Friday, October 31, 2014

The Australian Desert Fireball Network and other instrumented resources

Hi all,

In recent posts (click here and here) I have written about instrumented monitoring of aerial anomalies. The thought behind this is the acquisition of hard data concerning such anomalies.

In astronomical and atmospheric research circles, there are networks of instruments which monitor the skies, e.g. for aurora or for fireballs. In the realm of fireball research, there are three well known networks:

1. The Prairie Fireball Network (USA.)
2. The Meteorite Observation and Recovery Project Network (MORP) (Canada.)
3. The European Fireball Network.

In each case, cameras monitor large volumes of the skies.


Australian fireball network:

There is a lesser known network in Australia, the Desert Fireball Network (DFN.) It is a network of automated digital cameras, monitored through satellites, designed to photograph fireballs, then to triangulate their trajectory, and finally to attempt recovery of meteorites on the ground.

It was initially established across part of the Nullarbor Plain, but in September 2014 was extended to five more locations, all in South Australia, namely, Gum Glen; Mount Ives; Kondolka; Nilpena, and Wilpoorinna. Since its establishment in 2007 the DFN has photographed numerous fireballs, leading to recovery of pieces of two of them. It also recently photographed the 4 August 2014 Perth, WA, fireball.

The DFN website (click here ) states that the DFN is "...a project designed to find out where meteorites come from in the solar system." The DFN is a collaboration between:

1. Imperial College, London.
2. Ondrejou observatory in the Czech Republic.
3. Curtin University in Western Australia.
4. The West Australian Museum.

The website also states that "The final network will image the night sky over roughly one third of Australia."


Email:

I recently emailed the DFN project to ask a couple of questions, namely:

1. What is the lowest magnitude brightness meteors that the system can detect?

2. Has the system ever detected anything in the sky which appeared anomalous and hence is new to science? I am thinking here of the discovery of such phenomenon as upper atmospheric lightning, e.g. sprites associated with thunderstorms. I know that sometimes instrumented systems pick up things that they were not designed for, much to our surprise and delight."

I am awaiting a response.


Are these networks useful for UAP research?

Way back in 1968, the Condon Committee explored the value of the Prairie Fireball Network, by comparing some of the reports they received from the area covered by the network. "Colorado project scientists attempted to evaluate the usefulness of the Prairie Network as an instrumented system for UFO searches." The 16 stations of four cameras each were used. "The Network's identification of 18% of all sightings with a fair degree of probability..." was the outcome. (1969. "Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects." Bantam Books. New York. pp769-773.)

In 2013, the team at Curtin University developed a smart phone app called "Fireballs in the sky." When a person sees a fireball they point their camera at the point in the sky where they first saw it, click the phone; then point to the location in the sky where they last saw the fireball and click. The app can then assist determine the path of the fireball, with sufficient observations. The phone's accelerometer, GPS, and compass provide the raw data for the calculations of trajectory. Perhaps, a future app could document UAP sightings in the same way?


Other Australian instrumented systems:

There are also a number of "All sky" cameras in Australia, including one located at Mount Stromlo. Here, the Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics of the Australian National University runs a fish eye camera. Their website (click here) shows both static images, both fish eye and corrected, and a movie of images from the past few hours.

There is also an "Aurora patrol" camera located at Cressy in Tasmania, run by the Bureau of Meteorology. This is a CCD camera, where viewers can see both a static image; a video of sky images for up to the last ten days, and an image archive, all viewable on the net. Click here.

Finally, the Perth Observatory website has a sky camera which provides a wide field image of the night sky updated every ten minutes, viewable on the net. Click here.



Monday, October 20, 2014

"Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena and Experimental Strategy: Methods, Equipment and Lessons from Instrumented Field Studies."

Hi all,

Continuing on with a series of posts about papers presented at the July 2014, Paris, GEIPAN workshop, the next presentation I wish to review was one by Philippe Ailleris, who established the UAP Observations Reporting Scheme (click here), based in The Netherlands.

Ailleris notes that observations of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena (UAP) have been reviewed by the use of such measures, as physical traces; videos; photographs; visual observations, and radar. "Nonetheless they have failed to provide sufficiently reliable evidence to convince the scientific community of the existence of anomalous aerial phenomena on Earth."

Following this, Ailleris states "It is obvious that a change of methodology is necessary and that the UAP phenomenon requires an active investigative response to move toward a scientific solution." Instrumented UAP observations are needed. He illustrates this with examples of past efforts,and provides results obtained. In doing so he noted their limitations and shortcomings, with a view to refining future proposed instrumented data collection.

"Finally the paper highlights the importance of studying the history of the UFO controversy, especially the necessity of accurately documenting and preserving the information pertaining to these historical research efforts (allowing the past work to guide future projects), and encouraging official bodies to be open and transparent in communications relating to genuine UAP reports."


Notes:

1. The full abstract of the presentation is available here, a presentation slide here.

"Useful Research Methods for Aircrew and Air Traffic Controller UAP sightings."

Hi all,

A fifth paper of interest from the July 2014, Paris, GEIPAN workshop was by US based researcher, Dr. Richard Haines of NARCAP (click here.) His paper was titled "Useful Research Methods for Aircrew and Air Traffic Controller UAP sightings."


Introduction:

"Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) continue to be reported by pilots and air traffic controllers around the world...little more is known today about the true nature of UAP than was known in the 1950's...UAP also appear without warning near airplanes in flight which is the primary subject of this paper."


Future methodology:

"Our future research methodology must focus upon invisible and unexpected Black-swan-like events that lie outside the expectations of highly experienced UAP investigators and aviation officials than upon what appears to be the obvious."

"UAP investigators should focus on establishing a broad "net" in which to "catch" all of the objective...and subjective characteristics of UAP."

Haines calls for a "...comprehensive taxonomy of UAP to categorize and parse the various classes of these phenomena."

In the next section of the paper, Haines discusses what should be recorded when interviewing aircrew and documents the processes undertaken by NARCAP in this respect. He then proceeds to illustrate what might be learnt by an examination of the aircraft involved in terms of potential instrumented data. Reconstruction of the observation is important, to record any and all available information. He concludes that "Because we still do not know what UAP are we are wise to collect and analyze more information that we may think we need and not reject data too soon simply because it does not seem to be relevant."

"There is little doubt that unidentified aerial phenomena are complex...I believe, however, that when the data is integrated properly and the seemingly anomalous features are included - despite their apparent challenges to current scientific laws - we will really move forward in our understanding of what UAP are."


Conclusions and recommendations:

"As this paper has pointed out there are many useful procedures available for collecting, recording, and analysing pilot and ATC personnel data. Also, as has been mentioned, these myriad data call for application of scientific procedures involving hypothesis testing, control groups, creative data selection and integration and leaving our personal biases behind."


Notes:

1. A very useful tool is a list of selected research URL's used by Haines and NARCAP. These include "aero-physics;" astronomical; "geo-physics;" airports; rocket launch data, etc.

2. The full text of the paper is available, click here. The associated presentation slides are available here.

3. All in all, I found this another extremely useful and practical paper, which should be essential reading for all civilian UAP researchers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Survey and analysis of French UAP reports

Hi all,

This is the fourth in a series of posts concerning selected papers presented at the July, 2014, GEIPAN workshop held in Paris. This post summarises my take on a paper titled "Qualitative Expert Evaluation and Quantitative Characterization of Official Reports on Alleged Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in France (1970-1979)," by Jean-Pierre Rospars (click here.)


Introduction:

Rospars sets out to analyse a set of about one thousand reports from the Gendarmerie Nationale for the decade 1970-1979. This analysis aimed to explore:

1. Are the "interesting" sightings of little or not understood phenomena?

2. Is there "Statistically significant quantitative difference between "interesting" and "uninteresting" sightings?"


Reliability of report classification:

Twenty eight engineers from CNES Toulouse classified the reports into four categories. These were:

(A) Fully identified phenomenon.
(B) Phenomenon likely assignable to a known phenomenon.
(C) Unidentified phenomenon but the report is of little value.
(D) Unidentified phenomenon and report is of sufficient interest to deserve a subsequent analysis.

The author also personally categorised the set of reports.

He concludes that "A classification will be considered reliable if and only if the same report evaluated by two (or more) experts is put in the same category."


Findings:

1. "Is the identified/unidentified...correlated to the distance between the observer and the reported phenomenon?" The answer was yes, "72% of the 'close' ones are in category D."

2. "How are the reported events related to the population of potential observers?" This result suggested that reports of category D occur preferentially in the least densely populated communes."

3. "How does the frequency of reports vary as a function of the time of the day?" The answer was, "...the expression in percent...shows a clear excess of D cases over AB cases from 9pm to 3am..."


Future investigations:

The results:

1. "Call for a better definition of the "surely explained" A and "probably explained " B categories.

2. It would appear that "explained" and "unexplained" reports have separate characteristics.

3. "More generally, may the contribution of expert evaluation and statistical comparisons lead to a more objective appraisal of the global significance of reports."


Notes:

The full English version of the paper is available, click here

Thursday, October 16, 2014

UAP photo/video authentication and analysis

Hi all,

A third fascinating paper presented at the July 2014, Paris, GEIPAN workshop was titled "UAP photo/video Authentication and Analysis." It was authored by Francois Lounge, Antoine Cousyn, click here; and Geoff Quick, click here.


Authentication:

The authors propose that the first step is to determine if the image is an "authentic original." They provide definitions for both silver and digital photography. They then suggest a check of associated tags and markers; then a comparison with a technical camera database.


Identification of an artifact:

Is the image an external stimulus? Does it arise from lenses; on the photosensitive sensor or in the encoding process of the image file? Is it a fake or image montage?


Analysis and mensuration:

If there was an external stimulus, can it be linked to a material object or a "purely luminous phenomenon?" If it cannot be identified can we determine such things as "...distance from the camera; size; velocity; acceleration; color, energy..."


Tools for specificities of video:

Analysis of a video series of images can include flexible visualization, further image analysis, and frame de-interlacing.


IPACO:

Co-author Lounge has developed software (IPACO) to provide "...the UAP photo/video analyst with an easy-to-use dedicated tool which fulfils most of the requirements for in-depth investigations." IPACO works in English and in French.


Definitions:

The authors take time to define such terms as digital photography; metadata; and authentic original
photograph. Existing tools are reviewed and compression signatures are discussed. "IPACO provides a set of specific authentication functionality, which are divided into two parts..." Firstly, check all associated tags and markers. Secondly, comparison with a technical database of cameras.


Limits:

It is clear that "...one photo of a scene will not be able to provide all the information contained on the original scene..." Also, "...very quick movements may not be detected on a video, because of the limitations in temporal resolution."


Possible measurements:

These include such things as angular measurements; and distance assessment. An example analysis is given, namely the Chambley case of 2007. The image shows one dark, oval shaped object, in a photograph showing a number of balloons. The analysis suggested that it was "...probably a child's balloon."


IPACO's dedicated analysis tools:

These include "quick detection of lens flares"; "detection of a suspended thread;" 'detection of a Chinese lantern." Example photographs and analysis are given for each of these.


Comment:

This is an excellent, illustrated, comprehensive technical guide to authentication and analysis of UAP photography/videos. For the full paper click here. For more on IPACO and its services click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Instrumented monitoring of aerial anomalies."

Hi all,

Another speaker at the July 2014, Paris, GEIPAN meeting (click here) was astrophysicist Massimo Teodorani (click here.) He presented a paper titled "Instrumented Monitoring of Aerial Anomalies: A Scientific Approach to the Investigation of Anomalous Atmospheric Light Phenomena." I will provide my summary of his paper.


Introduction:

In his introduction, Teodorani notes that sightings of anomalous lights occur in several locations on earth. These lights exhibit no solid structure, or surface, However, they do appear as very bright, spheres, with "...peculiar characteristics in its structure, motion, and luminosity/colour variations."


Statistical considerations:

From work Teodorani himself has conducted, he suggest that "...it can be concluded that such kind of anomalies are subject to no real increase in time..." with apparent increases over the years being judged due to the increased media attention, increased Internet exposure and increased cell phone availability.

In terms of spatial distribution, his work leads him to state that numbers of reports are "...totally dependent on the population number...." Thus some apparent areas with high numbers of reports may be due solely to the population of that area, and not an inherent concentration of lights in that area. Thus some areas known for frequent observations may not actually be special. However, some locations do indeed have an above average number of lights, eg. Hessdalen valley, Norway.


Monitoring investigations in Italy:

A number of research groups in Italy are engaged in monitoring anomalous light phenomenon in recent years. However, "...no real scientific results and/or conclusions have been obtained so far, except for a quite accurate correlation of reported cases with geological or geophysical parameters." He illustrates this section, with several photographs of such observations.


Scientific observations in Hessdalen Valley:

A permanent measuring station has been in existence for some time and has provided visual observations, photographs, videos and occasionally, instrumented measurements.

Research there has provided some information, including:

1. The lights seen are often spherical, of different colours, often of long duration  (30-60 minutes), "spaced out by periods of "off" and "on" phases..."

2. "They are often able to emit a high level of radiant energy ...on the order of 20Kw in the optical spectrum..."

3. "The very few optical spectra...do not show a 'unified pattern' (such as that of a star)..."

4. "Quite often the light phenomenon present a radar track."


The main problem for "light balls":

"One way to attack the physics of the problem...can, in principle, be quantified by considering an essential set of equations, which do not differ substantially from the ones used in stellar physics..."

He presents a set of equations "...that define the 'plasma sphere structure,' after assuming that a plasma sphere can be considered as a sort of 'mini star...' '


Methodology of research:

The author admits that this research is difficult. The appearance of light balls is unpredictable. "We now have only a preliminary scientific picture of the phenomenon. But we do not have yet any definitive and clear explanation of the enigma of the self-containment of such light balls..."

"Of course the only way to solve the still open physical problems in this field is to have the possibility to carry out a systematic and very well funded research, so that recurrence areas can be monitored constantly using both scientific personnel on field and automatic measuring equipment." Teodorani details several thoughts on just what would be needed.


Conclusion:

Understanding the mechanism by which these light balls are generated might lead to laboratory reproduction and hence a possible new energy source.


Note:

To read the full paper in English, click here. For his slide presentation, click here. To view a video of his talk, click here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jacques Vallee - workshop talk - GEIPAN, Paris - July 2014

Hi all,

Introduction:

One of the speakers at the 8-9 July, 2014, Paris workshop, held by the "Groupe D'Etudes Et D'Informations sur les Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non Identifes" (GEIPAN), was veteran researcher and author Jacques Vallee.

Having had a long term interest in Vallee's work in this field, I am always intrigued to hear what he has to say. It was therefore, with particular pleasure that I noted that the workshop proceedings have now been published via the GEIPAN website.


The paper:

Vallee's workshop paper was titled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: A Strategy for Research."

It starts by presenting an historical overview of the collection of UAP observations, which have been undertaken in the past. He notes that both professionals and amateurs have built up catalogues and online databases. Such collections include those by the Batelle Memorial Institute; NICAP; CUFOS; GEIPAN; NARCAP and the National Institute for Discovery Science. Individuals named, include Aime Michel; Guy Quincy; David Saunders; Ted Phillips; Mark Rodeghier; and Claude Poher. Jacques and Janine Vallee, of course, contributed extensively to this work.


Obstacles to analysis:

Vallee then provides a number of obstacles which lie in the way of future research. One is the "Lack of data validation and missing standards..." Another is that "Every group tends to use its own way of indexing, which makes it impractical, if not impossible, to implement data fusion or simply to exchange information."

Vallee's proposed solution is "...to avoid ideological biases the clear scientific approach is to build a platform of screened calibrated data." He then provides details of the "Capella" data warehouse concept used by the National Institute for Discovery Science.


Unsolved questions:

These include overall patterns; the physics of the phenomenon; specific locations where the phenomenon appears more frequently; social and cultural impacts; the impact on human observers, and methodology and epistemology.


The way forward:

Vallee then states "It is striking to observe that ALL the above issues could be addressed with the current tools of the Sciences, WITHOUT pre-conceived ideology; and without using the ETH as the primary hypothesis to be tested."

Vallee observes that "From a computer science point of view, however this situation is not amenable to simple, packaged solutions. In particular, hierarchical, non-procedural or table driven (relational) data bases that work well in corporate settings cannot be used effectively. Even the use of newer approaches like natural-language processing of large amounts of text with Google engines and the like may only result in greater confusion and misleading answers."

Vallee closes by suggesting "...we believe new structures must be built in careful layers using a NO-SQL data structure. In a preliminary data phase data must be screened, scrubbed and reviewed..."

"Timing and standardisation are essential...It is also crucial to implement better coordination among various centers."

For the full text of Vallee's paper, click here, and presentation slides, click here. A video of his talk is also available, click here.