Two days ago, I wrote about an UFO sighting over Stephenville, TX, that has been getting a lot of press attention. Well, the local news paper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, has published a photograph purportedly of the UFO. It is an excellent photograph of a parhelion! Here is the photograph, courtesy of Sean Kiel, a truck driver who took it with his cell phone:
The more detailed eyewitness descriptions of the
sundog UFO that are now being published by the paper are classic descriptions of sundogs. The UFO is being called a long cigar shaped object, multi-colored, and slowly rotating. That is what sundogs like this look like as the cirrus clouds that form them slowly drift past. In fact, this picture taken here in Texas is very much like the following photograph from NOAA that is posted in the Wikipedia article about sundogs:
Kiel’s photograph is even better than the ones that I took several weeks ago. The one that I saw was every bit as impressive as these, but by the time that I got home to get my camera, the sun and clouds were no longer in the proper position.
What I find interesting is that so many of the people commenting on the photograph published in the paper are now claiming that it is “proof” that a UFO was flying overhead. It is clearly a sundog phenomenon. This just goes towards making my point that many people don’t pay much attention to what they see in the sky. I have numerous college students who come to my astronomy classes who have never seen the Moon in the sky during daylight hours. But, sundogs are a naturally occurring phenomenon, and many people who look at the sky a lot have seen them. In fact, since Stephenville is in a fairly rural area, no doubt a lot of the farmers and ranchers there have seen so many sundogs over the years that they didn’t even give the object a second thought if this is what was seen. So, that might explain why so few people saw the UFO. For most of them, it was identifiable!
What is really disturbing, though, is that if you look at the comments on the news story, a large number of people correctly saw it as a sundog and pointed that out. But, there were also a large number of people who flatly rejected that explanation, even though this is a classic parhelion. This shows that people will often believe what they want to believe, no matter the evidence to the contrary. Carl Sagan once said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” A photograph of something that looks exactly like a sundog does not make extraordinary evidence for a spaceship.