From: Bruce Maccabee <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 19:42:15 -0400 Fwd Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2000 09:11:39 -0400 Subject: Re: Donald H. Menzel, Unreliable Witness - Maccabee >From: Jerome Clark <email@example.com> >To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: Donald H. Menzel, Unreliable Witness >Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 14:27:29 -0500 >Listfolk: >Few people in the history of the UFO controversy have played so >destructive or dishonorable a role as the late Harvard >astronomer and obsessed UFO trasher Donald Howard Menzel <snip> >On May 12, 1949, Menzel had a personal encounter with the UFO >phenomenon. His private description of the event and his later >public one differed markedly. His initial account of the >incident did not come to light until the 1970s, when researcher >Brad Sparks managed to uncover the report, sent to the Air Force >and marked "CONFIDENTIAL." (Sparks, 1977). >Menzel related that at 9:30 that evening he and a driver left >Holloman Air Force Base on their way to Alamogordo, New Mexico. >As they traveled along Highway 70, heading east-northeast, >Menzel, in the backseat, admired the full moon ascending in the >southeast and noted the presence of the reddish star Antares >just below and to the left of the moon. >A minute or two later he saw another object in the sky, this one >nearer the horizon and farther to the left. As he told the Air >Force, "The star had a fuzzy appearance, caused, I thought, by >low-level atmospheric haze. As I watched, I noted, within half a >minute, a second star about three degrees to the South of the >first." Thinking at first that these were the stars Castor and >Pollux, he watched them for another minute as they gradually >became brighter. >Suddenly he realized that "the two stars had to be something >else." They were too big, and Castor and Pollux were in the >western, not the east-southeastern sky. The objects, he related, >were "very nearly identical in diameter, nearly one-half the >size of the full moon." The drawing accompanying his report >shows two small circles. >Quickly determining that these were not reflections on his >bifocals or on the car window, he continued to observe the >"ghostly objects" for another four minutes. They were white, >almost as bright as the brightest stars, and level with each >other. Then the object on the right "suddenly disappeared." >Convinced that what he was seeing was "exceptional," he ordered >the driver to stop immediately, but the very moment he was >speaking, the second object vanished instantly.> >Menzel calculated that if the objects were truly motionless, as >they seemed to be, they were at least "180 miles away" and about >"3/4 of a mile" in size. (If they were closer and in motion, >they would be smaller.) >When Menzel submitted his report to the Air Force soon >afterwards, he was clearly puzzled. But when he recounted the >story four years later, in the first of three anti-UFO books he >grudgingly acknowledged that "I cannot explain the phenomenon in >every detail." He wrote, "It was merely a reflection of the >moon.... A layer of haze, perhaps disturbed and tilted by the >moving car, probably caused the trick reflections of the moon." >The situation was comparable to "that of a person riding in a >fast motorboat. He might see the moon reflected in the bow wave >thrown up by the boat. But the reflection would vanish when the >boat stopped." Therefore, he reasoned, the lunar- reflection >theory "would also explain why the pair of ghostly attendants >faded at the moment we stopped the car; the reflecting bumps > >would then disappear" (Menzel, 1953). As Sparks has pointed out >(his italics): Debunker Rule #1: Any explanation is better than none. This is an excellent example of inventing an explanation which, upon examination, makes no sense. It would require a fantastic tilted mirage in the atmosphere (atmospheric beam bending of light from the moon), or actually two mirages. Menzel invented a similar bizarre mirage theory to explain the "best" (his characterization) sighting of th early years, that of C.B. Moore (recently of Roswell Mogul fame). Menzel may have been a credible observer (his sighting was rated as good or credible by the Air Force) but he was a non-credible analyst.
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