UFO/Aircraft spotting tips and tricks.
So many photos, so many videos...how do you sort out the wheat from the chaff? How do you know if what you are looking at really is the mothership, or
something more explainable?
Lets take a look and see what we can come up with, and start with stuff we know
The sky is full of them - literally. They come in all shapes and sizes. I realise that sounds obvious at first, but there are some things up there
that just look plane (excuse the pun) weird. Depending on the angle of viewing and viewing conditions even the most innocuous of craft can appear to
be unusual. Heres some examples from google image - I've linked to pages of images rather than single ones to give a wider view of angles.
Global Hawk Global Hawk
Various other UAV's
In some pictures, the craft above look like ordinary identifiable planes, but in others, particulary where they are partially observed, or at an
angle, its very easy to mistake the shape as something unusual. Military planes such as the Typhoon, Vulcan and B2 coming towards a viewer have very
unusual viewing aspects, and can appear to be very slim. when seen from the front or side, and diamond shaped during a banked turn.
If you are looking into the sky, you need to be familiar with Contrast
because if you
aren't, then your eyes are literally going to be playing tricks on you. Most military aircraft are painted in order to minimise viewing from the
ground, using low visibility camouflage that is grey in colour. Many civilian airliners have white painted or bare metal fuselages, which again makes
certain aspects of them hard to spot from a distance. When viewing civil airliners flying at 30,000ft (5 and a half miles up) the main body of the
plane will be in sunlight but the underside of the wings will be in shadow, and as the wings are slender in aspect the shadow is sometimes enough to
make them lost against the background - they literally blend in. This gives the impression of a missile or tube/cigar shape, when actually what you
are seeing is a normal plane. This is a common cause of people believing they have seen a UFO. The same can be said for helicopters, particularly
teardrop shaped ones such as the Gazelle above, where the rotors can be very hard to see.
Height and visual referencing is another gauging factor in aircraft observation. Simply put looking at an aircraft unaided in a clear sky it is not
possible to gauge the height of any object accurately above approximately 500ft, as your visual cortex has nothing to gauge the distance off. If you
knew what plane you were looking at, what the wingspan was, what the apparent wingspan is and your approximate angle of viewing, and had a decent
scientific calculator and the knowledge of trigonometry to calculate it, you might be able to hazard a decent guess, but thats all you could manage.
Likewise, if what you saw was passing through visible cloud, and you could get a meteorological reading of what level the cloudbase was at, you'd
have an idea, but it still would not be precise.
Viewing angle is another factor. Its is not possible to judge height from a ground based object unless what you are looking at is literally
next to it. You need to understand Perspective
to grasp this concept properly, and combine it with distance and
Angle of View
You may see something that appears to be literally just skimming the top of a
building, but could be 10 miles further behind it and much higher.
Speed must also be taken into account. If you can time movement accurately against two well known landmarks, then speed=distance/time. Problems occur
however when the thing you are viewing is heading straight towards or straight away from you, as it will appear to hover in one spot.
Sound is another factor. Firstly, theres the Doppler Effect
, which means that as an object
approaches you it compresses the sound infront of it, appearing quieter than it actually is until it passes your point of reference. This can lead to
objects coming head on appearing to be silent, or objects passing in the distance being muffled by local ambient sounds and wind noise. After doppler,
you need to take into account the engines being used and the type of aircraft.
The Gazelle helicopter mentioned above has a special type of tail rotor called a fenestron. This minimises noise and aids aerodynamics. Most modern
military helicopters use turbine engines which produce a whistle or whine, and this can often get lost in background noise. Modern helicopters have
noise reducing rotors that do not produce the traditional "slap" noise traditionally associated with helicopters.
Civilian airliners also have much quieter engines these days due to noise emission constraints.
Night is particularly frustrating, because you have all of the considerations of the above, and then some, because you can't actually see the outline
shape of an aircraft. ALL aircraft flying civilian or military are required to display navigation lights
Aircraft Lights and Beacons
UNLESS they are in active combat in which case
they may get exemption, or are deep "black" projects (The F-117 and B2 were tested overland without running lights, for obvious "stealth"
purposes) that does not prevent deep black projects from being seen by such things as engine exhaust port glow though.
Other things are more prevalent at night. You will see stars, and satellites overhead reflecting natural sunlight are much more prominent (just
because its dark on the ground, when our particular side of the planet is in shadow, it does not mean its dark at satellites orbital points, they are
the curvature of the earth. There are many satellite trackers out there on the internet Real time satellite
is one such example.
Stars and planets twinkle
. That can give an appearance of colour
change. They also move across the sky relative to the earths rotation
need to be taken into consideration. Your eyes CAN AND DO
tricks on you. Clouds moving across the sky can make a static object such as a star, or even the moon, appear to be moving. Combine that with
twinking, and the effects mention above to do with perspective and suddenly what may appear to be sensational is actually quite explainable.
So, you've seen something unusual, and you want to record it. Heres a few things to note.
Write down the date, time and location
of the observation as soon as possible. Its easy to get muddled up after the fact.
Note down the weather Atmospheric Phenomenon
can play a BIG part in UFO
KEEP THE CAMERA AS STILL AS POSSIBLE
A moving camera is no good to anyone, as it distorts any movement - or lack of movement - of the
Try and get a visual reference point in shot
- This can be hard to do, but is worth the effort as it puts your sighting into context with a
known point. Getting two known points is even better, and may aide in actually placing your sighting in a particular point of the sky
DO NOT ZOOM IN AND OUT
Zooming distorts the image. Digital cameras are susceptible to blurs, colour distortions and pixellation when zooming in
and out. If you must zoom onto an object, do it slowly, and keep the zoomed object in few for a good few seconds before you zoom back out.
Try and get other witnesses who will corroborate the sighting
- Goes without saying - multiple witnesses to an event give it much more
strength. Even better if the object is viewed from two different locations. Most people these days have cell phones - use them!
DO not film from behind glass
- Glass distorts, and reflects internal and some external light sources. Hoaxers love glass for that very
Use the most expensive camera you can find
- Quality of image comes with expense. Sad, but true.
I'm sure I've missed a few things here, but I hope I've covered a lot of major bases. Please feel free to add/comment. I hope this post is useful
[edit on 4/7/10 by neformore]
[edit on 29/8/10 by neformore]