June 7, 1998
Editor: Joseph Trainor
Fighter jets of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) were seen crisscrossing the night sky following a UFO sighting near Grafton, New South Wales.
The flap began April 19, 1998 when "Mrs. W., her daughter and a neighbour watched as two or three round illuminated white objects were quietly maneuvering at low altitude in the western sky" at 7:30 p.m. The UFOs were "heading into the Grafton area."
As they watched, "the objects appeared to be heading in one direction, then suddenly appeared to be going in the opposite direction, as if they were circling. The three witnesses watched the objects for about 15 minutes."
On April 29, 1998, at 6:30 p.m., another family near Grafton "reported an unusual object going quickly across the sky. It was large, spherical and orange-coloured. When viewing through binoculars, they could not make out any other details or surface features. After going directly overhead, it slowed down to a lower speed, then it veered off toward the west."
"At this moment, the family saw two military-type planes (jets) in the northern sky, probably from the (RAAF) Williamtown air base, quickly traveling southward--towards the object. The UFO shot off to the south and disappeared over the horizon."
"Soon afterward, at least two helicopters, probably from the (RAAF) Singleton air base, were seen heading from the north to a more southerly direction. Later that evening, the family members noticed a bluish-white light light in the western sky, zigzagging from north to south."
Grafton is a city in Australia's state of New South Wales about 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of Sydney.
At around 7:30 p.m. that same evening, two families in Singleton, N.S.W. "reported seeing a strange orange- yellow light object traveling quickly across the sky in a southeasterly direction. The light was quite large, made no noise and was traveling at quite a low altitude. One of the Singleton witnesses is an amateur astronomer."
At 11:30 p.m., residents of Tumbi Umbi, a small town in the Central Coast region near Grafton, "heard a weird rumbling noise pass overhead." (See Australian UFO Reports and Experiences #3 for June 1998. Many thanks to editor Robert Frola and Australian ufologists Michael Farrell, Peter Turner and Moira McGhee for these reports.)
On Monday, June 1, 1998, at 9:30 p.m., Christian K., his friends Daniel and Lisa, and five other youths were hanging out at a beach on the Traunsee (lake) in Gmunden, Austria they "observed a bright red-orange object across the lake near Grinberg (mountain)."
Gmunden is just off the B-1, the main Wels-Salzburg highway, in the Oberosterreich region of Austria, approximately 264 kilometers (185 miles) west of Vienna.
"My friends Daniel and Lisa saw it first," Christian reported. "Strangely, nobody saw it before (previously) and noticed how it got there. We were looking north- northeast from the small port of Gmunden to the top of the Grinberg." That it was "a reflection of the sun is questionable, as it was a half-hour after sundown, and the mountain was not illuminated by the sun."
"We first thought it was a helicopter. This seems impossible due to its climb rate," which he estimated to be "six meters (20 feet) per second, and you can hear a helicopter at that distance, especially if the (engine) noise is reflected by a mountain in the background."
"Then, when it started climbing faster and faster, and was higher than the mountain, you could see that it was not just one big light. It was about one meter wide" at arm's length, and "was almost round, just flattened a bit at the top and the bottom, so that to us it was an oval just a little bit wider than taller."
The teens talked about it for another ten minutes, and then Christian went home. He lives about two kilometers (1.2 miles) to the north, at the foot of Grinberg mountain.
"When I reached home (at 10 p.m.), my little brother was watching TV, and it was blank," with no signal "for about four seconds. When I asked since when (how long the TV had been malfunctioning--J.T.), he told me, 'Since about twenty minutes ago,' or a few minutes after the phenomenon."
The afternoon of Tuesday, June 2, 1998, Christian and his brother were out in the yard when they saw "three PC-4 planes fly over the Grinberg. My neighbor said the reconnaissance planes must have come from the (Austrian air) base at Hirsching." The trio kept the aircraft in view for five minutes. (Email Interview)
South America's latest UFO encounter took place Saturday afternoon, May 24, 1998, in the small nation of Paraguay, just north of the capital city, Asuncion.
Miguel Bustamente Saavedra was spending his day off boating with several friends on the wide Rio Paraguay. Suddenly, they saw a metallic gleam in the sky to the north, over the town of Aceval.
"I noticed something brilliant in the sky," Miguel reported. "It was like a big mirror seen in the air. I thought it was an airplane, but it wasn't because" the next moment "I saw a metal-colored object in the air like an egg."
"The object was going gently up and down and from right to left. When it suddenly made a move to the left and took speed more (accelerated), I couldn't see it any more." (Many thanks to Tim Hagemeister of NACOMM for this report.)
On Saturday, May 30, 1998, at night, "a luminous white ball" crossed the sky over Alessandria, a city in northern Italy 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Genoa.
"According to diverse testimony taken independently from the eyewitnesses, there were several observations of a luminous white ball in the sky...The light, bigger than the full moon and followed by a short trail of the same white color, seemed to enter vertically" into the crowd's field of view "before disappearing in one or two bright and dazzling flashes."
"One of the witnesses also reported hearing a deafening boom at the same time." (Grazie a Paolo Toselli e Edoardo Russo di Centro Italiano di Studi Ufologici per questo rapporto.)
On Sunday, May 31, 1998, at 11:30 p.m., Texan ufologist Mike Harman and his brother-in-law were on a skywatch near Andrews, Texas (population 10,678) when they spotted a strange flash in the sky.
Andrews is on Highway 385 approximately 350 miles (560 kilometers) west of Dallas.
"The cloud cover had finally lifted, and we were able to view the heavens once again," Mike reported. "After about 15 minutes of skywatching, I noticed what I perceived as a flash in the western sky. And then, there it was again. I grabbed my binoculars and started searching the sky for what had caused this."
"I couldn't seem to get the binoculars up to my eyes fast enough...so I watched and again I saw another flash. The object was moving at about the speed of a normal satellite would have, except this one was low on the horizon, probably no more than 35 or 40 degrees, and moving from south to north."
"Once I spotted the object, I noticed through my binoculars that the object was glowing orange in color. It would gradually brighten until it was as bright as the brightest stars in the sky, then return to its orange glow. When it peaked at its brightest, it seemed almost to flash."
Mike estimated that the average time cycle between normal glow and "brightest flash" was two seconds. The entire sighting "lasted about four minutes." (Many thanks to Mike Hartman for this report.)
Another flashing UFO was spotted at 9:45 p.m. on Monday, June 1, 1998, in Elk City, Oklahoma.
Ufologist Debbie Hickman reports, "While I was letting the cats out, I stepped outside to skywatch. I observed three airplanes overhead, and I could identify them as aircraft as they had red and white strobing lights."
"I watched a very dim light over the Big Dipper, and, as I watched it, the light grew in brightness until it was brighter than the other stars nearby. The light moved in a southerly direction" and was "about two inches (four centimeters long) at arm's length. Then it suddenly winked out. The light was one-quarter inch (0.5 centimeters) diameter arm's length. I searched the sky for another few minutes, but the light did not reappear. The sighting lasted about 10 to 15 seconds."
Elk City is on Interstate Highway 40 approximately 112 miles (179 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City. (Many thanks to Jim and Debbie Hickman for this report.)
(Editor's Note: The stars of Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper, range in magnitude from Alkaid at 1.8 to Megrez at 3.3.)
On Saturday, May 30, 1998, at 9:10 p.m., Pete Rogers stepped outside of a large medical facility on Poplar Avenue in Memphis (population 610,337), the largest city in Tennessee. He was on his break and decided to have a cigarette.
Five minutes later, "I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye. I immediately turned to see what had made the flash. I saw an intense bluish- violet disc-shaped glow that lasted about one second, fading to an after-image like you have when you look into the sun or a real bright light."
He estimated that "the light was about one to 1.25 inches (2 to 2.5 centimeters) in diameter at about arm's length. It was in the sky to the northeast about 60 to 70 degrees above the horizon." (Many thanks to Jim Hickman of Skywatch for this report.)
On Monday, June 1, 1998, at 9:30 p.m., Darryl P. and his eight-year-old stepson "were skywatching... within the city limits of Chattanooga" when they spied a UFO. Chattanooga (population 152,466) is a large city on Interstate Highways 24 and 75 approximately 128 miles (205 kilometers) south of the state capital, Nashville.
"We had seen six airliners cross over," Darryl reported, "then suddenly at a very high altitude we saw what appeared to be a large 'star-like' object rising from the south to the east at a very high rate of speed. At first we thought it might be a satellite, but the object was quite large and the way it moved so quickly across the sky (not like a falling star), this object seemed to have a destination or a path of movement. We followed it until it disappeared behind the treeline, and we were astonished." (Many thanks to Steve Wilson Sr. for this report.)
(Editor's Note: Chattanooga was the site of one of the most notorious UFO incidents of the "airship era." On three succeeding nights in January 1910, a white oval UFO repeatedly flew over the city and hovered over nearby Lookout Mountain. See the New York Tribune for January 15, 1910.)
At 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 1, 1998, Robert Hanley spotted a UFO over suburbs of Long Island, N.Y., just east of New York City.
Hanley, a U.S. Navy veteran with aviation service, described the UFO as "a 'star-like' object moving very fast...This must have been a very large object at an extremely high altitude, as it was moving at a very high speed."
"I first picked it up toward the east from my backyard on Long Island and viewed it moving south and climbing until I lost it behind the treeline. The color of it was white light (probably reflected sunlight), and it was way too high, way too large and way, way too fast to be" a conventional aircraft. "Most impressive!" (See Filer's Files #22 for 1998. Many thanks to George A. Filer, Eastern director of MUFON, for this report.)
On Wednesday, May 13, 1998, at 11:50 p.m., Randy Gibbs was driving north on Highway 521 near Sampit, South Carolina (population 85), heading home to Columbia when he noticed a peculiar odor, like "the smell of gangrene."
"It was around 12 a.m. when I saw something on the side of the road," he reported. "It was on the right side of the road. I saw what looked like a little fox running along the side of the road and then ran across the highway, followed by something big and shaggy in appearance."
He described the strange creature as "about the size of a large man, maybe a little larger, six to seven feet (about 2 meters) tall."
The hominid's "hair may have been a reddish-brown color. The hair wasn't real long, and it was kind of matted. The hair under the arm of the animal may have been a little lighter than the rest of the hair on its body...The creature ran on two feet, striding upright and hopped across the highway in a big stride, landing not quite clear of the left side, and another stride took it into the trees. What really freaked me was its eyes" which "caught and reflected the headlights of my car, gleaming as it went by."
Startled by its appearance, Randy "had to swerve a little to the right because I was scared I might hit it. It went across right in front of me," as the car approached at an estimated 60 miles per hour. (Many thanks to Erik Beckjord for posting this report on his list.) (Editor's Comment: From the "smell of gangrene," I'd guess that the "little fox" was actually a skunk. It probably sprayed Bigfoot as it made its escape.)
On Wednesday, May 27, 1998, geophysicist Gerald Keating of George Washington University unveiled yet another Martian mystery at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Speaking at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Dr. Keating "said Mars Global Surveyor mapped an odd anomaly in the upper atmosphere--dramatic fluctuations in air density 75 miles (120 kilometers) above the Martian highlands that are unknown in Earth's atmosphere."
"If not mapped and studied, the greater density of the atmosphere at higher altitudes than expected could pose a threat to rapidly descending spacecraft that haven't braked sufficiently. It would be like hitting a wall."
"'It's very exciting and it's critical to know this if you're going to do aero-braking. Every vessel is going to have to go through it,' Keating said." (See the Boston, Mass. Herald for May 28, 1998., page 3.)
Meanwhile, the debate continues over just what the many Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor photos actually show. The July 1998 issue of Sky and Telescope devoted a whole article to analyses of the photos from the doomed Pathfinder, which landed nearly a year ago.
"Geologists offer conflicting ideas about the origins of the rocks around the(Pathfinder) landing site. Many believe that most or all of the rocks are volcanic, based on their shapes and textures. Some rocks appear redder and more rounded than others; these may be the oldest. Others are darker and more angular; these may have been tossed onto the landing site in more recent ages from an impact crater 2.2 kilometers (1.5 miles) to the southeast."
"Some rocks, however, show faint evidence of layering or bedding, suggesting a sedimentary origin. This view is supported by the small, rounded pebbles and cobbles seen inside a few other rocks, which some scientists interpret as evidence of running water creating conglomerates--mixtures of pebbles and fine-grained sediments. Still other scientists believe that some of the surface features may originate from exotic weathering processes or even underwater volcanism or weathering."
"A 'super-resolution' close-up of South Peak (at the Pathfinder site) This image was constructed from 42 red frames with single blue or green frames added for color rendition. Note the apparent layering of the hillside, possibly suggesting water-carved terraces."
"The fine, highly-rusted Martian dust may have formed in a much wetter (and perhaps warmer) environment than prevails today." (See Sky and Telescope for July 1998, "Mars Pathfinder: Better Science?" by Jim Bell, pages 36 through 43.)
On Tuesday, June 2, 1998, the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Cape Canaveral for NASA's ninth and final trip to Mir, the Russian space station.
"The countdown was tenser than usual, not just because of the on-then-off anxiety about Mir (which suffered a major computer breakdown the previous weekend--J.T.) but because of the new lightweight fuel tank bolted to Discovery. This tank, never before tested in flight, is 7,500 pounds lighter when empty than the 65,500-pound tanks so that NASA can haul heavier space cargo once space station construction begins." (See USA Today for June 3, 1998, "Shuttle is off on its last run to Mir.")
Discovery's mission this trip is to retrieve Andrew Thomas, the American astronaut aboard Mir, and deliver food, water, mail and other supplies to the Russian space station.
Shortly after takeoff, however, Discovery lost its ability to send TV images back to Earth.
"The problem appeared to be limited to the transmitting end of the KU-band antenna, which is normally used to send TV pictures and science data back to Earth. Engineers have no idea what's wrong, although it could be electrical, said Lee Briscoe, NASA's mission operations representative."
"The problem also prevented the shuttle from transmitting some scientific data back to Earth. But the information was not lost; it was being stored on board."
"Mir held steady, its automatic steering system working fine after a recent three-day breakdown, as Discovery gently latched on 240 miles (384 kilometers) above the Russian-Kazakh border near the Caspian Sea."
"With Discovery's TV capability crippled by equipment trouble, Mir managed to beam down live images of the spacecraft at the moment of docking. But it was a shaky zooming-in-and-out picture. Minutes after the linkup, the picture disappeared altogether."
"Mir's grainy black-and-white TV images one and a half hours later of the hatch opening and welcoming embraces faded in and out. NASA had to settle for audio when the six Discovery crew members and three Mir occupants held their formal welcoming ceremony. When a video recording of the ceremony finally was transmitted from the station later in the day, it lacked sound."
The shuttle's "KU-band system uses a dish- shaped antenna out in the open cargo bay. Engineers suspected that the trouble was with an on-off circuit."
"Discovery's S-band communication system was working fine and allowing the crew to talk with ground controllers as usual. It also was sending back all the necessary information involving shuttle systems." (See the Providence, R.I. Journal-Bulletin for June 4, 1998, "Shuttle unable to transmit images of Mir docking" and June 5, 1998, "Discovery, Mir link flawlessly; astronaut prepares for ride home.") (Editor's Comment: First the Galaxy IV satellite goes haywire. Then Discovery loses its KU-band transmitter. And then Mir can't seem to keep its TV camera in focus. Kind of makes you wonder what's up there in orbit with them, doesn't it?)
On June 10, 1931, the same week the Menger boys saw their daylight disc in New Jersey, pioneering British pilot Francis Chichester took off from Lord Howe Island, east of Brisbane, Australia, in a deHavilland D.H.60 Gipsy Moth, a six-year-old biplane with a 100 horsepower Cirrus engine.
Chichester, dressed like the Red Baron in his goggles, leather flying cap and jacket and white silk scarf, was intent on making a long-distance flight across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.
While avoiding a thunderstorm, Chichester flew a bit off course. As he headed east again, he found that he wasn't exactly alone in the sky.
"Suddenly, ahead and thirty degrees to the left, there were bright flashes in several places, like the dazzle of a heliograph. I saw a dull grey-white airship coming toward me. It seemed impossible, but I could have sworn that it was an airship, nosing toward me like an oblong pearl. Except for a cloud or two, there was nothing else in the sky. I looked around, sometimes catching a flash or a glint, and turning again to look at the airship I found that it had disappeared."
"I screwed up my eyes, unable to believe them, and twisted the seaplane this way and that, thinking that the airship must be hidden by a blind spot. Dazzling flashes continued in four or five places, but I still could not pick out any planes."
"Then, out of some clouds to my right front, I saw another, or the same, airship advancing. I watched it intently, determined not to look away for a fraction of a second: I'd see what happened to this one, if I had to chase it."
"It drew steadily closer, until perhaps a mile away, when suddenly it vanished. Then in reappeared close to where it had vanished. I watched with angry intentness. It drew closer, and I could see the dull gleam of light on its nose and back. It came on, but instead of increasing in size, it suddenly became its own ghost--one second I could see through it, the next it had vanished."
"All this was many years before anyone spoke of flying saucers. Whatever it was I saw, it seems to have been very much like what people have since claimed to be flying saucers." (See THE LONELY SEA AND THE SKY by Sir Francis Chichester, Coward-McCann, New York, N.Y., 1964, page 165)
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Tomorrow, June 8, is the birthday of Giovanni Domenico Cassini, whose namesake spacecraft is now on its way to Saturn. Cassini was born on June 8, 1625 in Perinaldo, Italy, near Genoa. By the time he was 44, he had racked up an impressive list of astronomical achievements, measuring the rotational periods of Mars and Jupiter. In 1671, he was appointed director of the Paris Observatory by King Louis XIV of France. Armed with their big telescope, he discovered the moons around Saturn, including Iapetus in 1671, Rhea in 1672, and Tethys and Dione in 1684. He also discovered a large gap in Saturn's rings in 1675, now known as Cassini's Division. He died in Paris on September 14, 1712. The spacecraft bearing his name will arrive at Saturn in 2004 to begin close-up observation of the worlds he originally found.
And we'll be back next weekend with more saucer news from "the paper that goes home--UFO ROUNDUP." See you then.
UFO ROUNDUP: Copyright 1998 by Masinaigan Productions, all rights reserved. Readers may post news items from UFO ROUNDUP on their websites or in newsgroups provided that they credit the newsletter and its editor by name and list the date of issue in which the item first appeared.