Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mystery Solved?

Remember the Stephenville UFO sightings last week? Evidently, there may be an answer, though nobody's sure if it's the answer:
The U.S. military has owned up to having F-16 fighters in the air near Stephenville the night that several residents reported unusual lights in the sky. But the correction issued Wednesday doesn't exactly turn UFOs into Identified Flying Objects.

Several dozen witnesses reported that they had seen unusual lights in the sky near Stephenville shortly after dusk Jan. 8. One sighting included a report that the lights were pursued by military jets. Military officials had repeatedly denied they had any flights in the area that night.

But that position changed Wednesday with a terse news release:

"In the interest of public awareness, Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs realized an error was made regarding the reported training activity of military aircraft. Ten F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron were performing training operations from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday January 8, 2008, in the Brownwood Military Operating Area (MOA), which includes the airspace above Erath County."

Maj. Karl Lewis, a spokesman for the 301st Fighter Wing at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, blamed the earlier erroneous release on "an internal communications error."
Eh, they might have been keeping things secret for a good reason. I have no argument with that. But still, some people remain skeptical:
One battle tactic used routinely by F-16s involves the ejection of flares that are intended to confuse heat-seeking missiles. The flares can be ejected several at a time, and could form a pattern of bright lights traveling across the sky.

But such activity would not match other aspects of the descriptions of the Stephenville lights. Witnesses generally described what they saw as silent, apparently changing speeds and passing over populated areas. That does not sound like a flare release, said Jay Miller, an aviation consultant and historian in Fort Worth.

For one thing, any jet that dumps flares also would be trying to get away as fast as possible.

"He's going to be in full afterburner," he said, and that's very loud. But the jets wouldn't be the only noise associated with flares.

"Flares don't burn silently. They actually burn quite loudly," he said.

Flares are also extremely hot and dangerous, and it's highly unlikely that any drill would involve their use over populated areas, Mr. Miller said.
So the jury's still out on this one. But it's nice to see one of my favorite small Texas towns get some publicity, and if even one national reporter went back home raving about Dublin Dr Pepper or Hard Eight BBQ, it's all worthwhile in my book.

So what do you think--military planes, or something much less easy to explain?

Blunder from down under, part 1: An Australian teenager stole two crocodiles and a monkey from a nature park last summer. In his trial recently, he claimed he did it because he was high on weed.

Blunder from down under, part 2: Meanwhile, in eastern Australia, an 81-year-old woman was charged with growing and selling pot.

Blunder from down under, part 3: And finally, two Australians were sentenced in a robbery that took place, appropriately, last April Fool's Day. They robbed a restaurant and thought they were getting away with a huge sack of cash. Unfortunately for them, the sack only contained rolls--the kind made out of bread.

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