, which suggested the huge crater found on September 15 in Peru could be the result of other phenomena, local scientists confirmed this Tuesday that it was indeed caused by a meteorite.

According to José Macharé, of the Institute of Geology, “soon after the first observations made in the spot we verified that it was a rock meteorite … if definitely is a meteorite”, he told AFP (shorter version in English  here). He further noted that “it seems that the meteorite fell and heated the water, making it boil for ten minutes and mixing it with the soil (which may have sulfur and arsenic in low concentrations), liberating a grey vapor, whose components we still don’t know about”. That could explain the much reported illnesses described both by locals and even some local authorities that visited the place.

Furthermore, engineer Renán Ramírez, of the Peruvian Institute of Nucelar Energy, assured that there is no abnormal radioation in the area. Like Macharé he suggested the illnesses may have been caused by the fumes coming from the heat generated by the impact boiling the water in the soil. It’s probably not related to the meteorite itself.

But this whole ongoing story sure sparked a lot of interest. Among many wild speculations, one of the most curious was aired by WDIM:

American Spy Satellite Downed In Peru As US Nuclear Attack On Iran Thwarted
Russian Military Intelligence Analysts are reporting today that one of the United States most secretive spy satellites, the KH-13, targeting Iran was ‘destroyed in its orbit’ with its main power generator powered by the radioactive isotope Pu-238 surviving re-entry and crashing in a remote region of the South American Nation of Peru, and where hundreds are reported to be ill from radiation poisoning.
Western media reports are stating that the US spy satellite debris hitting Peru was caused by a meteor …
Most astonishing about these reports, however, are that they state that it was the Americans themselves who destroyed their own spy satellite with the attack upon it being made by the United States Air Forces’ 30th Space Wing located at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

As reported above, there is in fact no abnormal radiation readings in the area, and multiple different institutions and local experts analyzing the site agree that it was a meteorite. The WDIM website is full of similarly unsupported claims.

Related to it, some days before the Peruvian meteorite, James Oberg had pointed in the Whispers list a crater in Kazakhstan that was actually man-made, though not intentional:


A Proton/Breeze M rocket, carrying the JCSAT-11 comsat for JSAT Corp. of Tokyo, Japan, blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Sept. 6, 2007. The launch vehicle’s second stage failed to separate, and one of the engines on the rocket had not functioned properly, leading to the termination of the flight at T+135 seconds, as vehicle was 76 kilometers above the Earth surface.

The failed rocket impacted in an uninhabited area, resulting in explosion and several fires in the grasslands, however it caused no casualties or property damage. A disinfecting group arrived to the impact site, discovering two or three fragments estimated at 400 kilograms in mass, according to Kazakh officials.

It was estimated that at the moment of the crash, the remnants of the rocket still contained 218 tons and 979 kilograms of toxic propellant. The main impact crater was estimated to be 20 meters deep and 45 meters in diameter. [source]

Bigger than the Peruvian crater. So, space junk is interesting, but as everyone pointed out, nothing beats space zombies.

UPDATE: Phil Plait suggests the Peruvian crater may have been actually the result of a Scud missile, which the Peruvian government is rumored to have obtained. Well, that’s a much more reasonable speculation than a nuclear ultra-secret American satellite.

But I don’t know. All those scientists would have to be part of the “conspiracy”, and the Scud missile would have to have created one hell of a explosion. More  than 200 tons of propellant created the 45m crater in Kazakhstan.

The Peruvian crater has 30 meters, and though it does resemble the Kazakh one, a Scud missile has a launch weight of some few tons, and a warhead of less than a ton. It’s more interesting than mere space junk, surely.

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Uninvited companion


Photo of an one year old girl taken with a new digital camera. There were only two people in the house when the picture was taken, the girl and her mother behind the camera. But when they looked at it, this unknown person was by the side of the little girl.

Our reader Felipe Rodriguez solves this one:

“I looked at the photo, and concluded that it’s the photo of a TV behind the girl! Being son of a photographer, I deal with cameras and equipment a lot. When you photograph a television, the image turns up extacly like the one in the image… besides, there’s a square frame above the face of the unknown person”.

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Winged cats: the (not at all) terrible truth

“A Chinese woman claims her cat has grown wings. Granny Feng’s tom cat has sprouted two hairy 4ins long wings, reports the Huashang News. “At first, they were just two bumps, but they started to grow quickly, and after a month there were two wings,” she said. Feng, of Xianyang city, Shaanxi province, says the wings, which contain bones, make her pet look like a ‘cat angel’. Her explanation is that the cat sprouted the wings after being sexually harassed. “A month ago, many female cats in heat came to harass him, and then the wings started to grow,” she said.” [Ananova]

This is old news I blogged in Portuguese long ago, but anyway. Winged cats are indeed real, but the not at all terrible truth is that the appendages are not actual wings. As many may guess, some “wings” are just matted fur or congenital malformations, like and extra limb that may looke like a “wing”. Nothing very interesting.

What is interesting is that a third explanation for winged cats, which seems to fit Mrs. Feng’s one, is the feline cutaneous asthenia (FCA), linked to the phenomenon by the English Fortean, Karl Shuker.

The condition, which has a conterpart in humans, makes the skin extremely elastic, like rubber. It can end up stretching in long appendages, and in cats, those — always appearing in the backs of the creatures — may also have links with underneath muscles. When the cats run, a curious scene with a kitten with seemingly flapping wings my be seen.

If stretched too much, the cat’s “wings” may fall, without much bleeding or pain to the animal. Its aspect is described as resembling cardboard to the touch, which may have led Feng to think it had some bones. Below, a photo of an English case in the 1970s:

This article by Sarah Hartwell in Messybeast has a lot of information in images. The photo above comes from an article by Shuker on Fortean Times 168.

Winged cats, believe it nor not, are as real as horned people.

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