Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Kecksburg UFO Incident, part 2

Several articles were written about the fireball in science journals. The February 1966 issue of Sky & Telescope reported that the fireball was seen over the Detroit-Windsor area at about 4:44 p.m. EST. The Federal Aviation Administration had received 23 reports from aircraft pilots, first starting at 4:44 p.m. A seismograph 25 miles southwest of Detroit had recorded the shock waves created by the fireball as it passed through the atmosphere.

A 1967 article by two astronomers in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC) used the seismographic record to pinpoint the time of passage over the Detroit area to 4:43 p.m. In addition, they used photographs of the trail taken north of Detroit at two different locations to triangulate the trajectory of the object. They concluded that the fireball was descending at a steep angle, moving from the southwest to the northeast, and likely impacted on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie near Windsor, Canada.

The JRASC trajectory was at nearly right angles to a trajectory that would have taken the fireball in the direction of western Pennsylvania and Kecksburg. Thus, if the calculation was correct, this would rule out the fireball being involved in any way with what may or may not have happened in Kecksburg. The JRASC article negative result is often cited by skeptics to debunk the notion of a Kecksburg UFO crash.

However, a recent reexamination of the JRASC article points out that it contained no error analysis. The triangulation base used by the astronomers in their calculations was very narrow. As a result, even very small errors in determination of directions could result in a very different triangulated trajectory. It was found that measurement errors of slightly more than one-half degree would make possible a straight-line trajectory towards the Kecksburg area and a much shallower angle of descent than reported in the JRASC article. It was also pointed out that the photos used actually show the fireball trail becoming progressively thinner, indicating motion away from the cameras or in the direction of Pennsylvania. Had the trajectory been sideways to the cameras, as contended in the JRASC article, the trail would have remained constant in thickness. Thus, the contention that the JRASC article conclusively ruled out any connection between the fireball and the Kecksburg events is now open to question.

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