When looking at the key principle's AF-117s, I have to take into account three possibilities:
1. The ground observers, primarily O'Connor/Isley, Jablonski/Adams and Bond/Williams, saw lights and/or an object in their respective flight areas. The possibility exists that this could have been a mis-identified star...possible, but not certain.
2. At a given point in time, the B-52 visually supplants the initial object and the observers focus solely on the B-52. I believe that this is possible, but not certain.
3. The object is neither a star, nor the B-52, but of an unknown origin. A UFO, if you will. This is possible, but not definitive nor is it certain.
Are the AF-117s accurate concerning the plotted directions and elevations of the object/light? I tend to think not. The observation reports were completed either the next day or a few days after the incident. Werlich, per memo for record, had told the staff of PBB that he had to show most how to annotate the directions and elevations on the AF-117s. If this is true, then the diagrams were best guesses based on memory recall. Each observer perceived the event in a different way.
There is another AF-117, that of the B-52's pilot, Maj James Partin, that provides possible clues to his sighting that possibly discounts a UFO on or near the ground. In my opinion, Partin's AF-117 does not corroborate the observations from the ground teams. I'm not talking about the radar data, but of Partin's visual observations, what he saw with his own eyes. The radar data will be discussed in a separate post.
Is a stellar observation possible?
This is what Blue Book proposed. Unfortunately in today's UFO research climate, the mere mentioning of Blue Book tends to be toxic, but was a stellar component possible? In order to answer this question we have to compare the ground observers' estimated plotted positions while on site at N-07 and the potential candidates for a proposed stellar observation.
As can be seen in the above diagram. We have a combination of initial and final observed points based on the estimated elevations above the horizon as provided by the ground teams. Information from Blue Book list four stars as the possible observed object/light:
Regulus 10 degrees above horizon at 0300 hr, and 20 degrees at 0400 hr.
Procyon 30 degrees above horizon at 0300 hr, and 37 degrees at 0400 hr.
Sirius 28 degrees above horizon at 0300 hr, and 24 degrees at 0400.
Rigel 35 degrees above horizon at 0300 hr, and 35 degrees at 0400.
Based on the estimated positions plotted by Jablonski/Adams and O'Connor/Isley, it appears to me that Procyon, Sirius, and Rigel would be good candidates to have been observed by the ground teams.
Tom Tulien provided a comment in my last post that Sirius would have been too low above the horizon to have any observational value. To see if this was possible, I set up my telescope in my backyard and aligned it to 28 degrees and tracked this elevation via line of sight. It was readily obvious that Sirius could have been easily seen even taking in to account tree lines in the distant area. I further found that at 15 degrees above the horizon the same held true. It was only at 10 degrees and below that I found that it would have been difficult to observe, based on probable tree lines and ground elevations, but in some respects not impossible.
What was the actual conditions during the night? This depends on the perception of each observer. O'Connor listed the conditions as partly cloudy with nimbus clouds, a few stars, no moon. Isley wrote that the night was clear, few stars, no moon light. Jablonski wrote that it was a clear night, few stars, no moon light. The same for Adams. Bond, at N-01, stated the night was clear with a few stars. William Smith, O-01, wrote that it was completely overcast, clouds, no stars, and no moon. James Partin, the B-52 pilot, wrote that there were many stars and no moon light, but Partin was at altitude in his aircraft.
Based on the above descriptions, it appears that the ground teams in the November Flight area, particular to N-07, had a fairly non-obscured sky during the observations. Oscar Flight, NE of November Flight, was the only exception as it appeared to had been overcast, per William Smith, yet he saw a light/object SSW, 15 degrees above the horizon.
The above diagram shows the plotted "compass" points of the teams initial (A) and last (B) observations. I've listed the approximately locations of Sirius and Rigel at important times during the early morning hours of 24 October 1968.
What is of interest is that at the time listed on O'Connor's AF-117, Sirius is almost directly due east. Sirius' position changes through the next few hours, East, ESE, SE, SSE, and finally at 0500 hr, approximately due south. Rigel's position changes from SE,SSE and finally SSW at 0500 hr. Sirius tracks well with the descriptions given by Isley and O'Connor and the initial observation plotted by Jablonski/Adams. Jablonski's last observed point B shows WSW, but Rigel's location of SSW is in the general vicinity. Is it possible that Rigel was the object last seen by Jablonski?
James Partin's View from the B-52
James Partin was the pilot of the B-52 that over-flew the November flight area. His aircraft was 10 miles northeast of Minot AFB at an altitude of 3200 ft MSL per his AF-117. He saw a bright orange ball of light at his one o'clock. It appeared to be 15 miles away either on the ground or slightly above the ground. The light remained stationary as he flew towards it. During his 5 minute visual observation, the object never moved, even when he was directly above it. To Partin, "It looked like a miniature sun placed on the ground below the aircraft.
Nowhere in Partin's AF-117 does he describe a light/object moving about the flight area, as compared to the descriptions provided by the ground observers. Partin only saw a bright object or source of light on or near the ground...and it was stationary...not moving.
What was the bright light that Partin observed? Project Blue Book offered the possibility of ball lightning or the star Vega. Both of these options are very poor choices as Vega was barely above the horizon in the north, if at all, and ball lightning being a very rare event and hardly a stationary phenomena.
If we rule out Vega and ball lightning, then what is the source? The answer may well be annotated by the ground observers AF-117s and the flight path of the B-52.
The PBB staff and LtCol Werlich either missed or glossed over a key passage in Jablonski's AF-117, in particular, section 11 e, Major Source of Illumination." Jablonski had wrote in section 11 e, "Head lights and site lights". While on N-07, the site's top-side lights were on and the team's vehicle head lights were on.
I asked two former missile maintenance officers about the arrangement of the site lights on a launch facility. Both stated that there were 2 light posts with 3 lights mounted on each pole. When asked how bright these lights were, one stated that all were very bright, lighting up the entire area of the launch facility. I assume that all six lights were positioned in different angles on their respective poles to provide the illumination coverage.
If we look at the flight path of the B-52, N-07 would have been in the direction of Partin's one o'clock. The flight path takes the aircraft near N-07. I believe that what Partin had described as a stationary source of bright light was actually N-07 with it's site lights activated. In his AF-117, Partin draws what he believes to have seen either on the ground or hovering above the ground.
Tom Tulien site, shows several map overlays of the aircraft's flight path viewed here.
|Taken from Tom Tulien's minotb52ufo.com|
The above is the diagram drawn by Maj. Partin in his AF-117.
The above is an overlay of what Maj. Partin saw and transposed over N-07. The site lights would have brightly lit the entire topside of the LF and a portion of the outside perimeter. The graveled topside and concrete components could have been seen as a bright reflection being observed by Partin. In an interview with Tulien/Klotz, Jablonski gave the impression that he and Adams had parked their vehicle on the access road.
I cannot say the above is exactly what Partin saw, but I believe that it is possible...plausible. It is "possible" that the ground observers saw a star, or a series of stars that appeared to move slowly over time. It is "possible" that at a given point in time, the overflying B-52 takes over and is now the focus of the ground observers as the UFO. Add in the light pollution by the bright site lights from N-07, it is "possible" that the ground observers lost frequent eye contact with the initial object (star?). It is "possible" that Maj. Partin was actually observing a "stationary" brightly lit N-07.
If the above is true....where is the UFO?