Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for March, 2011

UFO Best Evidence: The El Yeso Reflection?

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It’s been called the world’s best UFO photo. Of course, some national pride may have been involved since the claim was made by Chilean Ufologists about this Chilean UFO photo, captured on February 14, 2010 near the El Yeso reservoir, high in the Andes Mountains. Besides an interesting image, complete with a “possible shape of the UFO” reconstruction you see below, from a local UFO group, the case is interesting because it was also investigated by the official Chilean group CEFAA, which forwarded it for analysis abroad.

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As a cooperation between CEFAA and the American NARCAP, Dr. Richard Haines evaluated the series of images and issued a report, translated by CEFAA to Spanish, and also reproduced by Leslie Kean in English.

The image was part of a series of photos captured by a family in holiday interested in registering the colorful iridescent clouds that can be seen. It was only afterwards that they noticed the apparent UFO in the sky. That is, point one, they didn’t actually see the UFO. And, as Haines himself notes, “the UAP was not visible in any of the other photographs taken of the same location in the sky”. It only showed up in one image. Point two.

Here’s one additional. extremely relevant point. As local UFO group CIFAE comments on, quoting the direct statement by one of the witnesses, Doris Hermosilla, some of the photos in the series were taken from inside an utility vehicle. Hermosilla states that the image with the UFO was taken outisde the car, but the UFO group comments that both the previous and the photo in question actually have fuzzy reflections suggesting otherwise.

Indeed, in the upper left corner of area number 12, following the reference areas marked in the full photo by Haines, one can clearly see an out of focus light blob.

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Now, that could be either a flare, or an internal reflection on a car window or windshield. It could also be another UFO, but then, and here is the point, so could the UFO be… a flare or internal reflection.

A flare is not a very good candidate since the image does appear in focus with definite features, but a reflection looks like a very good hypothesis. It would not be the first of its kind.

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The three points we remarked are all compatible with a reflection on a window or windshield, not noticed by the witnesses, recorded only in one photograph where the angles were just right, and taken from inside a vehicle. Something very much like this mysterious yellow UFO in the sky:

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Which is just a GPS antenna reflected on a windshield. Notice in this other photo how reflections of objects at different distances from the glass may appear in and out of focus, just as on the El Yeso photo we have a more sharply defined “UFO” and an out of focus blob.

Additional elements supporting the idea of a reflection can actually be found in Dr. Haines considerations. He notices how the geometry of the illumination does not match if the assumed UFO was reflecting sunlight. Indeed, it’s backwards. Haines then suggests that “the UAP’s surface was not reflecting sunlight but (perhaps) emitting its own reddish luminance”. Perhaps, but then perhaps it was reflecting sunlight, and then being reflected once again through a windshield.

The ‘UFO’ is a reflection in a window”, promptly explained to me Chilean researcher Andrés Duarte. “Obviously, an image like that is very easy to recreate. The reflected object seems to show a woven pattern and stitching”. Amazingly, Haines also noticed that “the UAP looks remarkably like a woven, canvas shoe with threaded thong stitching around the sole”.

So, if the “UFO” was a reflection, what it actually was? Probably not a shoe. CIFAE published an image from one of the seats of the vehicle in question, noting some similarities, but also some differences:

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So, especially if the photo was taken through the side window, part of one of the seats illuminated by the Sun could be what many are interpreting as an UFO.

From my part, if the photo was taken instead through the windshield, then as with the previous GPS UFO example, the object may appear much larger than it actually is. It could even be, instead of a disc or part of a larger object, in fact a hole in the dashboard, similar to the best “UFO” photo ever.

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If it was a hole, then this case would be fascinating, among many other reasons, for combining the illusion of a convex object where it was actually concave, with the appearance of a large hovering object in the sky where it was in fact a small reflection.

An examination of the vehicle and further interviews with the witnesses could possibly identify the object and make this yet another one of the “best” UFO photos for their interesting story and unexpected identification rather than a great unexplained mystery.

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Caterpillar

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Those birds would probably eat a caterpillar. [via imgur]

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Double or split Sun in China?

“Weeks after a story shot across the Web claiming that the imminent explosion of a nearby star would result in the appearance of a second sun in the sky — a story that was later debunked — two suns were caught on camera yesterday in China. The suns — one fuzzy and orange, the other a crisp yellow orb — appeared side-by-side, one slightly higher than the other. What’s going on?”
‘Two suns’ spotted in China defy explanation

A tentative explanation by Jim Kaler was quoted on Life’s Little Mysteries, summarized as “an effect of optical refraction”. But as they themselves quoted other experts, this does not seem like anything seen before. That is, “sun dogs, sunset mirages, sun pillars and sun halos are all relatively common and well understood. But not this effect”.

Basically they are symmetric and appear some degrees apart from the Sun. They may be partially obstructed, and thus not appear very symmetric, but not like the Chinese double-sun.

As Grant Perry is also quoted, this could be a reflection. A double-window can produce similar results:

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Above, the Sun at left is just a reflection from the double-window.

But then, as Perry also notes, such reflections would move in relation to the Sun when the camera moved. They would move much less if they were reflections on a double window rather than internal camera lens reflections, but they would move.

Then again, in the very short clips we have seen we can’t be sure if there’s no relative movement at all. So this is still a possibility.

But I’m inclined to think perhaps the double-sun is actually a single, split Sun:

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The orange circle is a suggestion of the size of the actual Sun, which may have been obstructed, split in half, by something – thick fog? – giving the illusion of two smaller circles. Lack of focus and compression artfifacts would contribute to form each half into a more round circle, but even on casual inspection it’s clear they are not perfectly round.

It wouldn’t be very hard to test this suggestion: one would just have to check the angular size of the Sun in the video. Our actual Sun measures around half a degree, so if we have two quarter-degree suns, then this is a split sun. If we have two half a degree ones, then this is something else, indeed a “double-sun”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find more details on the video so we can’t calibrate and make estimates, but I do suspect this could be a split Sun. The tone of the two halves is different, but this could be simply an artifact from the video camera or the atmosphere between the Sun and the camera.

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Famous Battle of LA photo was retouched version

Feb. 25, 1942: Searchlights converge on unknown object over Los Angeles in the early morning hours. Over 1400 rounds of anti-aircraft rounds were fired, with rounds with many rounds landing on the ground. This is unretouched version.

“Feb. 25, 1942: Searchlights converge on an unknown object in the skies over Los Angeles. During the early morning air-raid alert, more than 1,400 anti-aircraft shells are fired.

The incident, now referred to as the Battle of L.A., occurred less than three months after the Pearl Harbor attack and two days after a Japanese submarine shelled an oil facility near Santa Barbara.

The next day, on Feb. 26, The  Times published a photo page with a retouched version of the above searchlight photo and seven other images of damage from falling anti-aircraft shells.”

Do you hear that sound? It’s one “classic” UFO case falling apart in the most basic form. In an article by Scott Harrison published by the same LA Times, we are informed that an original, unretouched negative of the famous image was recently found at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA, and that:

“In the retouched version, many light beams were lightened and widened with white paint, while other beams were eliminated.

In earlier years, it was common for newspapers to use artists to retouch images due to poor reproduction — basically 10 shades of gray if you were lucky.

Thus my conclusion:  the retouching was needed to reproduce the image. But man, I wish the retouching had been more faithful to the original. With our current standards, this image would not be published.”

Feb. 25, 1942. Retouched version of searchlight photo after work by Los Angeles Times artists. The bottom part of the image was painted black. The searchlights were lightened with white paint.  This version is from a copy negative made at unknown date from retouched print.  The neg is now in the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.

Previously, Tim Printy had already delved into the whole Battle of LA case in his SUNlite Vol..3 No.1, where he had already speculated the famous image could have been retouched. He also noted that another photo of the Battle of LA published on LIFE magazine shortly afterwards didn’t show anything at all:

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As it turns out, just like the original unretouched LA Times image.

Printy’s article also goes into the very small detail that most promoting an UFO link seem to ignore, that the Battle of LA happened a couple of days after an actual Japanese attack on the west coast.

Interestingly, and quite amazingly, all the panic that night may have started with a  weather balloon. One of the major cases before the word UFO was even coined involved a weather balloon.

Believe it or not – and if you do read more about the historical context, it actually is quite believable – fact is that the only physical evidence for an alleged alien spacecraft that night has just vanished.

As it was never actually there.

UPDATE 03/13/2011: A looping animation between the original and retouched versions:

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Soviet Experiments in Dog Cyborgs

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I don’t know where this actually came from (click for more images), but 1) It’s a nice Photoshop job, and 2) It’s a reference to the real experiments by Soviet Dr. Sergei Bryukhonenko, who kept disembodied dog heads alive for short periods of time.

On a probably related note, I did find the source for this other puzzling image:

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"Their last solemn moment, before we buried the gate and the truth with it. Pyramiden, Spitsbergen 1928".

It’s part of an ARG, Mysterium Magnum.

Which probably has nothing to do with the cyborg dog, but both may be related to ARGs. Or viral campaigns. In any event, Photoshop, nice Photoshops. [via Nerdcore, Eduardo Lisboa]

UPDATE: From the comments at BoingBoing, the source for the cyborg dog, actually “The Kollie”, is an art project by “hotshkin”. Click for the full gallery:

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