Two items appear below:

1    The Australian Skeptics Guide to UFOs

2    UFO Photo        Lance Storm


(Investigator 63, 1998 November)

Our Earth does not occupy any special place in the cosmos, and the elements that constitute life are common throughout the universe. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that we are not the only intelligent life forms in the universe, and indeed, scientists are actively seeking evidence of extraterrestrial life, using radio telescopes and other means of detection. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is one such research project.

Notwithstanding our knowledge of the cosmos and the efforts of scientists, there are many people who claim to have been in contact with extraterrestrial intelligences. These claims should be investigated in an impartial manner. So far, none of these claims has been able to withstand critical analysis – explanations range from insufficient information to deliberate hoaxes. The pictures shown in this brochure, for example, are among the best-quality UFO pictures available and they are only slightly degraded by the printing process.

[The pictures/photos are here omitted – Ed.]

Skeptics are interested in all sightings or other evidence of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), though the analysis of such events can be tiring.

We have confirmed that about 97% of UFO sightings can be explained in terms of mundane phenomena (weather balloons, satellites, aircraft, Venus, clouds, meteors, etc.), leaving a small percentage of reports that may indicate something unusual, but most of this residual information is too inaccurately described to allow any sort of explanation to be made.

So far we have not found any convincing evidence that aliens are visiting Earth. But it is not our wish to "knock" all UFO reports. Australian Skeptics remain open to any evidence which comes along and would be among the first to rejoice if a genuine contact with an alien civilisation occurred.

In addition to reports of sightings, which generally offer no hard, physical evidence, there have been purported physical, manifestations – photographs, body scars, cars stalling, holes in the ground, pieces of metal, etc. Unfortunately, every instance of physical evidence has so far been explained in terms of known effects or hoaxes (usually the latter, regrettably).

In the photograph below, for example, the background is out of focus but the window frame, rear view mirror and the UFO are in focus.

There is a natural tendency to exaggerate reports, especially when others retell them, to increase their credibility or newsworthiness.

There has been recent speculation about crashed alien spacecraft dating from 1947. These reports come complete with captured alien bodies, fantastic materials found at the crash site, and a complete cover-up by the United States government. Can you believe that America can keep a secret like that, after Watergate and the Iran-Contra leaks? And from whom should it be kept secret? And why?

People who want to believe that there is something out there have had to resort to describing UFOs as a purely psychic phenomenon, or invoking dubious conspiracy theories to justify the lack of good evidence. But surely, after 50 continuous years of UFO sightings, isn’t it time we had some good quality evidence?

When you think of how many photographs and movies people are taking all over the world, where are the UFO photographs we have been expecting? Why is there no pair of photographs, taken by two different people, of the same object? Where is the hard evidence for the abduction stories?

It is not possible to prove a negative – that nothing is there – but we ask for the application of a little common sense.

While there is much evidence to support Unidentified Flying Objects, there is no evidence to support flying saucers visiting us from outer space. While there is a huge number of stories or anecdotal evidence, there is no hard or corroborative evidence of flying saucers. And why is this? Based on all our research and contrary to popular belief, there are no alien flying saucers visiting the Earth


Lance Storm

(Investigator 63, 1998 November)

I bring to the Investigator's attention a brochure on UFO’s. Skeptics (SA) often seems a little too certain about its claims to the extent that they only see what they want to see and fail to fully substantiate their claims.

I quote from the brochure: "In the photograph below...the background is out of focus but the window frame, rear view mirror and the UFO are in focus."

The photo of an "in focus" UFO is cropped in such a way (half the rear view mirror is missing) that it leaves the naive reader, after the above 'explanation', certain of the fraudulent nature, of the photographic evidence.

I have provided a full-frame (uncropped) photo (a copy of a transparency in my possession) to show that the "in focus" rear view mirror features a view (among other things) of a telegraph pole that appears both very sharp and standing at some distance from the mirror (which might well approximate the distance from the UFO).

However, such a comparatively small distance would mean the UFO is not large – in the order of (say) 2-3 metres. Not big enough for interstellar travel, unless it came from a mother ship! But, we do not know the UFO's exact distance from the camera, nor the distance of the pole from the camera (these distances could be estimated).

The horizon line (a hedgerow or forest perimeter) is slightly out of focus but it is also very far away, so that it does not really have any bearing on the focus of the UFO (that is, the UFO could very well be in focus, regardless of the sharpness of the background.

Note: the general sharpness of the photograph – or lack of sharpness – should be duly considered in the analysis of this photo). The bright conditions (note the shadows in the bushes) suggest that the photo was taken with a very small aperture, and possibly a fast shutter speed, both of which would account for the sharpness of the UFO. But, we do not know if indeed it was moving.

Was a normal lens used (approximately 50mm, for a 35mm camera), or a wide-angle lens (say, 35mm, but no smaller, since there is no evidence of distortion)? As the photo is probably that of an amateur, it was probably taken with a normal lens, but a wide-angle lens would also contribute to the overall sharpness of most of the elements in the photograph. (Maybe a reader could answer this question as I have lost this information.)

I admit that the virtual image of the telegraph pole confounds the photographic evidence more than it confirms. I would be grateful for further information on this enigma.

One photograph does not prove a phenomenon one way or another. I do not believe that we are being visited by extraterrestrials from our own, or any other, star system. But, sloppy handling of the evidence only confuses the debate.

As a professional photographer, working in the field for close to two decades, I feel I have made a legitimate analysis of the more salient attributes of this photograph, but I am aware that another photographer could dispute my analysis – evidence is always interpretive. I am not making absolute claims.