From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul> Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2012 11:37:30 +0100 Archived: Mon, 26 Mar 2012 06:52:40 -0400 Subject: Re: Exeter Case 'Solved' >From: Don Ledger <dledger.nul> >To: <post.nul> >Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2012 13:43:13 -0300 >Subject: Exeter Case 'Solved' >Apparently those super-sleuths James McGaha and Joe Knickell >from the Skeptical Enquirer have solved the Exeter case. >Apparently the 60 to 100 foot wide, blood-red object that >eighteen-year-old Norman Muscarello and Police Officer Eugene >Bertrand saw arising from the trees a few hundred feet away can >be easily explained by the director lights on a refuelling >tanker at twenty thousand feet. >----- >Source: CSICOP.Org >http://tinyurl.com/6npl5qx >November/December 2011 >Special Report >James McGaha and Joe Nickell >Volume 35.6, November/December 2011 >One of the great unsolved UFO cases - which provoked endless >controversy between True Believers and Doubting Thomases - has >at long last succumbed to investigation. The 1965 Exeter >mystery >is now explained. >It has been considered "one of the best-documented UFO >accounts on record" (APRO Bulletin 1965) and "one of the >most spectacular and best-corroborated UFO close encounters of >all time" (Davenport and Geremia 2001). What journalist John >G. Fuller would subsequently relate in his book Incident at >Exeter (1966) began in the early hours of a September morning >in >1965 near a small town in southeastern New Hampshire. It has >never been satisfactorily explained - until now. <snip> I agree with Don that this is absurd. My own thoughts on why are below: --- Nickell and McGaha ask: "Why did the Pentagon not solve the case at the time? Perhaps in the welter of paperwork the clue we found so significant went unseen by anyone who could fully grasp its import and who had time to devote to the case. Naturally, everything is much clearer in hindsight." It has been well known since 1965 that an aerial refuelling operation was one of Blue Book's earliest suspects to explain the silent, flashing red lights. Some sort of photographic mission was also considered, but the file contains statements to the effect that the descriptions seemed typical of other cases explained as aerial refuelling. So they had clues. What they lacked was the ability to prove it, by finding a refuelling operation that could have been in the area at the right time. Hence their preferred focus on the B-47's of the SAC exercise Big Blast, and their ultimate failure to make this stick. Unfortunately Nickell and McGaha are also unable to prove it. What they do is further refine the suspicion, by suggesting particular similiarities between the pattern of lights and lights carried by a KC-97 tanker. This is provocative, but does not of course plug the hole that left BB's effort foundering. And when we examine Nickell's and McGaha's proposal in detail we find that not everything is clearer in hindsight after all. In 1965 BB checked logs of activities in designated refuelling routes and came up with nothing. But they noted that the core incidents happened just after a SAC/NORAD training exercise called Big Blast "Coco" involving a number of B-47's in the Exeter area. The SAC Direcorate of Operations was asked by letter and by phone about types and numbers of aircraft involved and their times of recovery. After checks were made SAC informed BB that the exercise involved ten B-47's from Pease AFB. No tanker was listed and BB did not find any evidence that this exercise involved aerial refuelling. The file states that five other B-47s were flying in the area in the time frame, apparently unconnected with Big Blast. But the main refuelling route was closed, for the very reason that Big Blast was taking place, and other adjacent refuelling routes were checked also. The bottom line was "no refuelling operations were conducted on the night of 2-3 September" and "there were no refuelling operations in the New England area during the time in question." Still, refuelling or not, those B-47s would have been over Exeter during approach to Pease. They are such tempting suspects.... But the last one was counted back at 0135 and the core sightings did not begin until after 0200, lasting until well after 0300. BB badly wanted this to work, but the timing was apparently well-established by Air Force and police logs. Conclusion (reluctantly): Unidentified. This is where Nickell and McGaha introduce a crucial innovation. Under the subhead "Solved!" they audaciously assume that actually there was a refuelling operation going on - specifically that at least one B-47 from Pease AFB was still in the air after the reported end of exercise Big Blast (in spite of the SAC statement to the contrary) and that this exercise "surely" would have involved a KC-97 tanker: "Just this type of craft operated out of Strategic Air Command bomber bases like that of Pease AFB and, indeed, would surely have been involved in a SAC/NORAD training exercise like that dubbed "Big Blast" of September 2-3, 1965. But what about the "fact" that this exercise-which was ongoing in the skies over Exeter at the time of the first sightings-had supposedly ended about an hour before Muscarello and officer Bertrand had their "close encounter"? It seems quite apparent that, although the particular exercise was reportedly over, there were still planes in the sky. Bertrand and Hunt, in fact, witnessed a B- 47 jet at about the time the UFO disappeared (Fuller 1966, 67). Perhaps it had just refueled." So because "there were planes in the sky" they reason that there could after all have been a refuelling operation going on at the time, even though the Air Force investigation concluded that there were none that night in the New England area. This is a bold assumption but Nickell and McGaha justify it as follows: 1) They recognised the rippling 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 sequence of the line of red lights on the UFO as a description of the five red flashing "receiver lights" on the belly of a KC-97 which would light up during approach to help guide the B-47 into position 2) The KC-97's refuelling boom would have hung out of the tail making an angle of around 60 deg with the horizontal axis of the plane, and the red receiver lights would have been seen reflected from this boom. This neatly explains the witnesses' descriptions of a line of five red lights always inclined "at about a 60 degree angle". 3) And if the extended refuelling boom wobbled up and down a little before being successfully mated with the B-47 this would explain why the witnesses described the line of reflected lights as sometimes floating erratically "like a leaf". Let's focus on these three points. First consider the receiver light panel itself. The lights are very bright and could be visible from a very great range. But the individual lights will not be resolvable to the human eye beyond a comparatively small slant range. The size of the whole panel of lights can be measured from photographs and drawings of the 117ft (35m)-long KC-97 and I would estimate that the five adjacent lights occupy a length of less than about 10 ft (3m). At a distance of about 6 miles even a row of five geometrically idealised point sources of arbitrary brightness, separated from each other by a clear 30" (76cm), seen in perfect glare-free ocular conditions in a vacuum, will subtend an angle at the limit of the arcminute resolution acuity of the human eye. In other words they will appear as a single flashing point source, not a rippling line of lights making a distinct angle with the horizon. It makes no difference which of the lights is on at any moment because the eye cannot discriminate the tiny subtended angle between them. Even inside this range, and again assuming idealised point sources aspected favourably to the line of sight and observed in idealised condiutions where glare and atmospheric factors are not in play, the flash only starts to become a just-perceptibly oscillating point source at the distance where the included angle between lights #1 and #5 starts to exceed about 3 arcmin. This reduces the upper limiting distance to about 2 miles. To discriminate the positions of individual lights at all in such a way that an idealised eye could, in principle, perceive a sequence of flashes progressing along the line and back as described (123454321) then assuming ~2ft centres (50cm) between the lights (which we still treat as idealised point sources in idealised conditions) the distance reduces to a little over one mile. In the real world, things are far worse than this, of course. Firstly, the lights are not point sources and are not clearly separated - they are bulbs housed behind rectangular diffusing filters that almost almost abut; secondly, there is atmospheric extinction, diffusion and refraction to consider; and thirdly, and more importantly, these lights are very bright (they have to be turned down during closest approach so as not to dazzle the pilot of the receiving plane) and bright lights in darkness suffer significant loss of distinctness due to glare caused by the structures of the eye. If these factors do no more than halve the effective acuity (an extremely generous assumption) then we would have to say that the upper limiting distance allowing even a marginal possibility of seeing the receiver light panel as a just-separated and countable series of sequentially flashing sources is around 1/2 mile, and the realistic distance in practice is much less. Now, what of Nickell's and McGaha's theory that the witnesses were not seeing the brilliant receiver lights, that they were seeing instead their reflections on the refuelling boom? We can measure this object too and we find that the available length of boom which could be reached even in principle by photons emitted from the receiver lights is about 25 ft (see Fig below [not shown here obviously; mail me if you want it]). This is not a great length, but potentially five reflections on this boom could subtend about 2.5 times the angle of the receiver panel itself. Could they be discriminated? In this case, the first thing to say is that the refueling boom is not a polished speculum neither does it have vertical (or near-vertical) flat (or near-flat) surfaces that could reflect light laterally from the receiver panel to witnesses on the ground when the plane is at low elevation above the treeline as reported. The boom is a tubular structure which in photographs tends to appear dull and shares the paint scheme of the KC-97 fuselage. This object might pick up some diffuse luminance along its undersurface from the bright receiver lights, which might be detectable from below, but it would not be capable of sending bright reflections in any direction, certainly not sideways, and certainly not focused specular images of five discrete light sources. Yet this is the theory:- Five closely adjacent lights with 2ft between their centres, each diffused behind abutting filter panels and facing down from the belly of the plane, somehow produce five bright reflected images on a painted boom extended from the rear of the aircraft between 30 and 60 feet away. These reflections are distributed distinctly and countably along a 25- ft length of tube which is tilted only 26=BA from the horizontal plane of the light panel such that only light emitted almost sideways from the downward-facing panel can reach it at a shallow angle of incidence. This all seems highly implausible. But, undaunted, let us assume that some remarkable image-forming mechanism could produce discrete bright reflections strung out along the length of the boom instead of merely a diffuse glow, what then? More tests present themselves: Nickell and McGaha propose that the witnesses could not only discriminate and count the reflections but could also observe them wavering up and down due to fluctuations in the vertical angle of the boom through a few degrees whilst it sought to mate with the receiving B-47. This motion was supposedly perceived by the witnesses as the object floating erratically "like a leaf". The B-47 refuelling altitude would be at least 13-14,000ft. Even if it took place vertically overhead at the mininum possible slant range a 10ft swing of the boom would subtend less than 2,5 arcmin, which would be scarcely perceptible to the naked eye even in ideal conditions. Moreover, not only were the unfeasible reflections of these lights observed with unfeasible clarity, no other lights except these reflections were visible - not even the brilliant primary light sources by which these necessarily dim reflections supposedly were caused - even though there were two closely formating large jets there both with standard position lights and probably other lights, in particular anti-collision beacons - probably a rotating red beacon on the top of the tail fin (I believe KC-97's also carried other special coloured identification beacons so that pilots knew which tanker was theirs - but maybe not in a domestic setting). Given the angle of the boom, it is obvious that, unless the KC- 97 flies backwards, motion always occurs with the highest light foremost. But the UFO always moved with the lowest light foremost. Witnesses Bertrand and Hunt specifically noted this point in their original statements. The reported angle of traverse from first positionb to last was from NE to N. Bertrand said he watched for 10 mins, Hunt (arriving late) said 5-8 minutes. What is the implied speed if it was close enough to resolve 5 lights? Could a KC-97 fly slow enough? Let's assume a 15 arcmin subtense for all 5 lights. This is half the width of the moon and nothing like the angular sizes reported or implied, but should make it just realistic for the eye to resolve separate lights in an inclined line. Starting from this conservative assumption, then, and even allowing the grossly implausible theory that the witnesses were seeing reflections along the boom, rather than the panel of receiver lights itself, 25 ft subtends 15 arcmin at 5700 ft or a little over one mile. So this is an upper bound on realistic slant range because beyond about a mile it would not be possible to resolve separate lights into a line. Given this upper bound we can convert the angular rate of motion of the object (estimated angular distance covered in flight divided by the estimated duration of the sighting) into an approximate implied ground speed. Note that again this enforces a lower bound because it conservatively assumes motion transverse only to the line if sight. The policemen said that the direction of the first sighting was NE, that of the last sighting, where the lights went behind the tree line, due N, or the lights traversed about 45 deg. To be conservative again let's use the minimum duration of 5 min (half the duration estimated by Bertrand). We then have a small row of just-separable flashing lights travelling ~9 deg / min, which at a range of one mile corresponds to a true speed of 834 ft/min or about 10 mph. Clearly this result is adrift by at least an order of magnitude. A prop-driven KC-97 cruised at 230 mph with a maximum speed of about 400 mph, and it needed lots of speed to refuel jets like B-47s. This was always a problem. The early solution was "toboganing" - climbing and building up speed in a dive - until the addition of jet pods during the '60s. In any case, we need hundreds, not tens, of mph. Either the duration was only a few seconds instead of 5-10 minutes; or the right-to-left traverse of the object was only about 5 deg, not 45 deg from NE to N; or the KC-97 was in the order of 10 miles away, in which case the angular size of the whole array of hypothetical light reflections shrinks to only ~1.5 arcmin, far too small for even the sharpest eye to even resolve them as other than a single flashing light (never mind see them as an intimidating array of brilliant lights 90 ft across, hovering at the height of the phone poles) The implied angular size of the object reported by Muscarello in the initial sighting is grossly larger than anything plausible for a KC-97. All lights were clearly separated in a line and only one was lit at at a time, rippling in sequence 123454321, appearing to be 90 ft from #1 to #5, at phone-pole height nearly overhead, so the order of estimated size and distance are both ~100ft or an angular width of ~45 deg, The stated angular sizes of the object reported later by Bertrand and Hunt, were baseball/grapefruit at arm's length reducing to a quarter at arm's length - much smaller but still very large in comparison. Every factor studied indicates that even if the hypothesis were a plausible account of the lights seen, the KC-97 would have to have been much less than a mile away. A large 4-engine tanker like the KC-97 within an upper-limiting distance of one mile ought to have been clearly audible. A B-47 flying along with it in the act of refuelling ought also to be audible (as well as visible). But all witnesses made a point of noting total silence. The report forms indicate a calm, clear night with only a light breeze. Of course approximations based on witness estimates will contain error. But I think it reasonable to doubt that so large a discrepancy can be casually absorbed by arbitrary error margins given the physical, geometrical and optical limits and the fact that we have already incorporated conservative assumptions. It is not irrelevant, either, that Officer Bertrand had 4 years in the Air Force working on "refuelling operations with aircraft of all types" (letter) although it is not exactly clear what this means. Bertrand's experience with KC-97's is mentioned specifically by Fuller, who described Bertrand as "an Air Force veteran during the Korean war, with air-to-air refuelling experience on KC-97 tankers" (p.10). But Bertrand talks about working "right on the ramp with the planes" (p.58) suggesting perhaps that his experience was not of refuelling by KC-97s in the air but refuelling (and perhaps other maintenance) of KC-97s and "aircraft of all types" on the ground. Howsoever, such experience does count for something in this particular case. IMO it is much more likely that _if_ the UFO was caused by aircraft the red flashers were red rotating anticollision beacons or the like on a number of individual aircraft flying in formation at much greater distance which would help explain the slow angular rate across the sky., and possibly the silence too. The several beacons rotating out of phase with a spin rate of a couple of seconds could possibly give the impression of flashing in sequence. And of course the angular separation of five planes flying abreast or in a left or right echelon could at least start to fit the reported and implied angular sizes. Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast At: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/sdi/program/ These contents above are copyright of the author and UFO UpDates - Toronto. They may not be reproduced without the express permission of both parties and are intended for educational use only.
[ Next Message | This Day's Messages ]
This Month's Index |
UFO UpDates - Toronto - Operated by Errol Bruce-Knapp