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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2000 > Aug > Aug 29

Re: Donald H. Menzel, Unreliable Witness - Maccabee

From: Bruce Maccabee <brumac@compuserve.com>
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 <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
 >To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >Subject: Donald H. Menzel, Unreliable Witness
 >Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 14:27:29 -0500


 >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


 >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