It's rare to hear of a UFO sighting through a telescope. But, this is exactly what happened for me on the night of April 2nd, 1994, just outside Greensboro, North Carolina. I had been an amateur astronomer and active stargazer since 1980 and could not recall ever seeing anything I would call highly unusual—and certainly not "otherworldly". At 8:24pm EST, almost two hours after sunset on this evening, things were about to change.
I was president of a local astronomy club at the time and was attending a stargazing session—with nine other adults and children representing two other area astronomy clubs. The children had demonstrated great skill at detecting manmade satellites drifting across the dark sky from time to time as our location on earth rotated well into the night. Some of the satellites were so dim that I couldn't understand how the children could see them at all. Others were much brighter. All were reflecting light from the sun off their metallic hulls to make them visible to us in our dark location where we stood. Some satellites—especially the military spy satellites—had a north-south trajectory and generally stayed visible until far off toward the horizon. But, the satellites that were travelling basically west to east were only visible until they reached a certain portion of the eastern sky where the sun—now somewhere below our western horizon— cast the earth's shadow out into space. If a satellite would glide into the earth's shadow, its hull would no longer reflect sunlight and would steadily dim until it was invisible. The satellite would then take roughly 10 seconds to become totally lost to view from our observing location on earth.
I had tracked manmade satellites in my telescope before. Suddenly, two of the children detected an unusually bright light heading eastward in the southwestern sky. At first, it seemed bright enough to be an airplane. However, its smooth glide across the sky made it possible to be a satellite. None of us could decide which it was, so I pointed my telescope to it and located it in the eyepiece.
At first glance, it had the characteristic sun-reflecting glow of a manmade satellite. I immediately said to the others, "It's definitely not an airplane; it's a satellite." But I quickly realized I may have spoken prematurely. Much to my astonishment, there was a small, green, pinpoint light along the starboard edge of the small blob of yellowish light—tiny, granted, but plainly visible. So, then, maybe it was an airplane, after all, I thought. They have tiny, green lights on their starboard (right) wing tips and red ones on their port (left) wing tips—same as all boats. Yet, the object was definitely travelling in satellite fashion across the background of distant stars—and clearly reflecting sunlight from the sun—despite the sun having set almost two hours earlier and being well below
our horizon to the west, as a result. I began to search for a compromise explanation. Perhaps it was a high-altitude military spy plane… But, I quickly realized that, by now, so long after the sun had gone down, this craft would have to be at an altitude well above the earth's atmosphere to still catch rays from the sun over the curvature of the earth. I began to conclude that this object was probably in space.
But, if this object was in space, then what was I looking at?
The object was now approximately in the middle of our sky—still heading eastward. I scratched my head. Another experienced astronomer peered into my telescope to try to catch a glimpse of this moving object. He found it difficult to point directly to the object immediately—since it was moving and difficult to track—but did manage to get it to go across the eyepiece view for a split-second—long enough to see that it looked like a satellite—but with running lights. We both concluded that—whatever this was—it was strange and in low-earth orbit.
At this point, I was going to do everything I could to figure this out. I immediately told everybody to follow it to the earth's shadow ahead and watch specifically to see if it would dim out. An airplane would not be high enough to be affected by sunlight two hours after sunset—and dim out. Besides, an airplane wouldn't look like a satellite in the telescope, anyway. If it would dim out at the earth's shadow, then we had ourselves a true "unknown". The Space Shuttle was on the ground, that week. And the only other large object in space at this time was the Russian Mir Space Station. With all my experience, this light did not strike me as being the space station.
I was a bit puzzled that my telescope—relatively modest in size and power for an
amateur astronomer—was showing me a small, green, "running light" on an object that
may very well be hundreds of miles away. I began wondering just how large this object must be.
At this point, I just didn't know what to think.
We all focused, naked-eye, on this one moving point of light as it headed toward the part of sky where earth's shadow was casting out into space. I noticed I was holding my breath.
Sure enough, right on cue. The light began dimming at the predicted point in the sky. The object was indeed a spacecraft. I got back to my scope before the object would dim out completely, but I was not prepared for what next I was about to see.
I immediately found the object without any trouble despite the tiny view of sky in my eyepiece. But there was no yellowish solar glow anymore enveloping the object. And the small, pinpoint green light was gone. (Understandable, since it was on the far side of the craft and the craft was drifting farther away from us toward the horizon.) I was suddenly stunned to see, however, a formation of running lights. Two evenly spaced white lights up front (bigger and brighter than the green light) followed by a single, white light of almost equal brightness—with a smaller and less bright, steady-burning, red light in the exact center of the lighting arrangement. At no point during the observation could I see the shape of the object, but the one original glow strongly suggested a single object—not multiple objects.
(Right - triangular UFO as viewed through telescope eyepiece)
Three white lights forming a triangle with a red light in the center… Not the Russian space station. What the heck am I looking at? I thought. I watched it for a good minute more, I believe, trying carefully to record in my mind every detail I could. I realized that this object, approximately 25 degrees above the horizon and at least a hundred miles high—probably higher—was at least a few hundred miles away. "Whatever this is, it is big!" I said out loud.
The object eventually travelled too distant and too far into the haze that hugged the horizon. We had been fortunate to have had such a dark and starry night for which to view this mysterious object.
Well, it wasn't an airplane; that was for sure. It wasn't a manmade satellite or space shuttle; that was for sure. It certainly wasn't the Russian Mir Space Station with its extended solar panels; that was for sure.
It was, therefore, an unidentified spacecraft of unknown origin. One of my fellow astronomers suggested that it was probably some secret government project and that we probably shouldn't worry about it. But, that made me think; Which government? What if it didn't belong to our government? I began to get very concerned.
Who in the world could have developed the technology to lift something up into space too large to launch by conventional means? And what were their intentions in the grand scheme of things? I suddenly didn't like what I had seen. I didn't like the fact that someone—anyone—had technology so advanced that they could theoretically give any one or even any nation on earth a really rough time, if they chose to do so. Who was operating this craft? And, what the heck was this thing, exactly?
I carefully made all the notes I could on a scratch pad while it was all fresh in my mind. And, I was extremely careful to draw the arrangement of lights as exactly
accurate as possible.
Later, I carefully studied my notes and tried to compile all possible data to see what I could make of all this. I was especially interested in the size of this thing. What kind of craft could be large enough for my small amateur telescope to see so clearly several hundred miles away? I knew almost exactly how large or small the object appeared in my eyepiece. And, I knew the magnification and other characteristics of the telescope. I began to check and see if I could figure out the size of this mystery object from the information I had compiled.
I dusted off my college mathematics text book and began searching. I also called
on a highly skilled amateur astronomer in the area who was a math enthusiast, as well. Finally, I was able to figure out a range of sizes for this object based on observational data.
I knew the distance above the horizon in degrees (approximately 25 degrees). I knew that the object was definitely in low-earth orbit—which would have to place it somewhere between 100 and 350 miles altitude above the earth. From this information, I could conclude a maximum and minimum distance range for this object. Even ballpark figures would tell me a lot about the object I had seen. I had already assumed that this object was probably the size of an aircraft carrier or two. I really needed to know the object's size.
I estimated the actual size of the object's image in the telescope's eyepiece in "seconds of arc" then converted that measurement into something called "radian measure" to ultimately get a magical number that I could multiply by various possible distances to the craft—based on the craft's most probable altitudes and the known angle above the horizon at the time of observation.
In my calculations, I determined the object's telescope image to be between 30
and 50 seconds of arc—close to the size of the planet, Jupiter, at the same
magnification. The object's altitude above earth was believed to be between 100 and 350 miles. The object's distance would then have to be between 170 and 640 miles. My results would have to fit within these parameters. (And, I have always believed these ranges to be quite correct when thinking back to the actual sighting event.)
I was quite surprised when I finally realized the results. The object proved to be much smaller than what I expected. At its smallest possible size, it would have to measure no less than 129 feet across (39 meters)—at its maximum size, 811 feet (247 meters). Now, 811 feet would be impressive, but I really had believed the object to be considerably larger. (An aircraft carrier is approximately 1,100 feet long.) Regardless, I had to trust the mathematics and accept the results. Though, I'll have to admit that I developed a new respect for my telescope's ability to see so well an object so very far away.
I pondered for days on this sighting and eventually filed a UFO report with the Mutual UFO Network, the largest investigative organization for mysterious aerial sightings. I talked to George Fawcett, a pioneer investigator in North Carolina. I later sent a detailed report of my own to The National UFO Reporting Center—with a response stating that, based on my report, the sighting appeared to be a legitimately "unknown" craft. Unfortunately, there was little I could do at this point.
But, little did I know that my greatest shock from this incident was yet to come.
Almost five years later in March of 1999, I watched a TV documentary on UFOs. A few minutes into the program, my jaw dropped to the floor. I sat there watching home video of the very same arrangement of lights I had seen in April of 1994 through my telescope. The video showed a close-up view of the lights at nighttime—at low altitude—over the city of Brussels, Belgium. A shopkeeper named, Marcel Alfarano, was among many people who had witnessed sightings of similar objects over a long period of time ranging between late 1989 and late 1993. I had not known of these sightings prior to my own sighting.
Well over 2,000 observations of objects similar to my sighting were reported in Belgium between 1989 and 1993. Many of the witnesses were quite credible. Members of the military, national police, and even some investigators filed reports. At times, F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept some of the unknown object, documenting extreme flight capabilities of these objects. Additionally, on several occasions, fighter pilots got missile locks on these objects only to watch the craft slip off the locks and perform extreme evasive maneuvers. This was an obvious demonstration of "electronic counter-measures". At one point, four different radar stations were tracking the same objects as they performed maneuvers not possible for any piloted or pilotless manmade craft.
While the sizes of these craft—often seen near ground level and flying very slow— were sometimes reported with some variations, they were generally reported to be approximately 300 feet across. The shapes of the craft were almost always identical, as well. Most reported the objects to be flat, gigantic, triangle-shaped objects roughly two or three stories in height—each with a strong, white light on the underside at each corner—and a strong, but less bright red light in the center. Often, smaller lights were reported on the sides of these vehicles (such as green ones). Many reports cited strong, white beams of light extending down from the craft but not always to the ground. The light beams actually appeared cut off on bottom (truncated) in many cases. The operators of these craft seemed to be looking for something on the ground at times.
Five years after my sighting and measurement of the object I saw in space, I
searched for my old notes to compare sizes with my observations and those made by
the majority of Belgian witnesses who saw the objects often at very close range. I still had trouble believing my object had turned out to measure much smaller than I had originally expected.
When I compared my size range calculations to the witness estimations in Belgium, I found that their estimates fit right into the middle of my measurements! This revelation offered to me by the TV documentary added incredible weight to the credibility and legitimacy of my UFO report filed in 1994. And, I could now say that UFOs were definitely real and consisted of a technology not openly known to humankind. At this point, I could sit around no longer. I had to become an investigator. I had to try to find out just who are operating these vehicles.