Sunday, 28 June 2009
I took this photograph on my way back from Portugal. We had just entered French airspace, when I noticed these swirling points of light in the clouds - wow - should I get excited! well no as it turned out, for they were merely the reflection from the interior cabin lights.
The argument for and against the possibility that we have been visited by a species from other planet, has sparked man's imagination since the biblical prophet Ezekiel claimed to have seen a giant flaming wheel light up the night sky. I am not suggesting Ezekiel did not see something but is it not possible that what he actually saw was nothing more than a comet or shooting star.
Reports abound from all over the world from reliable witnesses claiming to have seen something ’unusual’ in the sky. Many such claims, in fact the vast majority, have been easily explained away as cloud formations, aircraft, flocks of birds, reflections etcetera.
On June 24th 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen nine ‘disc shaped’ objects, which he estimated to have been travelling in excess of 1200mph near Mount Rainier. His description of these mysterious objects (pie-plate, saucer and flying disc) sparked the term ’flying saucer’ by the United States press media, a term which would be used many times in the future when reporting UFO’s.
The United States Air Force, following a huge flying saucer flap in the early 1950’s launched Project Bluebook in 1952. Project Bluebook’s sole purpose was to investigate reports of UFO's and specifically flying saucers. Project Bluebook set out to determine if there were any threat to national security by these so called ‘flying saucers‘. The study was eventually terminated in 1969 having investigated some 12000 reports. It concluded that there was 'no threat to national security' and that nearly all reported sightings of UFOs were 'explained, whereas many other reports were nothing more than the work of hoaxers.' Only a meager 5% were deemed unaccountable and filed under ‘unknowns.‘
Closer to home, Wiltshire has seen its fare share of UFO incidents, none more so than the famous 'Warminster Thing’. The town of Warminster underwent a UFO flap in the mid sixties which started with reports from the towns folk of hearing strange and unaccountable whining noises. A little later, reports started flooding in (over 1000 in 1964) of unexplained aerial phenomena. A local journalist, Arthur Shuttlewood, covered the story and put Warminster on the global map as a 'UFO hotspot.‘ The town was to become besieged by UFO spotters from all over the world, including me, eager to get a glimpse of the ‘Thing’ - I never did though. Many people put the sightings down to the nearby army base on Salisbury Plain, suggesting that all these reports were nothing more than military aircraft. Of course, the die hard believers dismissed this explanation and purposed the theory that the very reason Warminster was being ‘buzzed’ was because of its military base.
Wiltshire’s ancient monuments have been a popular hub for UFO sightings for many years. For example, unexplained lights have been reported hovering above cornfields on the night prior to the discovery of crop circles. Stonehenge, Avebury and Silbury Hill have all had their share of weird lights reported circling the monuments at great speed.
In October 2003 a special effects team were asked to manufacture a fake UFO to fly over the village of Avebury. The team set about constructing a rather elaborate radio controlled balloon, shaped like a flying saucer and measuring some 25ft in diameter and complete with flashing lights. The project was televised by Channel 4 and billed as “A Very British UFO Hoax”.
The team took cover in a nearby field and launched their flying saucer into a cloudless evening summer sky. One of the team was planted at the Red Lion pub, which stands inside the famous Neolithic stone circle just to film and gauge the reaction from the public. As you can imagine, as this strange glowing object appeared over a nearby hill, it drew a lot of attention, many were convinced they were witnessing a genuine flying saucer. That same evening the national and international news ran the story, which continued to gain momentum over the next few days attracting UFO spotters by the coach load. That was until the hoaxers and Channel 4 came forward and owned up. When asked why they did it, they responded, "it just goes to show how easily people can jump to the wrong conclusions."
Whatever these objects are that thousands of people all over the world claim to see, I for one do not believe they are extraterrestrial, that is not to say that I do not believe there is life on other planets, that would be very naive of me. When I look up at the night sky and see all those tiny points of light, I often think to myself how desperately sad it would be if we were all alone in the vastness of space.
Should first contact be made and after numerous covert international telephone calls pass between our governments asking the question "well, is it one of yours, 'cause it ain't one of ours?" and a succession of replies answering "no!" then the unthinkable will have to be considered - "It would appear ladies and gentlemen, we are not alone."
If we should ever make contact with an alien species, I am of the opinion that first contact will be the detection of an unmanned probe in orbit about our planet. I am also of the opinion that said probe's mission will be very similar to that of the many probes that we launch into space on voyages of discovery. On closer inspection we may also be surprised to find their hardware is similar to ours, I am not suggesting technically similar, I'm sure it will be totally alien but then having said that, would it be that dissimilar, who knows.
I will leave you with this thought. There is an organization in the USA known as SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) you are probably aware it. SETI has been listening to the universe since the early 1960’s without any positive results. I admit there has been the odd blip or two, but nothing tangible, nothing concrete. Okay, let us imagine, just for a moment that the unthinkable happens, SETI gets a hit (or anybody else for that matter who may listening) a positive signal from deep space that after exhaustive analysis the boffins are convinced 100%, that they have irrefutable proof the signals source is from an alien intelligence and not just another pulsar - should we reply?