Of course Jimmy Carter saw a UFO!

The column: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_048.html

U.F.O: Unidentified Fying Object

Jimmy couldn’t identify the object he was looking at, up in the sky. Therefore it was a UFO.

If you ask me if UFOs exist, I’ll say yes.
If you ask me if Flying Saucers or Alien spaceships exist, I’ll say I don’t know or that I doubt it.

Two different questions.

Cecil didn’t make that distinction.

Amen, brother! There’s nothing crazy about seeing something and not knowing what it is.

I was coming here to say the same thing but you just beat me to it by a little over 5 hours.

I was going to pop in here too (Hi Pop!) and say the same thing, but to be accurate:
It was a UFO for Mr. Carter, but no longer a UFO if we accept the explanation that it was the planet Venus. Would that be a Former UFO, or FUFO?
Also, was it really a flying object? You can’t accurately describe a planet as flying. So it would have been an Unidentified Bright Immobile Object In The Sky (UBIOITS) or an Unidentified (Apparently) Flying Object (UAFO).

I hear this “It was the planet Venus” B.S. all the time. I’ve seen Venus. It’s teeny tiny. Does anyone know of any pictures online that show Venus somehow blown up to epic proportions as debunkers claim?

Not that I believe in little green men landing in Kentucky or anything.

I wonder about Venus, as well. If you’re relatively familiar with the night sky, then it looks like a planet. If you’re not at all familiar with the sky, then it looks like a bright star. If you’re familiar enough with the sky to know that it’s too bright to be a star, then it looks like an airplane flying more or less towards you. It never shows colors, and it never moves erratically.

Now, mind you, I don’t think that people are seeing alien spacecraft, either, but what it is they’re actually seeing isn’t a planet.

I’m quite familliar with the sky and know Venus when I see it. And there are times that I swear that it is big enough to have shape. But that is an illusion produced by its brightness. I believe that it can even appear elongated if there are ice crystals in the sky.

Depending on atmospheric conditions, it can also appear to be changing colors. Venus spends a lot of time close to the horizon, where its light has to plow through a hell of a lot of atmosphere to get to your eyes. Looking at it through a telescope can especially put on a nice color show.

As for never moving erratically, I am reminded of my son who used to say that he could make the moon move. His technique? To run. “See? It’s moving to keep up with me!” What he was actually seeing is the apparent motion of the moon past the trees and buildings. This is also an illusion caused by the brain interpreting its apparent distance to be much closer than it’s actual distance. The brighter something is, the closer the brain interprets it to be. Since Venus can be very bright indeed, the brain can interpret it to be rather close. Then when you move about, it appears to be tracking your motion.

Venus is bright enough that Battleship (before the era of radar) have tried to shoot it down.

Many an air-traffic controller has cleared Venus to land.

Pilots often mistake it for other craft.

Phillip Klass’ investigations have shown that, yes, plenty of folks mistake Venus for a UFO.

Has anyone ever mistaken the moon for a UFO. It’s an awful lot brighter than Venus.

Beleive it or not, yes. When the Moon is full and low to the horizon it can be very disconcerting to people not used to seeing that way.

Basically, there’s a lot of common objects that will be mistaken for a UFO. People can be real stupid, or even get confused when they aren’t stupid. That’s life.

Pop, you’re wrong. First of all, it’s not flying. And second, it’s now been identified. What Carter saw was a Misidentified Object.

Second, many people commonly if erroneously use UFO to mean “flying saucer” or “alien spacecraft”. The term has become synonymous, even if the original acronym was more precise, accurate, and less specific.

Scupper, pictures won’t do it justice. Well, I’m sure someone could pop up with a telephoto lens (or even a camera on their telescope, come to think of it) and show you a pic with Venus looming large, but using a straight lens without magnafication won’t do it. However, it will misrepresent what you perceive. It’s a trick of the brain in perception that is not a purely optical effect. It is the same phenomenon of the full moon looking very huge in the sky. Have you ever tried to take a picture of the full moon? You see this huge object in the sky and think it will look great, you snap a few shots. When you get them back, all you see is a tiny white dot in the mostly black sky. Your brain has the ability to limit your view, to concentrate on the one item of interest and emphasize it. But the camera can’t pick that up. The same thing happens with planets like Venus. They appear bright and large, but it is perception and not necessarily an optical effect.

sford, I am extremely familiar with that method of making the moon move. As I child, sometimes when riding in a car at night I would watch the moon and be amazed at how it appeared to follow us around. Even after I knew it was all illusion, that the moon wasn’t moving but the scenery between me and it was and that caused the effect, I would still find it mesmerizing.

At the time he reported it, it was a UFO, to the best of his knowledge. Subsequent identifications, proven or unproven, do not alter that fact. To him, it was an Unidentified Flying Object.

Regarding how many people erroneously misuse the term: Tell me if I’m wrong, but I kind of got the impression that correcting things like that was the mission of the Straight Dope column and this web site…

If I see something up in the sky and am not sure what it is, are you saying that I have no choice but to think it’s a flying saucer because of muddled language?

I don’t recall Carter ever saying that he thought the object was definately a flying saucer. I seem to recall that he was using the term according to its proper definition.

Sorry. The quote from the post above is from Irsihman, not Mr. Miskatonic. I keep getting the breaks between posts mixed up…:o