It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


How good are we at estimating the distance and altitude of UFOs?

page: 3
<< 1  2   >>

log in


posted on Dec, 15 2011 @ 11:58 PM
reply to post by PMNUtah

Thank you for your post, and welcome to ATS PMNUtah. It's always nice when someone replies, but even more so when someone takes the time to register in order to post their reply.

Your testimony is a very welcome addition to this thread, and I think people will find it easier to relate to real-life experience like yours.

I liked the Indiana Jones quote. It makes good sense that if you are trying to get to the bottom of something, that you strip away all the speculation, heresay, and anything that is not a provable fact. I think that is the only way to work out what is really going on in such a complex and chaotic subject as UFOs, if the goal is an answer that we can be reasonably confident of.

At the risk of rambling off along another tangent, there is another point that I would like to make to everyone reading this:

If we see something, the first thing our brain tries to do is work out what that something is - if it can do this then our brains can get a rough ball-park estimate on how far away the object is. All of this is of course performed by the brain subconciously without us being aware of what is going on.

Let's say someone is looking up at a clear sky and sees a satellite of "average" brightness moving slowly across the sky. Now that person has seen a couple of satellites in the past, and the brain quickly identifies the object correctly and the object is then percieved by that person as being a satellite many 10's of km away.

Now lets say that the satellite suddenly starts to brighten till it's as bright as a cresent moon (there are some satellites, known as "Iridiums" that can do this), which quite a few people out there might not expect. If our brains have no past experience of something like that happening before, and no idea how it could happen, we now have a conflict.

The person (or their brain) expects satellites to be dim based on their preconceived ideas (everyone has them, and there is nothing wrong in that up to a point), and now that it is not, the brain starts clutching at straws to try and work out what is going on. The brain is torn between "it looks bright so it must be close", and "it's just a satellite". One thing contradicts another - "it can't be a satellite because satellites don't do that", and the brain experiences a "fart". You know this is happening when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and your jaw drops!

The point I'm trying to make here with this hypothetical example is basically this:

The inbuilt problems all of us have with judging distance, size, etc can sometimes make something that is perfectly identifable seem totally different if something unexpected (perhaps "rare" by the average person's standards but otherwise normal) happens.

Everyone will perceive the same thing slightly (and sometimes completely) differently as PMNUtah quite rightly pointed out, based on their own experience and knowlege of the world around them.

posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 12:55 AM
Estimating distance of a skill unto itself and certain people....Military, Hunters....myself....have been trained to use things that you know to judge distance to a close approx. On flat land.....seeing a vehicle at a distance....first off...most people know the basic size of a car....and know how big a Semi a little training at recognition of certain vehicles, Tanks, Transport Trucks, Tankers....etc...s well as studying profiles of these from all angles.

Then...using a common known distance....such as the length of a Football Field....a person can approx. how many Football Fields distance is this vehicle. There are more tricks and details as topography changes....flat...hills....mountains....etc.

Then you have distance of a craft or ship at sea....this is difficult and takes practice....but we have radar and such but a Seal team....needs to know distance from a position at sea to a target at shore or inland from it. There are tricks and lessons here things such as ocean wave hight...can tell you alot if you are in the water and looking at another ship or boat or oil platform....and can see what the oceans surface looks like at distance and look at what wave size is where you are....this does not work well if waves are different because of a reef or underwater mountain near or at target sight.

Atmospheric conditions can help you out also...especially if you have a good report on cloud ceiling. Plus....if you are jumping from a chopper at night....into large ocean waves....distance can change from 30 ft to 100 ft very quickly and if you dive like I do....hitting water from a hight...with 100lbs of equipment on you....could kill you.

Point I am trying to make is....without training....a person would have a hard time judging distance to an UNKNOWN craft or ufo given they don't know what the size of the object is because they are not familiar with the craft and have no training. If I see an F-15...flying overhead....I can tell how far away it is....because I know the size of an F-15. But if a person hs no training and is dealing with an is dubious that their estimate is close. Even I would have a hard time approximating....unless the object flew infront of something of which I knew both size and distance. Split Infinity

posted on Dec, 16 2011 @ 01:10 AM

Originally posted by PMNUtah
Putting the sighting in the context of history, past testimonies, and triangulating the interviews to find the commonalities between eyewitness versions allows us to come to a better understanding of what was seen. If I talk with two people who report seeing an object, with one of the witnesses saying it was off to the south and the other witness saying it was overhead I can use a map to determine distance but altitude and speed require knowing how big the object is.
Welcome to ATS and what an excellent first post, we need more contributions like this on ATS, so thank you!

Your post mentioned getting information from multiple witnesses, and it reminded me of a multiple witness case where this was done and interestingly enough, 4 of the 5 witnesses were police officers. While an indivual witness can't determine speed, in this relatively unique case, the UFO followed a trajectory over multiple townships over an extended period of time, and by just noting when the different witnesses in the different townships observed the object, it wasn't hard to get an overall average velocity. However I should note that some witnesses stated it sped up, slowed down, and changed direction, which means the instantaneous velocity at any given time was still unknown. But we can say it traveled so many miles in 15 minutes, for example.

Also the forensic analysis done in this case, for a TV show, is probably unparalleled in a typical UFO investigation. If anyone is interested it's a 5 part video, here's the first part:

UFO Over Southern Illinois - Part 1 of 5

And just to give you some idea of the similarities and differences of witness descriptions of the same object, here are the forensic recreations based on the descriptions from three of the witnesses (screenshots from that video series):

Witness: Craig Stevens, triangular craft:

Witness: Ed Barton, triangular craft, side view:

And it looks completely different on the rear view described by the same witness, Ed Barton:

Witness: Melvern Knoll , rectangular craft:

So they didn't even all agree on whether the shape of the craft was rectangular or triangular, which reinforces visually how much witness descriptions of the same object can vary in significant ways. But there are enough similarities to persuade investigators they all saw the same object, especially considering the timing and trajectory of the sightings. This is probably one of the best UFO cases and forensic investigations into UFO witness testimonies ever done, at least that I've seen.

And it tends to reinforce a lot of what you said about no two witness descriptions being exactly the same, etc.
edit on 16-12-2011 by Arbitrageur because: clarification

posted on Dec, 26 2011 @ 06:16 PM

Another case study - Hundreds see bright fireball streak across the sky in Europe - 24 December 2001

On the 42th December 2011 hundreds of people all over Europe witnessed a stunning fireball cross the sky. The source of the fireball was later confirmed to be junk reentering the atmosphere after a Russian Soyuz rocket launch.

Here are a couple of videos of the event that have surfaced:

Many people reported the fireball. Here are some of the reports that were submitted.

24dec2011 Gerjan krul Nieuwleusen, netherlands 17:25 gmt+ 1 30 Right to left Yellow Brighter theb venus Last 5 seconds there were parts falling off. I was walking the dog when i looked in the sky, I thought it was a plane, but there were no blinking lights. I could watch it for 30 secs. It was bright yellow with a long tale. At last it fell a part and it vanished. My firts thought: WTF?!


24DEC2011 Jutta Muehlsteff DRENSTEINFURT near MUENSTER, GERMANY 17:27/ CET 20 - 30 sec from right to left, W-E nothing heard, saw a huge burning object, first thought that it was something like an airplane crashing down/the object was orange and yellow, so actually looking like fire nearly as bright as the sun no fragments it seemed very close to earth and had an increasing speed


24dec2011 Hermann Meurer Hodeng Au Bosc 17.30 CET 45 sec SE - NW Bright clear Light Sun tail of burning fragments Low tractory - almost like airplane but to fast.


24DEC2011 Achim Maier Lutzerath, Eifel, Germany approx. 17:25 1 Minute From West to East bright yellow-white, flamelike tail. The travelling path could be seen over a long time and distance. At the end it disintegrated completly. Moonlike Brightness Loads of parts breaking away. Incredible sight. Where 3 eye-whitnessses who never saw something like this before. First thought of a plane crashing.

From the reports above, you can see that many people thought (at least at first) that they were watching an aircraft or plane about to crash.

We know that it was not a plane, and would have been at much higher altitudes than conventional aircraft can go.

Why would people report it as a plane? I'll try to explain...

Firstly, when we see something we can't initially identify, we try to work out what it is that we are seeing by looking at it's characteristics - how far away it appears to be, how fast it appears to be moving, and so on.

Now most people are not familiar with meteors or reentries, so when they see one, and when it's much brighter than they expect (in this case around the brightness of the moon), they misinterpret that as an indication that it must be much closer than it actually is (a bright light looks big, and under normal circumstances big usually means close).

So the thought process of someone in this situation would be something like this: It doesn't look like a meteor/fireball because it seem too close. A plane would fit the description much better, since we know they can be relatively close.

Take a look at this report that was posted:

24DEC2011 Katherine Baumholder, Germany 1730 45 seconds Right to Left Fire Ball looking with a really long tail Sun Looked like sparklers falling off It was very big. The way I could best describe it is as a "shooting star" but very large and very slow. If a shooting star was extremely close to earth, I imagine this is what it would look like. At first we were scared, we didn't know if it was a plane on fire and decending. We watched it for about 45 seconds then it passed behind our building.

The witness reports the meteor as appearing to be very close to the ground, as well as initially thinking it was a plane on fire.

Now read the following report from someone in Italy who also saw it.

24/12/2011 massimo Como, Italy 17:30:00 30-40 SECONDS W-E long yellow/orange tail. body brighter. No sound very bright long tail of fragments never seen something similar; I even thought it was a plane in flames. It seemed very close.

We have someone in Germany reporting it was close, and now, a report of it earlier on in Italy, also describing the object as being "close".

How could it be close on both occasions/locations that are 100's of km apart?

Continued in the following post...
edit on 26-12-2011 by C.H.U.D. because: clarification

posted on Dec, 26 2011 @ 06:16 PM
We know that this was a used rocket booster that caused the fireball. It would have been constantly descending as it reentered, but we know that this happens gradually (due to a low entry angle as you'd expect for something that was in/came close to being in orbit) while the object was still at relatively high altitudes, and that even large objects when they enter our atmosphere are quickly slowed down once they reach the thicker parts of the atmosphere.

To put this in to simple terms, unless the object is verging on being absolutely massive to begin with, it will rapidly decelerate to the point where it is no longer fast enough to be self-luminous. An object like a rocket booster, or any large remaining fragments of one, would likely be slowed down to the point it was non-luminous (the "retardation" point) well above 20 km altitude, and possibly even as much as 30-40 km. Perhaps someone out there can put a better estimate on this altitude?

When this is taken into consideration, we can see just how bad people are at judging the distance to an object that is unfamiliar to them.

Here are a few more reports that were posted:

24DEC2011 Julien Mainz, Germany 1730 UTC+1 over 30 sec WSW-ESE yellow, white / no sound heard Very bright (as the moon) yes Never seen that before, very bright and big, a vapor trail behind was visible, it disappeared behind buildings. For a shooting star it was very big and slow but for an aircraft it was way too fast!

I think this one is interesting. The witness says that ""For a shooting star it was very big and slow" which is correct in that it was slow, but most witnesses describe it as being about as bright as the moon. Well the moon is fairly bright as astronomical objects go, but even this can be dwarfed by the brighter natural meteors.

Meteors that are "as bright as the moon" are surprisingly common. I personally have seen a few hundred over the years, bearing in mind that the moon varies in brightness a fair amount as the phase changes.

Meteors that are brighter than the moon do occur, and some can even be brighter than, or rival the sun in brightness. People in general, would not expect a meteor to be able to get this bright, and I have no doubt that some people would be thrown off by this characteristic alone in many cases.

24.12.2011 Diego&Juanita Moenchengladbach-rheydt, Germanz 17:30:00 around 30 seconds direction east. no sound, wide and long bright yellow comet shaped brighter than Venus no parts falling of, but a wide stripe Looked as it was not flying too high, it seemed more as an airplane in flames from our point of view


24DEZ2011 Frank Grajetzky 59174 Kamen Germany ~17:30? 10-20sec SW/SE light rumble full moon yes, 4-5 It went from SW over S to SE Before moving out of view it fell apart. Somehow I had the impression that it was quite near and round about 30° above horizon.


24Dec2011 Sharma Luxembourg ville, Luxembourg 17:30 hrs CET 10 sec West to East white and yellow head with tail Very bright no parts falling...disappeared after following an arc path it was very bright and was not sure what it was. 4 of us saw if from terrace


24.12.2011 Marko Fuchs Breitingen (near Ulm) South Germany, in between Stuttgart and Munich. approx 17:30 15 sec at least left-right / west-east Bright white, approx size in the sky of a fighter jet but about 20-30% faster I would say. No sound. Looked very close, saw it cover the whole sky, before it disappeared behind a low hill facing far west. As it disappeared it was starting to break up into fragments. Far east above cloud level, far east I would say below. Bright white Yes, as I faced east. A breathtaking sight!

24.12.2011 Gerhard Neinert 61381 Friedrichsdorf Germany 17:30 GMT+1 30sec started at SE Declination 70° going east no sound - white and red like the moon behind some clouds - not too bright but still eye-catching seemed to be hundreds of parts arround it - many sparks fireball with a lot of "sparks" arround and in its tail - visible for about 30seconds - turned dark red and vanished about 15° above the horizon (behind the clouds?) I'm still wondering why I could see this because at the time the sky was cloudy - was it beneath the clouds? ... or was it so bright that it shone through the clouds?

This one is interesting. The witness could not tell if the object was in front of or behind the clouds. More evidence of how misleading things can be.

In actual fact, we know that it must have been above the clouds since any object traveling above the speed of sound below 50 km (the approximate altitude where the air becomes dense enough for sound waves to be able to propagate) would create sonic booms, and we know it was traveling at well over the speed of sound as objects are only self luminous at velocities above 3-4 km/s.

I hope to post more examples in the near future, as they occur, but in the mean time, please feel free to add any that you have come across.

Seasons greetings to everyone.

edit on 26-12-2011 by C.H.U.D. because: (no reason given)

top topics
<< 1  2   >>

log in