This case involves two photographs of a disk-shaped UFO. The apparent time interval between the photos is inconsistent with the eight-second reported interval (which was based on careful restaging of the alleged incident). The report must be listed as internally inconsistent and therefore is not satisfying evidence for an unusual phenomenon.
Time: 3:45-3:46 p.m. PST
Location: Backyard of suburban residence.
Weather: Some rain earlier in the day, overcast (1). The observers reported wind as "north to south -- 16 mph" and "cloud cover at 2100 ft.," allegedly based on contact with the weather bureau (1). The weather bureau (2) data: for 3:40 p.m. ground winds were recorded as gusting up to 39 mph from the WSW with a squall line moving through; at 3:58 p.m. the winds were 14 mph from the SSW and clouds were scattered at 2100 ft.; broken at 2500 ft.; and overcast at 6000 ft. The conflict in reported wind direction between the witnesses' report and weather bureau may be due to their misunderstanding the reported direction, "210 deg," (from the SSW).
Camera data: Polaroid "Swinger" camera.
Sighting, General Information:
Witnesses I, II, and III were in the backyard when Witness III reportedly saw a disk-like object hovering above them and pointed it out. He continued watching while Witness I ran indoors and got the camera. Witness II immediately took the camera and shot the first
photo (Plate 59) as the object still hovered. His brother, Witness I, tore off the exposed picture and held it as the Polaroid film developed.
At this point, the disk had begun to move. As soon as Witness II was able, he took a second picture (the last one on the roll) as the UFO moved off in the distance (Plate 60). The position from which this second photo was made was about five yards to the right of the previous photo. The UFO disappeared in the distance with a smooth motion.
The object was described as solid, of a definitely metallic, dull-grey color (3) estimated to have been as much as 25 ft. in diameter (1).
The witnesses took the photos to the local newspaper. The photos were later distributed by a wire service.
By restaging the entire sequence of events it was determined that the interval between the two photos was about eight seconds and not longer than ten seconds, the time required to make two rapid-sequence photos, and that the entire sighting lasted about 45 sec. This timing was held to be fairly accurate; i.e. to within about 25% (3).
However, overlapping and blinking of the two prints indicated that, while the principal dark grey cloud mass beneath the disk in Plate 59 is probably the same as the mass over the church in Plate 60, it had considerably changed its form and the other clouds were not recognizably the same.
Parallax of the trees indicates a shift in camera position that is small compared to the distance to the tree. These reported positions were later measured to be about five yards apart, consistent with the photos. Plate 60 was reportedly taken from a position to the right of Plate 59 on a line nearly perpendicular to the direction of view in Plate 59. Since this position is not appreciably further from the trees, the considerable downward shift of the cloud is not related to parallax, unless the reported separation was incorrect in azimuth and in distance by a factor of about three.
Thus, the photos appear to be inconsistent with the testimony. The time interval and possibly the positions would have to be independently and simultaneously in error by factors of about three to explain the inconsistency between the photographed clouds and the testimony. In fact the downward (westward) motion of the main dark cloud, combined with the direction of winds aloft from the SW, inconclusively raises the possibility that the pictures were taken in reverse order from that reported.
The angular diameters of the object in Plate 59 and 60 are about 2°.7 and 0°.82, respectively. The elevation angles are about 24°.6 and 11°.0. If the boys' distance estimate of 0.5 mi. in Plate 59 were correct, the corresponding diameter of the craft would be 120 ft. (In Plate 60 at the estimated five miles, it would have to be about 380 ft., but we have already assumed that the five mile figure was erroneously large.) If one assumes a diameter of 50 ft. (compromising between the 25 ft. estimate and the 120 ft. result), the slant range distance would be 1100 ft. in Plate 59 and 3500 ft. in Plate 60; the corresponding altitudes above the ground would be about 460 ft. and 670 ft., indicating that the craft was not flying parallel to the ground.
Alternatively, if one assumed that the object was 12 in. in diameter, the slant ranges would be about 22 ft. and 70 ft.; and the altitudes would be about nine feet and 13 ft.
Inconsistency between the reported eight-second interval and gross changes in cloud structure and position impair the usefulness of these photographs as evidence to establish the existence of "flying saucers" or other unusual phenomena.
Sources of Information: