I have been interested in UFOs for as long as I can remember, in fact I had my first sighting when I was around six or seven years old. After that, I became interested in UFOs and other paranormal phenomena and researched and investigated many claims of such. I may be a believer in the phenomena of Unexplained Aerial Phenomena, previously known as UFOs and hereto after referred to as such, simply because I like that acronym better, but it is also my responsibility and yours as a potential researcher or eye witness to look for other possible explanations. If you are a UFO enthusiast you have undoubtedly found yourself browsing many UFO related internet sites and social media sites and have seen a lot of lights in the sky that people CAN NOT or DO NOT bother trying to explain. As a researcher or witness, it is your job to find the most logical explanation for any sighting especially before posting it for the world to see or taking up a serious researchers valuable time. It's been my observation that most of the photos and video in the social media circuit can be explained away with just a few simple tools and some logic. I will give you some recommendations that I have used over the years to help debunk potential UFOs that I have seen or that have been reported to me by others.
First and most important item that you can use is your eyes and your knowledge of how light and motion work in conjunction with photogtaphy. Although some reports may seem to indicate that some UFOs may defy or distort physics especially in photographic evidence appearing blurry or stretched, often there is a logical explanation for these anomalies and it's probably not a “force-field”. In my previous UFO photo blog I talked about how smart phones are responsible for almost all of today's UFO photos and videos being posted on social media. With smart phones being the primary source of photographic evidence we need to be very careful with the results that we might capture and share. In most of the UFO images and videos we see online we see either a bright pin point of light or a moving point of light. So what should we do if we photograph something strange or we are handed a photo to go along with an eyewitness account ?
If you are a researcher, it should go without saying but get the photographic evidence from the source not a copy from a site. The source file will hold valuable data and could include date, time, GPS, shutter speed etc which is invaluable to to any analysis.
What type camera was used,?
What time of day/night, direction and degree above the horizon was the object noticed?
Was it moving or stationary?
What color or colors did it exhibit?
Did it seem to flash or pulse?
There are many questions to consider but by starting with this short list, we can get a very good idea of what tools we can use to help solve our mystery. First rule, get a copy of the original file or the actual photo if possible. The good thing about most DSLR and some smart phones is that they store Exif data in the image file and this can be extracted. By looking at this you can check if the witnesses story is lining up or it could help you fill in some blanks. Your file will likely be in jpg format, which is not the best for enhancements but it is possible if it was shot at high enough resolution. If the photo was captured in RAW and you can get this format which is typically available on DSLRs, you will be in luck as this format is uncompressed. We will talk more about file formats in an upcoming issue, for now lets just focus on some tools. Chances are the image was taken with a smart phone and each one has its own limitations in low light color rendering and shutter speed.
Shooting at night or in low light conditions will yield unexpected results that may look very strange but they may just be due to camera shake or lens flare, reflections off the internal lenses, or even dirt. Next we look at where the object was spotted and how high above the horizon it was. A lot of UFO photos are zoomed in and there is no reference to the horizon or other objects, these are typically not very useful by themselves. Fortunately if we can find the general direction of the object, orientation north, east, south or west then we can start looking at astronomical possibilities.
Fortunately there are several good apps out there that you can use to literally recreate the sky at any given time. Using augmented reality, these apps can even let you see the sky as it appeared at the time of the sighting and help rule out or in any astronomical candidates such as bright stars like Sirius or the most often reported UFO, the planet Venus. Chances are good that if your app shows a bright planet in the same area of the reported sighting then you have your UFO, as long as it was not moving that is. If your evidence consists of a video recording you may be able to find a lot of information about it. If you can pinpoint the objects movement or location especially if there were multiple witnesses you can figure out where the object actually was over a general area.
Once you have this you can access google maps and get an idea of distance, once you have distance you can estimate the distance traveled from your video and use this application https://www.calculatorsoup.com/calculators/math/speed-distance-time-calculator.phpto get the speed of your object! Using this data you can compare it to known conventional aircraft. For reference the fastest official recorded aircraft speed was the retired SR-71 Blackbird that clocked in at 2,193.2 mph; (3,529.6 km/h). There is also a nice tool you can use in real time for your own sightings, though it won't rule out military aircraft, it will help you rule out the bright landing lights of an approaching aircraft for a massive mothership. One such tool I have used is this app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/plane-finder-ar/id390039844?mt=8 Just launch the app and point at the sky for a near real time view of approaching civilian air traffic.
Finally the color and nature of the object comes into play, was it self illuminated? Or was it reflecting light? Different materials will effect a reflected light source causing it to appear differently than it may actually be. You have undoubtedly seen a brilliant flash of light near sunset or early morning which seemed to grow in intensity then die down to reveal its true shape, a jet at high altitude reflecting the sunlight. Just like that jet, there are many objects much higher up that can reflect sun light and that seem to be moving at higher than normal speeds, now we need to rule out the last two suspects. If your object is still unidentified by now you might think you have a real alien space craft! But hold on there are more things “out there” than aliens zipping through the atmosphere. There are currently 1,100 known satellites in operation with close to 3000 that are no longer working and just floating around in orbit, reflecting light. Some objects in orbit are moving at speeds of over 17, 000 MPH! So how do you know if your UFO may be the ISS? Luckily as they say , theres an app for that. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/satellite-tracker-by-star-walk/id1248172706?mt=8 This tracker for example will let iphone users easily identify satellites and track satellites and their orbtis.
There are many things that show up in UFO photos that we see and with a little work and the use of some of these tools, we can easily rule a vast majority of these out as miss-identifications or camera artifacts. However not everything can be explained away and it is these rare cases that ufologists live for. A good researcher needs to be objective and unbiased as possible and willing to change his/her mind based upon available evidence received. If you can do this then you are well on your way to becoming an asset to the UFO community!