What UK Defence ministry called an unusual atmospheric occurrence

Two researchers have published an anlysis of a reported close encounter last year between a turbo-prop near Perth and an object thought to have been a drone and concluded that  it should be regarded as a UFO or unidentified aerial phenomena or UAP, to give it an acronym free of tabloid baggage.  That incident, on 19 March 2014, was investigated by the ATSB, which issued this final report.

The analysis done by Keith Basterfield and Paul Dean can be found here, or here  where each blog contains other material readers might wish to take into consideration. (As an amateur astronomer and space cadet reporter since the early Space Age some personal views are added at the end of this post.)

This is what the ATSB says happened:

On 19 March 2014, at about 0913 Western Standard Time (WST) a de Havilland DHC-8, registered VH-XFX was on approach to Perth Airport from Kambalda, Western Australia. When about 23km north-north-east of Perth, at about 3,800ft above mean sea level (AMSL), the crew sighted a bright strobe light in front of the aircraft. The light appeared to track toward the aircraft and the crew realised that the light was on an unknown object, possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV.) The pilot took evasive action turning towards the west to avoid a collision with the object. The object passed about 20m horizontally and 100ft vertically from the aircraft.

The pilot reported that the object was cylindrical in shape and grey in colour. It was at about 3,700ft AMSL and in controlled airspace. The crew did not receive a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) alert. The airspace below 3,500ft AMSL was military restricted airspace and the Australian Defence Force was not operating UAVs and was not aware of any UAV operations in the area at the time of the incident. The ATSB was not able to confirm the details of the object or identify any UAV operator in the area at that time.

This is what the pilot in command of the flight told the researchers as they prepared their analysis.

* The pilot, male, age 26 utterly ruled out the possibility of the object being a weather balloon

 * The object was travelling in the opposite direction to him, not merely hovering or floating

 * He and the co-pilot registered “complete shock”

 * Air Services Australia confirmed that no other flight crew reported seeing the object (via ground radio when he landed)

 * When he thought the object might collide with his plane, he sought a heading change from ATC, but this was denied. He therefore changed course himself

 * The object was still going “up,” as well as travelling horizontally when it passed his aircraft

 * He estimated it was only 100m from his aircraft at most, he said it could have been as close as 30m

 * It had the ratio dimension wise of a cigarette, i.e. long and thin

 * He said it was green in colour, military green actually, even though the ATSB report cites the colour as grey

 * The strobe light on front had a flash frequency of a second interval at most. It was whitish in colour, and not red, or blue, or any other colour

 * The total duration of the event did not exceed 15 seconds

 * A very rough estimate of the speed of the aircraft at the time was perhaps 450km/hr, despite being on a landing approach

 * No other aircraft crew reported seeing anything. There was no radar image of the object. ASA staff saw nothing on radar

 * It definitely went past the aircraft on the left hand side

 * The pilot undertook a voluntary drug, urine test upon landing

 * He has no idea what it was, and didn’t want it to happen again

 *There were 53 passengers on board at the time

 * No one told him, not to discuss the incident.

Opinion The incident is unexplained, and the mystery object doesn’t conform to the characteristics of model aircraft or UAVs as known today.  The sighting was of sufficient merit to cause an ATSB investigation.

While the analysis made by the two researchers makes compelling sense, some of the material on their respective blogs doesn’t, keeping in mind that this isn’t a reflection on their pursuit of the truth or untruth in UFO sightings or the significant value that keeping a record of Australian sightings of such objects may prove to have.

The problem with the prolific reportage of mystery objects in recent months is that they aren’t being seen (or if seen, misunderstood) by the significant numbers of professional and amateur astronomers who watch Australian skies, or process the highly automated sky surveys that seek to find and identify near earth objects such as asteroids and comets that may pose an imminent or future hazard to our species.

No much happens unobserved in the skies over Australia. The incidents reported in the researchers’ blogs are therefore likely to have been misunderstood, or occurred at very close range, or inside the heads of the observers.

Everyone in amateur and professional astronomy wants to find aliens, almost as much as they want to find previously unreported comets,  not to mention Comet Sandilands.

The protocols for reporting ‘new’ or ‘mysterious objects is that their sighting is noted first, and their trajectories calculated later.  It is a very open process, and would frustrate any attempted suppression of the ‘truth’ which is one of the constant memes of UFOlogy.

To keep a completely open scientific mind on anomalous or unexplained sightings it should be noted that they may be real but a part of a natural, unnatural, or advanced external technological process that isn’t understood or recognised by science in the early twenty first century.  As such, some UFOs might be coincidental rather than targeted occurrences.

The observed universe might already show signs of external technology on vast scales, or in very subtle ‘wrinkles’ that we can’t recognise or understand at our level of scientific knowledge. Or it might show no sign of such activity at all.

Whatever the truth may be, there is no point in trying to invent it before it is found, or reveals itself, or leaves our species alone and unique in its vastness.

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