Why I don’t “believe” in UFOs: the Phoenix Lights

By Phil Plait | March 6, 2007 6:59 pm

Is it possible that, one day, there will be a UFO story that makes me scratch my head and say, I cannot possibly conceive of an explanation for that besides an alien spacecraft?

Maybe. But that day is not yet here. In fact, given stories like this one, it’s a long, long way off.

Ever heard of the Phoenix Lights? 10 years ago, on March 13, 1997, a string of mysterious lights were seen hovering over Phoenix, Arizona. They were witnessed by a lot of people– Phoenix is a big town. For once, a UFO sighting was well-documented with lots of witnesses spaced out geographically, and with actual imagery and footage. Here’s a still from one amateur video:

This was big news. When I saw them, my first thought was, "Hey airplanes!" But I am a foolish NASA stooge planted by the CIA to brainwash the sheeple and keep under wraps THE BIGGEST STORY OF ALL TIME.

Or, maybe, they were, y’know, airplanes.

In fact, they were. Kinda. There was a practice flight going on at a nearby military air base. The squadron flying was dropping flares. The flares had little parachutes on them, so from a distance you’d see — GASP — a line of lights moving very slowly.

I saw a TV show where they proved beyond a doubt that’s what these things were. Video footage shot at night showed the lights disappearing one by one. Were they warping away, entering another dimension, or teleporting to some distant star?

No, they were falling behind a nearby mountain range. In the show I saw — a very rare skeptical look at UFOs — they went back to the location the person was shooting the video from, and took more pictures. When they superposed the video with their own pictures shot during the day, you could clearly see the line of mountains in the distance. When a light — sorry, "Light" — blinked out, you could plainly see it was falling below the top of the mountain. In other words, the flares were on the other side of that range as seen in the video, and when one got low enough, the mountain blocked the view. Wink! The light was gone.

I also saw (I think on the same show) a kid saying he was looking at the lights through binoculars or a telescope, and he saw that they were planes. But then someone else said (paraphrased) "Those weren’t planes! I know what I saw!" How many times have we heard that?


Well, now we also have one more nail in this coffin: a statement by one of the pilots who dropped the flares.

The lights were flares, said the Air National Guard, dropped during nighttime exercises at the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

That’s what they were, insists Lt. Col. Ed Jones, who piloted one of the four A10s in the squadron that he says launched the flares.

Jones, in his first interview with the news media concerning the night 10 years ago, says he can’t believe a decision to eject a few leftover flares turned into a UFO furor that continues to this day.

Lt. Col. Jones obviously doesn’t understand just how much people want to believe in UFOs. Faced with overwhelming evidence — even at the time, ten years ago — that these were flares, people still won’t wake up and see that’s precisely what these things were.

I absolutely 100% guarantee that when this story goes to UFO bulletin boards, people will claim that Lt. Cmdr. Jones is a) a disinfo agent, b) a government plant, or c) brainwashed. That’s a no-brainer.

Like Roswell, like Gulf Breeze, like a recent sighting of UFOs over London, and like a hundred — a thousand — other obviously mundane stories blown up into gigantic conspiracy theories, the Phoenix Lights will live on. And a little piece of the collective human intelligence starves to death.

Tip o’ the tin foil hat to James Oberg


Comments (73)

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  1. Michael

    “…a strong of mysterious lights…”

    Don’t you mean a STRING of mysterious lights? Just nit picking. But yeah, most people who “know” what they saw aren’t to be disuaded by little things such as fact and evidence.

  2. March 13th 1997—so very long ago
    All those military flares did glow
    We want to see what is not there
    A UFO it could be
    It’s what some want to see
    A World ruled by myth and fiction
    Some pray the Act of Contrition
    Please Please be from alien civilization
    This Earth is so dull from procrastination
    I want to see objects from another star
    It is so boring sitting in this bar
    We stare at the unknown lights
    And hope there extraterrestrial kites

    Well, there you go—a quick Web 2.0 poem on the fly….

  3. Andrew

    Furthermore, any being with the technology to build interstellar starships would have about a billion better places to be than Phoenix.

  4. I am a pheonix resident who witnessed the so-called phoenix lights. I believe my exact thoughts at the time were “Huh. I wonder why somebody’s dropping parachute flares?”

    Having worked at the Arizona Renaissance festival for several years (40 miles east of phoeonix, and right near a military artillary range) I witnessed flare drops from the artillary range on a regular basis. They were familiar (and really shiny bright and cool looking) and so when I saw them over the mountains I thought nothing of it.

    The next day hilarity ensued. Sigh…

  5. Porto

    “In the show I saw — a very rare skeptical look at UFOs — they …”

    Tell me, the show is already canceled? 😉

  6. I saw similar flares on the freeway outside Phoenix about 1983, which brings up another observation problem. I’m sure flares had been dropped on other occasions as well, but people just don’t tend to look up. Somebody sees something, points it out, and suddenly everybody is facinated by something that’s BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME. But you can’t convince them. They’re sure if something that bright (like Venus) had been there they would’ve noticed it before.

  7. BC

    I happened to be working at the library the other day, when I looked over and noticed the shelf of books across from me was the “unexplained mysteries” section of the library (psychic phenomena, big foot, UFOs, etc). I happened to notice that one of the books was about the Phoenix lights – and entire book, probably about 300 pages (based on its size), about the Phoenix lights. I just smiled and shook my head – an entire book about nothing. How could they get that many pages out of that event? I didn’t pull out the book and take a closer look, though.

  8. Mark Hansen

    If only the MIB really could use their “flashy thing”….

    “That was not a string of UFO’s you saw over Phoenix. It was the light from a string of flares. Also, whenever you see a real bright light in the sky, it probably IS Venus!”

    As I say, if only…

  9. I once made a very bad website about UFOs called Mark’s Alien Visitors Page. What I did was take some existing photos of Sydney, Melbourne, London and some other cities, and cut and paste a UFO graphic into them.

    It was obviously a joke page, so I was astonished when I received an email from someone asking “Are these photos for real?” No they aren’t. Duh.

  10. The BA says: “they went back to the location the person was shooting the video from, and took more pictures. When they superposed the video with their own pictures shot during the day, you could clearly see the line of mountains in the distance. When a light — sorry, “Light” — blinked out, you could plainly see it was falling below the top of the mountain.”

    I saw that show as well, but they had eyewitnesses from two (or more) locations in town. Both of the eyewitnesses pointed to the place in the sky where they saw the “Lights”. The “investigators” did all of that hand-waiving stuff with the night video, day video, etc., when I thought the obvious thing was to get out a map and triangulate from the two observers. The lines would have crossed right over the air base where the exercises were going on.

    Weren’t any of these “investigators” ever in the military, or even do orienteering in Boy Scouts?

    – Jack

  11. Kaptain K

    When this story first broke, I heard the guy (Jim Diletosso) claiming that he did spectroscopic analysis of the video tape. Words failed me then and still fail me now. How could anybody who knows anything about the subject not know that you can not do such an analysis on a RGB signal? Or think that it could be floated past others who know the field?

  12. And not surprisingly the only comments on the linked story are nutcases saying things like

    “It is interesting to see the Air Force is still trying to hide the truth about UFOs for over 60 years!”


    “People need to start doing their homework on this subject, sadly most don’t even take the time to look up at the sky and imagine what may be out there.”

    And the spectroscopic analysis is even in there too.. Spectoscopic analysis of a video?! Somebody needs to read up on cameras…

  13. Nigel Depledge

    BA, I think you goofed slightly:
    “…people will claim that Lt. Cmdr. Jones is …”

    I thought he was a Lt. Col.??

  14. Jarno

    That brought to mind one of my favourate quotes.
    “A Credulous Mind … finds most delight in believing strange things, and the stranger they are the easier they pass with him; but never regards those that are plain and feasible, for every man can believe such.” -Samuel Butler

    Why, oh why, aren’t the important skills of critical thinking tought in schools, as a compulsory subject? Imagine the difference that would make! Not enough critical thinkers to convince people in power of the value such a schooling improvement, I suspect, we’d need critical thinking to be taught in schools for that. A Catch 22.

  15. Melusine

    Ray Gray, I like your little poem. As much as I would love to meet an ET, it’s never been the first thing that comes to mind when I see something in the sky. I remember when I was an adolescent some people talked about their “abduction stories” at the town library (I didn’t hear it), but I decided that if an alien ship came down to get me that no one would believe me anyway unless I had a photograph or some evidence that could not be found on Earth. (That was pre-PhotoShop days.) It was fun to think about in a science-fictionish way (hey, I grew up on “Lost in Space”), but then you realize that so many people have entertained those same thoughts, that by now we should be hanging out with these alleged aliens! Let’s say we build better spaceships and go looking for them. 😉

    I’d like to make a bumper sticker – VENUS IS NOT A UFO…

    or “IT”S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE…NO, IT’S A COMET! (Or Underdog!) :-/

  16. snap2grid

    Remarkably, there wasa UFO program where the positions of the string of lights were compared with a view from the same vantage point and the guy overlaying the pictures on his computer screen essentially said “See, no way could they be flares dropping behind the hills”. This was the point at which I yelled abuse at the TV because if he’d moved the image down just a few inches on screen (i.e. lined them up properly) it was so obvious that the lights vanishing and the ridge of the hill co-incided *exactly*.

    Not the worst example of “analysis” I’ve ever seen on a TV show, though; my favourite was analysing the distances involved in a sighting by drawing a diagram on a computer…. and holding a ruler up to the screen!

  17. Amanda

    While I can understand wanting to believe in something fun and exciting, and especially wanting to be one of a selected few who get to see something extraordinary, these people still make me sad.

    Jarno: Critical thinking is *supposed* to be taught in schools… preached like crazy, actually, but I think most teachers go about it the wrong way. Instead of teaching kids *how* to think critically, they teach them *what* critical thinking is. You can teach me what an airplane is, but that doesn’t mean I’ll know how to use it… it’s ridiculous. I’m gonna teach the younger ones in a year or so – trust that I’ll do my best to teach them to think critically (and for themselves) for the year I’ve got ’em. Can’t say much what’ll happen to them after, though…

    And, Melusine brings up a great point – “when I was an adolescent… I decided that if an alien ship came down to get me that no one would believe me anyway…” Adults often forget that if their child came to them and said the exact same thing they’re trying to say on the news (minus the incorrect scientific garbage), they wouldn’t believe them. I realize that kids say some pretty silly things, but why can’t adults see that their stories will be *just* as hard to believe? Even if they were true?

  18. Jeremy

    Personally I do believe in UFO’s. But that’s only because UFO as everyone often forgets stands for Unidentified Flying Object. However what most people forget is that just because something is unidentified that it doesn’t mean it’s not from this world. To me the Phoenix Lights are no longer UFO’s.

  19. Paul Spring

    I used to be more or less a UFO believer, but things like this turned me into a skeptic. One problem is that most people don’t look at the sky all that often, so they aren’t familiar with all of the things that can cause unusual lights or objects to appear in the sky. Our popular culture had made it so that as soon as most people see a light in the sky that they can’t explain, they think “alien spacecraft”.

    The most credible reports are when pilots or other people who have experience with seeing aerial phenomena report seeing something that they can’t explain. Even in that case, though, I think there are probably rare natural phenomena that even most pilots never see, so that even they might be at a loss to explain them. These are true “Unidentified Flying Objects”, but they are almost certainly unidentified natural phenomena rather than extraterrestrial spacecraft. There is still a lot that we don’t fully understand about our own atmosphere

  20. Dan

    Well, I saw that same skeptical TV show. It was quite well done. Something similar to the Phoenix lights happened here in Quebec last year. One night, a kid recorded a video on his cell phone. You could see 2 lights floating in the sky… and then, a third one, slowly approaching the other lights. It was on the news for 2 days… They interviewed a specialist on planes and he said that, he had never seen something like that, that it could not be from earth…

    Well, two days later, a woman was interviewed on the news. She explained that it was her with some member of her family who had created that. Those things were actually what they call chinese lanterns… Something made of rice paper with a candle in the middle. You light the candle and when the air heats, it starts floating… Well, they were celebrating a wedding on a golf course and they had three of those… One of them had a little hole at the top so, it didn’t started to float at the same time than the others which is why, the third one had ascended more slowly than the two others. Well, mystery explained… As for the plane specialist… Well… Wow… One hell of a specialist don’t you think! Which is why you must always be careful when they interview supposed specialist to explain things like that!!

  21. Dan

    To Amanda: The problem with teachers is that, sometimes, they are believers themselves. They don’t know what is critical thinking. I’ve got some friends, lawyers, biologists, etc. They have lots of knowledge, but they don’t know what critical thinking is. They do believe in ghosts and life after death and all that. And they think I’m the weird one in not believing in these things.

  22. Helena Constantine

    The dubunking television whow was originally an episode of NOVA, though I saw it generically repackaged a couple of years later, and exceprts from it on another show that attempted to present a ‘balanced’ view of the matter between skeptics and believers.

  23. Dar

    Not knocking your story or anything. I’ve never heard of this whole thing, and really have no opinion about it. But one thing I noticed is that in the reports, they say the lights were going from horizon to horizon at huge speeds, and everybody reports them that way. Then you say that they were really slow moving flares, drifting straight down. If they were seem over multiple states flying at supersonic speeds, why does the flare explanation dismiss everything? Like I said, I don’t believe in it either, per se. I just don’t get how the flare thing in one small area cancels out all the sightings that night. Thanks.

  24. Cindy

    When asked if I believe in UFO’s and/or do aliens exist, I usually reply with one of my favorite quotes from “Calvin & Hobbes”: “The surest proof of intelligent life in the universe is that it has not tried to contact us”. I then explain that distances are so vast in the universe that while it’s probable there’s “intelligent life” elsewhere, we don’t have to worry about them swinging by.

    In response to the comments about critical thinking, I’m a teacher at a private school and we’re modifying our curriculum to emphasize it more. However, trying to get some teenagers to use their brains is challenging at times. Also, in the public schools there’s so much emphasis on the “No Child Left Behind” testing that there isn’t time to teach critical thinking.

    Now I did have a former student email me once and explained some phenomena he saw in the sky. I was betting he saw some sort of search lights or homing becon from an airport (I think he was in the vicinity of BWI). I’m glad that his first response was to ask someone he knew that had more experience in watching the sky.

  25. UmTutSut (Sure, why not?)

    Perhaps the “Phoenix Lights” case isn’t the poster child for sightings of possible extraterrestrial spacecraft. But even the ol’ B.A. would have to admit that some credible witnesses have seen (or claimed to have seen) aerial phenomena for which the most *logical* (not necessarily accurate) explanation is an extraterrestrial craft.

    Personally, do I believe extraterrestrials have visited this planet? Probably. Is there a shred of incontrovertible public evidence? No.

  26. Matt

    I believe in UFOs, and so should everyone. What is a UFO? A UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object. In other words we have not yet identified what it is. A UFO is NOT an alien spacecraft. If it were it would be an IFO or Identified Flying Object. The woo-woo community has conflated the term UFO with alien spacecraft and has used that to advance their position that alien spacecrafts have visited earth. PHIL! YOU HAVE DONE THAT IN YOUR POST! What you should have said was that you don’t believe that UFOs are alien spacecrafts.

    The fact is that UFOs are documented all the time. Most of the time they are identified by doing a little research and applying a little common sense, as in the lights over Phoenix. The Phoenix Lights are now no longer UFOs, they are IFOs. We know what they are, they have been identified as flares. End of story.

    There may be UFOs where we know so little from the actual observation that we may never know what the UFO was. Does that mean it was an alien spacecraft? Probably not, but until the UFO gets identified as such, it remains in the realm of science fiction.


  27. Gary Ansorge

    While working in Arabia in 1990, shortly after Sadam invaded Iraq, some friends and I were sitting around getting ston,,,er, I mean, inebriated,,,. Americans had been leaving Arabia in droves and the King had instituted a 15% hazardous pay benefit to get us to stay. Well, you know how things are when people are,,,loosened up a bit,,,I suggested we fill some trash bags with hydrogen, install fuses and set them adrift toward Al-Khobar at night. The resulting “fires in the sky” would probably have cleared out the eastern province of everybody but us,,,so,,,BIG BONUSES all around, right?

    Fortunately, the next day we were sober,,,the Saudiis have no sense of humor when it comes to such gags,,,

    GAry 7

  28. The Dread Polack

    When I worked the second shift, I used to listen to Coast to Coast (with Art Bell) almost every night. The thing that always amazed me was how people could say the most insane things without sounding the least bit insane. True, most of these things can be easily debunked, but even I felt a desire to believe in something that amazing.

    While I doubt it’s actually happening, I can imagine a scenario where alien contact happened, or happens with some regularity, and is covered up by the government. Imagine you are abducted by aliens. Do you really think anyone in the mainstream would believe you? What kind of evidence could you possibly acquire that would convince them? How hard would it be for someone in the government to just say “we’re not even going to dignify this with a response,” and thus completely discredit you?

    I once heard an interview on C2C with a supposed Air Force guy who claimed his job was to meet with local UFO conspiracy nuts and feed them half-truths about the government’s contact with aliens which he’d believe, but nobody else would. He said it was the easiest job he ever did, because they made themselves seem completely nutty when they’d go to the paper claiming that their secret Air Force contact told them what was really going on. I thought “wow, this actually might work!”

    Of course, like I said, with the lack of real evidence after all these years, I really doubt it’s going on, but I can imagine it.

  29. Chris O

    I always knew you were a CIA stooge. But in this case you’re right they were flares but not from a simulated dog fight. Elvis had been reported in the area and the military were searching for him.

    Fool me once etc…


  30. Rockingham

    “While working in Arabia in 1990, shortly after Sadam invaded Iraq”

    Um, thought he invaded Kuwait. We invaded Iraq.

  31. Apparently the new airport control tower under construction here in Newcastle has been causing a few UFO sightings.

  32. Dear Mr. Plait,

    I saw your piece and felt compelled to make comment: First the term “UFO” was borne (officially) by the Air Force in 1952–there is, and hasn’t been any debate over their existence for over 60 years; to use the verb, ” believe” in conjunction with a factual thing is nonsensical, it would be the same as saying, “I don’t believe in the “Empire State Building.”

    Secondly, “most” folks who are “knowledgeable” of the events which occurred almost 10 years ago this March 13th do not deny the “flare drop”; however, there hasn’t been an “official explanation” of the “8:30 events” as well as several others that day.

    Finally, “Jim Oberg” recently said on national TV, that all the witnesses re the “Battle of LA” were dead; oddly the tens of thousands of Los Angelinos said they didn’t feel dead; however, most of the witnesses that attended the anniversary at Fort MacArthur, strangely had the urge to do the “Zombie.”

    Frank Warren

  33. Gary Ansorge

    OOPS! My Bad!

    Discussion, discourse, argument and debate has been a long running atribute of the USofA for a very long time. Lest we forget, this discussion of the human tendency to impose nonsense upon our fellows is not new, though we sometimes feel we’re the last defenders of critical thinking, I quote from the great American satirist of the late 1800s, Ambrose Bierce in his The Devils Dictionary:

    Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a devinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistant with a life of sin.

    I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and lo!
    The godly multitudes walked to and fro
    Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad,
    With pious men, appropriately sad,
    While all the church bells made a solemn din-
    A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
    Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below,
    With tranquil face, upon that holy show
    A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
    Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light,
    ” God keep you stranger,” I exclaimed, ” You are
    No doubt(your habit shows it) from afar:
    And yet I entertain the hope that you,
    Like these good people, are a Christian too.”
    He raised his eyes and with a look so stern
    It made me with a thousand blushes burn
    Replied- his manner with disdain was spiced:
    “What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I’m Christ.”

    by G.J.

    Gary 7

  34. Irishman

    Dar, I don’t know the explanation for all the statements made. However, there are a couple of known traits to keep in mind.

    First, most people are abysmal at estimating sizes of objects in the distance or in the sky. Especially the sky at night, where there are no nearby reference points.

    Second, estimating angular size is even a challenge for most people.

    Third, memories are flexible – they change with the retelling. Sometimes exaggeration isn’t intentional, it’s the culmination of rethinking what you’re saying based upon other accounts you’ve heard.

    Fourth, objects moving at incredible speeds in the night sky and following you on the ground are commonly a mistaken observation by a ground-based observer who is moving. I remember riding around in vehicles at night, especially on long trips, and watching the Moon chase me around. We’d turn and the Moon would turn to follow us. It’s eerie to witness, but it’s all an illusion. It is probable that some of the observers were not witnessing the lights move, but rather were witnessing themselves move and projecting onto the lights. I’m thinking in particular of the people in the car driving about 80 down the interstate. That just reeks of misobservation to me.

  35. DAN said: Something made of rice paper with a candle in the middle. You light the candle and when the air heats, it starts floating…

    I recall an article in a ‘UFO’ magazine or something years and years ago:
    Take a dry-cleaning bag (translucent or transparent), seal the ‘top’ end, and put dowells or a crossed set of straws to hold open the other end. Put candles (e.g. birthday cake type) on the straws, and light them to create the hot air and light, then release them into the sky and wait for the ‘flying saucer’ calls.


  36. Daffy

    It works. When I was a kid, some neighbors used to do that…and there were indeed “UFO calls.” I always thought it was a major fire hazard and a very stupid thing to do.

  37. Eric Briggs

    Here in Toronto with the recent Hellyer stuff, I now hear they are starting to call UFOS “fast walkers”.

    Now, using a broad brush to label all UFOs as visitors from space is one thing… but calling them “fast walkers”? How is that any more descriptive? There are no words…

    I have a skeptical friend who drives a bus and shares an interest in UFO’s. I asked him if he’d ever seen any fast walkers and he said, “Yes, but they usually break into a sort of slow run.” :-)

  38. Murff

    “The best proof that intelligent life exists elswhere is that they haven’t come here” – Calvin

  39. JB of Brisbane

    Back in my primary school days, a fellow student claims he saw a UFO one night. It appeared as a pulsating orange light, filling the eastern sky over Brisbane. I had to tell him that I, too, had seen this pulsating orange light, but I was familiar enough with that part of Brisbane to know what it was. To the east, the mouth of the Brisbane River is flanked by two oil refineries, each of which had a flame stack to dispose of gaseous by-products of the cracking and refining processes. Some nights, these flames would be fairly low, but other nights they would be absolutely roaring. Combine the latter with a low overcast, and you have a pulsating orange light illuminating the eastern sky over Brisbane. My friend lived in a valley between two ridges, and thus did not have a direct line of sight to the refineries, but the lit sky was obvious.
    So I told him this, and what do you think he said? “No, it couldn’t have been the oil refineries, it must have been a UFO!”

    SIGH to the power of 1000.

  40. KellyT

    I had read in an old S&T that the lights were a group of
    Cessnas and that an amateur astronomer had actually
    seen them with his telescope, but when he told the media
    they weren’t interested in that fact.

  41. Irishman

    I saw an IFO once. Some apartment complexes like to use helium balloons to decorate the entrances to attract tenants. One morning driving to work I watched a couple of balloons (1 black, 1 orange) get released. My path makes a circuit around a lake. On the other side of the lake I saw something flashing overhead, an odd coloration and flashing as it moved across the sky. I suddenly deduced it was the tandem balloon set floating in the wind and spinning. But if I hadn’t known about the balloons, it could very easily have been unidentified, and left me puzzled.

  42. CR

    Last month, I happened to look up to the night sky (which for a change was devoid of cloud cover), and noticed that the Big Dipper had two extra stars in it, and that they were moving one behind the other along the same course. They were roughly one lunar diameter (as viewed from Earth) apart from each other.
    I instantly ruled out a pair of aircraft as the source of the ‘starlike’ lights, as they didn’t have any strobes blinking. I also figured they weren’t stallites, as I’ve never heard of two satellites sharing the same orbit so close together.
    Then it hit me: they were spacecraft all right, but made ny Earthlings. I was witnessing the International Space Station and a docking (or undocking) supply ship or shuttle. I recalled that I’d read the week before on the Heavens Above website that the ISS would be passing near where I was located a few times that week, but would not be visible along its entire orbital track due to passing into Earth’s shadow.
    Sure enough, as I watched the pair of objects, they ‘disappeared’ before reaching my local horizon.
    How cool to have seen not only the ISS, but an escort as well! I wonder if anyone else ever even noticed, and if they did, if they thought it was some ‘alien’ UFO…


    Solving the UFO theory:
    UFO + AI = IFO
    UFO = Unidentified Flying Objet(s)
    OI = Objective Investigation
    IFO = Identified Falling Object(s)


    Reply to GAry 7: Stoned fror sure, dude! Saddam did not invade Iraq, stoner! He invaded Kuwait FROM Iraq. The invasion of Iraq came later, from Saudi Arabia & Kuwait by US & allies. Oh yeah and several years later to the present by Bush, Blair & Haliburton .

  45. Of course, here’s the other, less inductive, more deductive factor to consider in the various accounts of Pheonix ’97: we know that flares were, in any case, almost certainly dropped at that spot, right? Who’s going to say, “Sorry, Lt. Jones, but dropping flares behind a mountain range is simply inconcievable, given that ‘flares’ don’t exist?”

    So the next question is this: if alien spacecraft were, as some UFO people persist, also doing a test flight at the same location (presumably without the base’s permission) wouldn’t there have been some sort of physical conflict between the two, such as the flares damaging the ships and causing tremendous explosions? In other words, in order to make any proof of this, you’d have to demonstrate not only that the saucer explanation is plausible, but that the otherwise routine flare story somehow isn’t. And you’d probably have to do the latter independently of the former.

    Of course, such considerations vanish entirely in the mind of someone who just wants to believe for its own sake. And to a certain extent, I say let them be, so long as they don’t harrass me personally.

  46. JB of Brisbane

    Another story from my youth in Brisbane…. as part of the annual Warana Festival held each September, the RAAF participated in 1974 by way of a “dump and burn” display, using four of the then-new F-111s. One night during the festival, the four F-111s moved into a large square formatoin, then lit their fuel dump with their own afterburners, producing four spectacular flaming tails which lit up the whole sky. The event was well publicised, but that did not stop the UFO calls coming in. Fortunately, as the “dump and burn” became something of a semi-annual event, jpeople began to recognise it for what it was, and there has not been a UFO scare because of it in recent years.

  47. hmh

    First of all let me say as a degreed nuclear physicist and from all of my studies in science and astronomy, I can state as a fact there are countless et worlds in our universe including intelligent forms, some vastly more so and less so than ourselves. But to prove they have contacted our planet will take a single mass eyewitness account from the general public with a large number of independent CLEAR video and photographs regardless of media or government coverage.

    Regarding the Phoenix lights:

    Phoenix is the 5th most populated city in the United States. However, there are only a dozen or so very grainy and blurry videos of these lights and all from a considerable distance. The reason so is that the vast majority of the people who saw them (est. >10,000) including those in surrounding areas saw nothing spectacular or unworldly because either they figured they were flares or some other type of fireworks resembling something most had seen before. But this time closer and above some portions of the city. That is why you do not see videos from eyewitnesses that were significantly closer to or almost directly below the lights. There are so many people outdoors that time of year and time in the evening because the weather is so nice and many thousands are constantly star gazing.

    The few people that took videos or were very alarmed and contacted the police did so because they were caught off guard either (or in combination) because the lights were so bright to them, they hadn’t seen a flare pattern light up in the sky before, they were too far away to see that they were pyrotechnic or saw that they didn’t match the typical constant string of blinking landing plane lights that are always in lined formation as they approach sky harbor airport.

    If you are a believer or not that it was an et craft, ask yourself the question, why does it always happen at night (the phoenix lights) and not day time or dusk or dawn? Do you think the aliens were trying not to be noticed so we wouldn’t get spooked or try to shoot them down? According to believers, it was a mile long black v-shaped object moving slowly for the course of 3 hours over almost all of Arizona from Sedona to Tucson. Another question is why weren’t there any storm chaser-like attempted intercepts – like a mass amount of curious risk takers getting into their vehicles trying to get as close as they could taking video the whole time. Actually some people probably did until they got close enough to realize it was a nothing more than a dozen fizzling dropping flares and blew it off. Only a clever few capitalized on the whole event, since most people didn’t see them. Remarkably the media and a few artistically outspoken people truly made this an interesting and curious event. Some are making bundles selling DVDs and books and getting slight fame, which is actually impressive. Only in the good ole US of A.

    I’m sorry to say this was not that proving moment when we all go outside in broad daylight and look out in the sky all at once and soil ourselves because this massive thing is hovering over our heads and we all know that its for real and wish we hadn’t. That time has never come in the past – it may possibly in our time here or it may not. If it does, you’ll know about it whether you want to or not.

  48. jclink

    I think even hard-core UFO buffs agree that the string of lights that appeared at 10:00 p.m. were military flares.

    That doesn’t explain the sightings of a large, triangular pattern of lights that flew over Phoenix and the surrounding area about 8:00 p.m.

    These lights apparently came from northwest of the city, flew south over Phoenix, and exited in a souteastern direction, heading for Tucson. Only one reasonably clear video exists of these lights, yet these were the ones that caused the public hysteria.

    I’m writing this 10 years after the initial event, shortly after Gov. Fife Symington has publicly announced that he also witnessed this first set of lights and, even as a licensed pilot, has no idea what the hell they were.

    So you could at least address the real issue, and not the bogus one.


  49. The real issues will be thoroughly addressed, and though the odds are that once enough information surfaces, they will eventually cross lines and join the bogus camp anyway, I’m still crossing my fingers that they won’t. The “nighttime” point is pretty good, although there have been a few daytime sightings as well. I myself once saw a flying saucer that ultimately turned out to be the tail end of a jet, perfectly aligned with my line of sight. Oh well. The point is to be open-minded, never stop asking questions, and make no assumptions.

  50. Yeah, maybe you’re right. And maybe not:)

    Remember: It’s still just testimonials on both sides.

  51. Seth

    The Pheonix lights were probably an optical illusion caused by flares.

    But, an earlthy explanation for this phenomena does not in any way explain away the thousands of truely unexplainable sightings.

    For those who believe all UFO sightings can be explained away as simply flares falling in a formation string, I suggest you check out the Rendlesham sightings of December 1980 and try to explain THAT away.


    Oh, sure maybe it was just again some flares…

    Or, black ops saucer, that no nation has yet to reveal (sure would make a lot of sense to keep black ops saucer secret when they apparently work so well!) even 27 years after!

    Or, maybe it was a mass halucination of several dozen military officers.

    Or, maybe, just maybe, we’re not the only intelligent life in the Universe. Ouch! I said it.

    The strange thing is that hypothesis is judged as a radical idea by most — the idea that “They’ve” figured out a way to travel here. The thinking is that since we have yet to figure out a way to go THERE means, of course, to some, that it can’t be done.

    Kinda like the way 99.99% of the world thought over a 100 years ago before the Wright Brothers took off.

    Or those same 99.99% thought about us travelling to the moon…

    Let’s face it, An ET presence on this planet would explain A LOT of mysteries that occured through the ages.

    But, no, it’s too “weird” to think there are others in the Universe that have solved the problem of flight. Such a radical idea!

    Kinda like the ridicule that Copernicus must have faced when he said the solar system didn’t revolve around the Earth!

    Afterall, if we can’t do it it can’t be done! Hey! we’re such intelligence creatures of the Universe. Just look at who we twice elected as President!

  52. ALI

    everyone saw those lights just sitting there….flares on parachutes, lol
    stop it already.lets look here we have a few laws to take into consideration
    1.wind pressure,speed,velocity and direction
    3.all were isometrically aligned..
    but hey… what do I know

  53. Singh

    God, an entire article + 50 posts that don’t even address the real sighting of the Pheonix Lights. Like most pseudo-skeptics, you haven’t done nearly enough research into this phenomena.
    Oh yeah, and to the poster with the ‘always at night’ question. Look into the UFO phenomenon a bit more, seriously. There are a number of day sightings (though I don’t think there are any pictures). The one that got me was a sighting in Iran in the 70’s. 2 fighter pilots + ground witneses + radar in both Iran and then in Egypt at mid day.

  54. Says Seth: “For those who believe all UFO sightings can be explained away as simply flares falling in a formation string, I suggest you check out the Rendlesham sightings of December 1980 and try to explain THAT away.”

    I can’t believe you are still using that as an example. It’s been a dead (or at least seriously wounded) case for years. Start at
    and find what the UFO believers are not telling you…

    It’s because of cases like this that we need Bad Astronomy to encourage critical thinking.


  55. “Maybe, just maybe, we’re not the only intelligent life in the Universe. Ouch! I said it. … But, no, it’s too “weird” to think there are others in the Universe that have solved the problem of flight.”

    The thing is, I agree that that idea — the existence of ETIs — is quite probably the case. But as a skeptic, I feel somewhat put off by being told that I patronize our hypothetical galactic brethren. The thing of it is not that I don’t think they could possibly have traveled here; what I find unlikely is that they have traveled here in apparent secrecy. Why haven’t they made their presence clearer? What possible motive do they have for only appearing to select people at select times, and not in a way that clearly states “Here we are!” (Or to repeat the above from “hmh”, “that proving moment when we all go outside in broad daylight and look out in the sky all at once and soil ourselves because this massive thing is hovering over our heads and we all know that it’s for real and wish we hadn’t.” Brilliant, I might add.)

    “We’re such intelligence creatures of the Universe. Just look at who we twice elected as President.”

    And look what planet has a majority of countries that tend to disagree with that President (of the USA, remember, not of Earth). Somewhat more heartening, no?

  56. Steve

    Well, well, well. Did anyone here who is writing actually see the lights? NOT the flares. the flying, chevron-shaped light formation that flew that evening? I did. It flew over me. I was travelling that night from Phoenix back to Prescott where I live. Anyone who has driven that route knows where I am talking about. A set of brilliant lights appeared on the horizon as I approached Sunset Point. I thought to myself, “What is a B-52 doing landing out here?” The lights came south as I drove north. I pulled off the road just south of Cordes Jct. In silence, the now dim lights flew overhead, then winked off. Aliens? No. A mysterious and as yet unknown aircraft from the depths of Nevada? Probably.
    Response? Anyone heard of this side of the lights?

  57. vaskees

    omg. im just doing a essay the teacher told me to do :/ Pff boring! & UFOs r kool >.>

  58. RKC38

    “We’re such intelligence creatures of the Universe. Just look at who we twice elected as President.”

    I know you meant that sarcastically, and I agree he’s a real doofus, but take heart – he got less than 50% of the vote both times and wouldn’t have been elected in the first place if Ross Perot hadn’t split the republican vote in ’92.

  59. does not matter

    They are real…,i seen them too.and i dont live in pheonix..
    real ufos..,and i mean the ones from other places..,agartha,etc…,
    they only show themselves to spiritualy ready people…,or entitys who have been watched carefully…this ufo story is a long,loong and painfull story…
    i dont expect no one to belive..,but theres someone out there who knows what im talking about…
    yall have a good life now

  60. Bryan

    First off the pheonix lights have been sighted multiple times, dating before and after March 13th, 1997. Could some of the video been flares? I’m sure, but that does nothing to explain why over 10,000 people say they saw this craft. I’m sure residents of the area are quite familiar with planes, and flares if it’s such a routine thing in the area. It does nothing to explain the 1000’s of phone calls authorities recieved that night either. Or why the former governer of arizona says he saw this thing, along with literally 1000’s of reputable people. Say what you will, but honestly the evidense of ufo’s is overwhelming. A phenomenon dating back to mankinds conception. The flare drop that was demonstrated some years later to dismiss the pheonix lights has been analyzed from many angles and in no way matches up to the lights. A formation of planes? Why would thousands report seeing this craft in great detail if it was a routine fly-over? Or should we take into account that the one report by a citizen saying they were planes that came out of that was by a boy with a telescope. But the former long time governer is going to risk being called insane for saying he saw it to? Regardless of what other affairs he may have been involved in. And those of you who say you saw planes why haven’t you come forward to the public? Why is the explanation so shallow, and have so many holes? I’m not saying no-one saw any planes that night, but the 100’s of tapes that exist and testimonials would suggest there is no way people didn’t see this craft. Also why would the air-force not respond to such a simple question with haste? People wanted to know what they saw, and it took them a very substantial amount of time to respond. Flares and planes? I think many arizona resident’s intelligence is being insulted here. This phenomenon is far from isolated. They have been reported in every part of the world for thousands of years. Ranging from one witness to entire cities. Events which just cannot be explained.

  61. kain

    Appologies, although I don’t want to post this I have to, since I’ve witnessed both events myself; being the night that the Haley Bopp comet was supposed to be seen, there were many of us in the appartment complex that were awaiting to see something.

    Around 7~8pm, the airport did drop some flares, which illuminated smoke and fell downwards, indeed appearing to ‘vanish’ in thin air (in reality, behind the mountansides). This is pretty normal, but could catch somebody off guard if they’ve never seen it in their lives.

    But around 9~10pm, there was an actual ‘craft’ that had flown over us ever so slowly; these didn’t look anything like the so called ‘flares’ that we’re used to seeing every once in awhile. There was absolutely no smoke trails following behind the lights, and the object didn’t fall but instead was rising and flew directly overhead at a brisk pace. What was more interesting was the fact that, between the lights, we were baffled at what was blocking the stars in the sky.

    Another interesting note is the size of the solid ‘craft’; at that size, it would have to be a low flying commercial jet liner, and I’m sure we would’ve been able to make out the body of it being that close. Also, the fact that we had felt absolutely no rumbling, and heard no sound of it, makes it hard to explain as a “low flying commercial airliner” or “flares” for that matter.

    While I’m not going to submit to the claim that “omg were bein invadered by alien spacecraft lulz”, it was definately a “UFO” in the true sense of the word, ie I have no idea what that thing was exactly, but I do know what it wasn’t. Alien spacecraft? Maybe but I doubt it. Anything is possible, and I’d definately love to go for the flares explanation, if it could correlate with what I actually remember.

  62. canada guy

    i saw a light in the sky over canada and it wasnt blinking it made a big loop in the form of a backwards j at the bottom of the swoop there was a bright halogen light and i do mean verry bright / like 100 trains on highbeam . then continued on the loop went up a tiny bit and quickly disapeared out of sight (i witnessed that myself ) thinking a meteorite bounced off our atmosphere. this happened on a summer night over saskatchewan about 11:00 pm it was directly straight up and a bit south inbetween two bright stars . the aliens are coming to earth to steal our resources like cows and fish / a saucer was spotted over lake lenore and after that all the big walleye that everyone would catch all of a sudden were now 2-3 pounds not the 10-14 pound fish like it was normally and the saucer was spotted by a foreman working at p.c.s mine who lives in the town of lake lenore hovering over the lake . and way to many cows from alberta went missing without a trace / stolen!!!! if these aliens are so smart why do they steal ?……

  63. jinny

    i dont understand why there are quite a few of planets if there is no life on them can someone answer that?

  64. jackie

    i think there is life on other planets but i dont believe in aliens but i think that the life form on different planets is a lot more intellagent than we are and they keep the ufo stuff secret so we dont get paranoid.

  65. max

    ufos don’t exist . They are just an imagination

  66. bryan

    max you sir are a blind fool. To say that thousands of unidentified flying objects performing movements impossible by conventional aircraft are not a reality is in itself a lie. There are literally thousands of video footage, high profile testimonials, governors, former presidents, astronauts, airline pilots, and entire coutries have addressed the UFO phenomenon and no one can explain it. The Mexican government is very open about it, so is Chili, and probably the most adament Canada. These sightings have gone on for thousands of years, documented through texts ranging from current times to the first civilization known to exist the Sumarians. To say they are imagination would be to call all of these people liers. The question lies in what people are seeing. We all know what a night sky looks like, but how could civilizations like the Myans have obtained the knowledge of the cosmos that they had. They knew the earth was round! They knew facts about the stars that could not have been seen without a telescope. Now this is the same civilization that vanished and no one really knows why, and they also sacrificed human beings in belief that it would ensure the sun would rise. Now if such an advanced civilization knew of all these cycles why were they also so stupid? Also how are there structures on this planet that defy the laws of physics by any means that ancient civilizations would have been able to build. Tell me how does an ancient civilization move and create structures obviously moved and placed that sometimes weights hundreds of tons? We can hardly perform such a feat today, and the whole pully system theory is just rediculous. Anyway time to wake up max, do a little research…


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