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UFO Myths : Stephenville, January 8, 2008 5

             UFO Myths: A Special

                  Investigation into

             Stephenville and Other

                   Major Sightings

                   Continued from Page 4

          There is no dispute that UFOs exist--that is,
          objects flying through the sky that are
          unidentified. (In fact, one in seven Americans
          say they have seen UFOs.) But that, of course,
          does not mean they are ships from a distant
          galaxy. We humans tend to leap to conclusions,
          imagining alien spacecraft while discounting
          more likely explanations.
                 Over the centuries, the technology to
          record UFOs has evolved from marks on clay to
          video clips, and the causes of sightings may
          have changed from comets to secret aircraft, but
          the psychological pattern endures: It is the story
                                                         a Web site about the sightings, funded by Allen. information and forwarded radar data.
          of people projecting hopes and fears onto
                                                         The Dublin Citizen, however, continued to              In July, the group released its report,
          objects in the sky.                            pursue the story. Publisher and editor Mac which suggests that several fighters as well as an
                 The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON),
                                                         McKinnon, a former Air Force historian whose Airborne  Warning and Control System
          which is probably the most influential
                                                         office is hung with model warplanes from his (AWACS) plane were in the area. But so, they
          organization within the highly combative and
                                                         days in the service, saw some curious lights in claim, was a mysterious large object, without the
          suspicious UFO community, received so many
                                                         January. "I believe the military has all sorts of required transponder that identifies and locates
          reports about the Stephenville lights that the
                                                         exotic    propulsion   systems    and    other aircraft. The report concludes that a very large
          Colorado-based group set up an open hearing in
                                                         technologies we don't even know about," he unidentified craft or object "was tracked on
          nearby Dublin, Texas, birthplace of Dr Pepper
                                                         says. He assigned the story to reporter Jon radar for over an hour. Most of the time, the
          and golfer Ben Hogan. On Sat., Jan. 19, some
                                                         Awbrey, who also saw lights--"a triangle with object was either stationary or moving at speeds
          500 people streamed into the 1909 brick        squares at the corners."                        of less than 60 mph. At 7:32 pm, the object was
          building that is home to the local Rotary Club.
                                                                 Awbrey put me in touch with Dublin tracked accelerating to 532 mph in 30 seconds
          "Everywhere I turned there were  TV tripods,"
                                                         police chief Lannie Lee. In January two of his and then slowing to 49 mph only 10 seconds
          says Steve Hudgeons, a Fort Worth construction
                                                         men had taped one of the lights using the later."
          project manager and chief of MUFON's
                                                         dashboard video in their patrol car. He had not        Radar blips would seem to present a
          investigations in Texas.
                                                         made the tape public. "I didn't want any positive, nonsubjective way to observe UFOs.
                 Many people in attendance were simply
                                                         notoriety to be attached to the department," the Studies from the Condon Report, published in
          curious. A few wore tinfoil caps. But more than
                                                         mild-mannered chief says.                       1968 by the University of Colorado, to the Air
          200 people came forward to tell their stories,
                                                                 He pulls out a VHS tape and leads me to Force's Blue Book project to a 1997 evaluation
          with some sightings going back 30 years.       the back of the station and puts it in the machine. by the Society for Scientific Exploration,
          Hutcheons and other MUFON investigators
                                                         On the screen, a dot appears against a black sky however, have found that radar can be "fooled"
          considered about 20 reports to be substantive
                                                         and begins to dance. The camera zooms in on a in simple ways. Anomalous propagation, or false
          and relevant to the Jan. 8 incident and promised
                                                         shimmering, bouncing but otherwise featureless echoes, is most often caused by ground clutter,
          to publish a report.
                                                         circle of light. "It goes on like that for about an often a result of low-level temperature
                 On Jan. 23, 12 days after denying it had
                                                         hour," Lee says.                                inversions that muffle ground radar's electronic
          planes in the air, the military reversed itself.
                                                                 The reports from January reminded pulse and lead to a circular scatter of returns
          According to a carefully worded press release
                                                         another Dublin resident, machinist Ricky based on hits from buildings and trees.
          issued by Air Force Reserve Command Public
                                                         Sorrells, of a huge object he says he saw in           In extreme examples, called ducting, the
          Affairs, "Ten F-16s from the 457th Fighter     December when he was deer hunting. "I looked temperature inversion can bend the beam all the
          Squadron were performing training operations
                                                         at it through the scope on my deer rifle," Sorrells way back to the Earth's surface, so a surprising
          from 6 to 8 pm on Jan. 8 in the Brownwood
                                                         tells me over burgers at the Dublin Dairy Queen. radar blip turns out to be a hill or a building.
          Military Operations  Area [MOA], which
                                                         He is a big man who has just come in from With the introduction of more advanced filtering
          includes the airspace above Erath County."
                                                         hunting, dressed in full camouflage. He software over the past decade, the number of
                 Why the flip-flop? "It was an internal
                                                         describes what he saw as a "huge gray object," UFOs attributed to false returns has decreased
          communications problem that has now been
                                                         the color of galvanized metal, with no rivets, significantly.
          fixed," says 301st Fighter  Wing spokesman
                                                         bolts or seams. "It was about 100 ft tall and          Former Air Force pilot, astronomer and
          Lewis. Inconsistent disclosures by the military
                                                         about 300 ft up in the air," he says, comparing longtime UFO skeptic James McGaha believes
          have often fueled UFO speculation. The military  the height of the object to the grain elevator that some such form of radar scatter was
          changed its story about Roswell numerous times
                                                         where he once worked.                           responsible for the returns that MUFON
          after 1947, when Air Force officials first claimed
                                                                 t was the first of several sightings for interpreted as a solid object. The FAA did not
          to have "captured" a flying saucer, then denied
                                                         Sorrells. He captured one of them on video. In describe any such object, nor was it clear
                                                         the Dairy Queen, he unfolded his cellphone and whether it was in the Brownwood MOA. "They
                 Adding to the atmosphere of mistrust is
                                                         handed it to me. I saw a tiny video of a barely had a huge amount of data," McGaha says, "and
          the military's refusal to release details of
                                                         discernable white shape moving through the sky.  they just pulled a few bits of information out of
          operations, including training flights. Lewis                                                  it and drew a line."
          declines to give specifics on hardware or tactics      After its Dublin open hearing, MUFON
          used over Erath County. During training, he    filed Freedom of Information Act requests with                          (Continued on Page 6)
          says, "we fly like we fight."                  the military branches and other governmental
                 By mid-February the Empire-Tribune      agencies.    Only    the   Federal    Aviation            SimulTV Is Here!
          had lost interest in the Stephenville lights; their  Administration and the National  Weather
          reporter Joiner had not. She left the paper to run  Service acknowledged they had relevant          Visit -
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