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The UFO Mystery Solved

by Brian Dunning, Apr 23 2009

It seems I’ve been getting ahead of myself here, posting all sorts of mysteries and puzzles, and never getting around to giving the answers. I pledge to tie up all the loose ends before continuing down this reckless path.

So, first on the hit list, is the UFO Mystery that I posted last week. I gave enough facts that I thought you’d probably be able to figure it out, and figure it out you did. (If you haven’t read it yet, check it out now, and then come back here for the spoiler.)

A number of you guessed it pretty much right on the nose. There are some power lines above those carports, pretty high up. They’re black rubber (or whatever they make power lines out of) so you wouldn’t think they’d look like a light in the dark. But somehow, car headlights on the road outside the complex are hitting something and reflecting 90 degrees into the condo complex in a thin vertical stripe. This vertical stripe of light hits the powerlines, and makes two or three (one cable was thinner) grayish lights appear in the sky. If the car turned into the complex, the lights would shoot off to the left.

And that security guard driving up? I mentioned him for a reason. Note that the appearance and movement of the lights correlated with his car coming up the road and turning into the complex.

We couldn’t find exactly what the headlights were reflecting from. There are a lot of buildings and stores and signs and stuff across the street from the entrance, and I think you’d probably need to climb up onto the powerlines to see exactly where the reflection is coming from. But a reflection it is, as even the most modest patient investigation clearly reveals. It happens whenever a car turns in, and doesn’t happen whenever a car doesn’t turn in. The condo complex is very quiet and isolated from the shops, and there’s no sense at all that you’re seeing an intrusion from that direction.

Of course, in the light of day, when you know what it is, it seems stupid and really obvious, and you wouldn’t think anyone would be fooled by it. But I was there and had the privilege of seeing the lights when I didn’t know what they were; and I assure you, it was a wild scene. It’s not often that you get to enjoy that sense of “Whoa, I’m witnessing something I actually can’t explain!”

When we figured it out, Jim and I had distinctly different reactions. I was excited, like I’d just won Final Jeopardy. Jim was reserved, quiet; he smiled and nodded. There was probably a mixture of disappointment that it wasn’t aliens, and embarrassment that he hadn’t figured out such a simple puzzle. But he’s a smart guy and he certainly didn’t argue or try to twist the explanation. I certainly know UFOlogists who would claim that the reflections are actually aliens trying to tell us something.

Seriously.

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13 Responses to “The UFO Mystery Solved”

  1. MadScientist says:

    Yay! Will we be rewarded with Scooby Snacks?

    I have to disagree on the bit about not being able to tell where the reflections were coming from – that’s in fact quite a simple matter and people like Prof. M. Minnaert had done many similar calculations by hand over 60 years ago. (When I look at the calculations people had performed back then I’m just awed – I can’t imagine having the patience to do all that work, not even over a number of years.)

  2. Mchl says:

    There’s no point covering overhead power lines with any kind of insulation, so I doubt there’s ‘black rubber’ involved here ;)

    Other than that kudos to all commenters who got it right. I did not ;)

  3. Cambias says:

    So did anyone dig in and insist “the truth is out there?”

  4. So – you admit to the possibility that it was Aliens who built those power lines as a signaling device? Excellent! And do you see their clever message?? Do you??? That the message is conveyed by light, Light-bringer = Lucifer, ergo: Luciferian technology!!!!

    The obvious solution is to remove all electrical equipment as it is Luciferian.

    Oh wait – that means my laptop wouldn’t work. NEVERMIND, back to work.

  5. Power lines are heavy and are usually wrapped around a supporting cable that bears the weight. A sort of sheath is often used to hold the lines and weight-bearing cable together. That sheath could be construed as ‘black rubber’ on a visual observation.

    I’d suggest that the source of the reflection is probably a glass window or something as efficiently reflective.

    So, Final Disclosure is not upon us after all.

    *sigh*

  6. Frank says:

    Aaarrggghhhh! What about the lights in the sea?

  7. John says:

    But what about the “Mystery Lights at Sea”?

    http://skepticblog.org/2009/02/12/solving-the-mystery-lights-at-sea/

    I am still waiting for the answer to that one.

  8. [Watch Brian take the easy way and tell us the mystery lights at sea moved inland and are the same ones explained here. Two unidentified birds with one stone!]

  9. Wendy says:

    Something similar happened to me recently. I was walking northward, and it had just gotten dark. There was a REALLY bright light in the sky that I had never seen before. It was too high up to be on the mountains, and FAR too bright to be a star (even brighter than Venus). It wasn’t moving. I thought that maybe something had gone supernova… (Lol, no UFOs, no angels, no ghosts… Supernova. I’m such a skeptic!) I was so stoked!! Until I got closer and closer and realized… It was a light on the arm of a crane. I couldn’t see the body of the crane because it was behind another building, but the arm was swung over the street, making the light look like it was floating high in the sky, attached to nothing. How disappointing. Lol!

  10. Brian Hart says:

    Brian:

    Maybe at night you could use a high-power green laser and walk up the street with it. Utilizing walkie-talkies or cell phones, you could walk the same path as the security car, while pointing to various locations until you are told by your “viewee” that you got a “hit”. That would tell you exactly where the reflective surfaces are.

  11. This story and solution very well demonstrates the key thing to most UFO and miracle stories. There is ALWAYS key peices of information to the event not spoken about which leaves such stories impossible to bunk or debunk. In fact, I might even use these posts of yours for a story of my own on my blog as it reminds me of a discussion I had with someone on a forum about “light angels”. Thanks to persistent questions this person eventually put up a small street-map of the area he was talking about.

    Didn’t help directly, but it did allow me to track down the location in/near Russia through google maps. From there I was able to see the buildings and trees, then use their shadows to get a rough idea of height (at least relative to eachother), and from THIS information it became clear as day the path light from the sun in the early morning was taking, between some trees, hitting a window, and reflecting to the shaded side of a building in the shape of an angel due to very minor warping of the window … just as I had been telling him must have been the case all along.

    The evidence I tracked down (rather than what I got from him) backed up my explanation scarily well, right down to trees causing it to fade in and out quite suddenly rather than come in and out gradually.

  12. UFO ‘mystery’ in the Keewenau Penninsula, Upper Peninsula, Michigan in the 1970s when I lived there: Also lights seeming to dance in the low sky outside town *near the airport*. Long story short, it was the headlights on airport ground vehicles and landing lights on incoming small private planes reflecting off a small lake 1/4 mile past the end of the runway and onto the side of a large hill/small mountain yet nother half mile away. That area gets fog banks often and that’s when the UFO reports really came in.

  13. Mats N says:

    I’ve seen some quite shiny protective covers on powerlines. Just shiny enough to appear matte black during the day, but reflect light if it strikes the plastic at the proper angle. So I think it could still be the powerlines.