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The Sciences

Erie UFO sounds familiar to me

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitMarch 15, 2010 10:45 PM

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A wave of reports is coming in from the town of Euclid, Ohio, from folks there who are seeing a mysterious light hovering over Lake Erie and Cleveland. The light, they say, is very bright, lasts for a couple of hours, stays near the horizon, changes colors, and keeps coming back to the same spot night after night. Here's an MSNBC report about it: Could it be an alien visitor from another world? No, I don't think so. In fact, I think it is another world. Venus, to be specific. A Fort Wayne, Indiana website has an interview with one of the witnesses on video, and includes some still shots. Everything in his description, including the photographs, makes me think he and the others are seeing Venus. Right now, Venus can be seen in the west -- the direction to Lake Erie and Cleveland as seen in Euclid -- shining brightly just after sunset. It is so bright it can be seen while the sky is still light (I've seen Venus in the middle of the day). It appears to hover. Changing atmospheric conditions can affect its color, especially when it's low to the horizon. It can be seen night after night, in the same spot in the sky. Sound familiar? I'm not saying what these people are seeing is in fact Venus, but it sure fits everything I've heard in the news reports (sometimes the witnesses describe multiple lights, but when looking to the horizon, especially over a big city, it's not too unlikely to see planes flying around). In the MSNBC report they talked to the FAA, the military, and others (including a UFO guy from England), but never talked to an astronomer. Hmmph. And note that in these news articles, Venus is never mentioned! That's mighty peculiar, given how spectacular it is in the west after sunset. It's really hard to miss. A likely explanation is that it's not mentioned because it is, in fact, the culprit here. I'm getting a kick out of just how positive so many people are that this is a flying saucer of some kind. I wonder how many of these folks actually are familiar with the night sky, and would recognize Venus when they see it? That's why I think very few astronomers (pro or amateur) report UFOs: astronomers tend to know what they're looking at in the sky. The next time you hear a report like this, don't jump to the conclusion that some interplanetary object is making a close encounter... because it may very well be interplanetary, but the encounter may not be terribly close. Tip o' the probe to Patrick Kent.

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