Requesting UFO explanation

This one has been bothering me since I saw it 35 years ago. I regard it as a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object), though I’m not naive enough to think it was a spaceship filled with aliens. Still, I’d like to see if the collective intelligence has some educated guesses about what I saw.

The year was 1971 or 72. My Dad was military, and we were stationed in Heilbronn, Germany. I went out one night about 8:30 or 9 to take the trash out. After I emptied the trash can, I stared straight upwards.

I saw a set of floating lights, red and green. They were in a cross-shaped pattern. Unlike most UFO’s these lights didn’t do anything. They didn’t blink. They didn’t move. They just hovered there. I had the impression that they weren’t very high up, just a couple of thousand feet, but of course that’s impossible to tell without a frame of reference. I stood there for a good 10 minutes watching them and wondering what the heck I was looking at, but after a while I got bored and went back upstairs. The next day I went to the same place and looked upwards, because my first thought was that there were lights reflecting off of power lines or something, but there were no lines anywhere near the area.

This took place in winter, though I don’t remember the exact date. I do recall it was cold (high 30’s probably) and overcast. I suppose the most plausible explanation is Christmas lights reflecting off of some sort of atmospheric phenomenon (ice crystals?). The problem I have with this explanation is that it doesn’t explain why the lights were in such a rigid formation (7 lights, 4 in a straight line up and down, then two more on either side of the second light, making a crossbar), or why it stayed rock-steady for the entire time I was watching it. I would expect an atmospheric thing to waver a little.

Anyway… if more details are needed, let me know. If you have some suggestions about what the heck that was, I’d love to hear them.

Without more definite information, it’s hard to tell. You talk about lights, then suggest some sort of atmospheric reflection. Those two don’t go together well, especially if the lights were very localized.

I’ve read of one case where the lights were flares attached by a string. In other cases, lights are suspended by balloons. I gather from your suggestion of Christ,mas lights that this was near Christmas. And your father was in the military. I could see those guys putting red and green lights or flares on a balloon and letting it go as a bizarre ho.liday celebration.

You migh say that’s far-fetched, but it seems much more likely than aliens matching their colors to our holiday colors. Or to well-localized atmospheric optics.

You can make a sort of hot-air balloon out of a dry-cleaning bag, a couple of pieces of balsa wood, and some candles. One of those might match your description.

Why would it be naive to think it was something from another galaxy? There is nothing naive about thinking that there is another planet that is millions of years more advanced than we are and they have their own NASA going to other worlds. If we could, we would. To think we are alone in the universe and that there isn’t another world that is curious about ours and has the ability to travel here is what’s naive. But that belongs in the debate section, so I’ll stop here.

Now, to answer your question, it very well could have been a UFO (in the everyday sense of the word, meaning: alien) or it could have been something top secret from the Government, like a blimp, since you say there was a military base you were on. There are reports of top secret blimps being worked on for the past thirty years. It could have been a reflection, but thats unlikely in my opinion. Maybe they were working on “Project Blue Beam”. Google it. ;^)

There is a difference between believing that alien life could exist, and that it could get here. There is no evidence whatsoever that this latter has occurred or could occur (given interstellar distances), so belief in that can correctly be characterised as naive.

For the OP, red and green naturally suggests aircraft lights. The shape you describe is of course exactly that of a plane - although your numbers don’t add up (“4 in a straight line up and down, then two more on either side of the second light” could be 6 or 8 but not 7) , and you don’t say which were red or green.

I don’t think anyone seriously doubts the existence of extraterrestrial intelligences, somewhere out there (it’s a really big Universe). But even if they have the capability and motivation to visit our world (which seems unlikely, but hey, what do we know?), they still wouldn’t account for things like the OP’s sighting. If they’re getting here, they must have technology far, far more advanced than ours. With that technology, if they didn’t want us to know they were here, they would be able to hide all of the evidence completely: We wouldn’t have a clue. Alternately, if they did want us to know they were here, they could likewise make it absolutely, unambiguously clear to us, not just the occasional funny light in the sky.

I’ve never understood this. It relies on a assumptions that they would care enough about us to bother to hide or let us know of their presence, and it requires an assumption that advancement in one area of technology must coincide with advancement in all others.

If you take the time to read journals of European explorers on Earth they are full of accounts of “natives” seeing them sail past or even seeing them when they land to take on supplies. But the explorers usually made no particular attempt to either make contact or to hide. They just weren’t that interested, and even more so when the natives were inclined to either run away screaming or attack them when their presence was known. Trying to capture a fleeing, terrified native or fend off an attack takes effort and comes with risks. I see no reason to believe that explorers from other planets would feel any differently.

The assumption that an ability to fly across space also means that a person also has the anti-gravity technology and cloaking devices necessary to hide from view or even land a manned mission on the planet is really unwarranted IMO. If we discovered some sort of faster than light travel tomorrow we could certainly travel to planets in other solar systems, but our ability to land on them and hide our presence would still be just as limited as it is right now. If we were sending unmanned craft then the natives would very likely see strange lights in the night sky.

Not to be snarky, but I wonder how we could assume such a thing. Our civilization is far more advanced than say, some of the Pygmies of central Africa or the Indians of Brazil, to the extent that they might consider our powers magical. But could we pass through their domains utterly undetected?

And aside from assumptions about extraterrestrial technology, we’re also making a big assumption about their motivations. What’s to say that they even care whether they’re detected?

“You’re more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?” – The Mothman Prophecies

ETA: Or what Blake said.

Yes, easily, if we were in an airplane. Nor would it take any phenomenal level of technology to hide from us: Spacecraft are inherently pretty unobtrusive.

Yet oddly enough airplanes and spacecraft are the two things that uncontacted tribes are always aware of. In both New Guinea and South America uncontacted tribes were well aware of the existence of aircraft well before they met the first Europeans because they had seen and heard them. If you live in a city you might think that aircraft are unobtrusive, but for people living in rural areas aircraft are far more conspicuous than land vehicles. They are noisy and the noise is audible for many miles and they are visible for many miles.
As for spacecraft, the uncontacted and semi-contacted tribes of the Amazon are very well aware of the existence of satellites because they see them every evening and every morning. I assume they also see the ISS, Mir, space shuttles and so forth. They don’t know what they are but they know they exist. The same would be true for any culture that has even a passing interest in astrology. So spacecraft are very obtrusive and very hard to hide unless you take pains to conceal them. Which once again relies on an assumption hat someone cares whether the inhabitants of the Amazon see there spacecraft, which they clearly do not. Since we don’t care about such things why should an even more advanced culture?

It’s odd that the aliens, if aliens they be, cloak themselves completely from professional watchers of the sky (astronomers, the military, etc) yet allow themselves to be glimpsed by John Q Public.

Perhaps they’re just democratic by nature. :slight_smile:

"Yet oddly enough airplanes and spacecraft are the two things that uncontacted tribes are always aware of. "

Those airplanes werent trying to be undetected by those tribes though - not sure where you got the spacecraft bit from. They were just flying overhead presumably, as part of daily business.

The question was if we wanted to could we observe them undetected, and satellites, drones and high flying aircraft are all obvious examples of ways that we could with todays technology, if we were actively trying to be undetected and adopted ways to do so, ie stay at appropriate altitudes etc.


because any intelligent life that possessed that kind of technology could easily make a robo-fly that could probe our planet without being detected. We’re rapidly approaching that technology now.

Read the post again. It’s quite clearly stated. AFAIK all spacecraft have been clearly visible to anyone on Earth.

High flying aircraft are prone to leaving vapour trails, which is directly comparable to the sort of phenomenon the OP saw: stable, visible and totally inexplicable.

If you took the time to read my post you would see that satellites are almost impossible to hide without a lot of effort.

Drones maybe, but this just highlights the point. You have 10, 000 years of technological advancement separating you form your target, and only by using technology developed in the last 30 years are you able to escape detection, and only then by taking a lot of effort and losing a lot of your sensory capability. You have lost all ability to collect samples for example and your visual resolution is lousy. That hardly supports the claim that anyone with technology to travel faster than light would find complete and perfect invisibility trivially easy. What it says is that you need to be at least 10, 000 years advanced over your target to hide from them, and that such hiding comes at a hell of an expense if you are exploring.

It sounds like a balloon or blimp to me. I pretty much thought Europe was an LTA wasteland after WWII, but looking around the web, I see Goodyear based a blimp designated “N2A Europa” in England and toured it around Europe from '72 into the '80s. I’m sure it would’ve done a grand publicity tour as soon as it arrived.

Even if it wasn’t that particular blimp, I’d be more inclined to suspect some long-forgotten LTA activity than anything alien or military (unless some Bird Dog pilot was fooling around, trying to fly backwards in a headwind).

The folks at Heilbronner Stimme might look up early '70s blimp visitations for us, if someone here speaks German and wants to pony up the necessary Euros.

Possibly, though my recollection of the lights as being totally stable in the sky would seem to contradict any balloon theory. My memory of the whole event is a little hazy, but I"m positive that 1) It was winter 2) The lights were red and green, in a cross formation, and 3) They didn’t move for the entire time I was watching them. I stared at them for 10 minutes, and they didn’t change or blink or anything.

Why does this contradict the balloon theory? Note that I’m suggesting the use of helium balloons, not a homemade hot air balloon as Chronos suggested*. Flares or electric lights would not be expected to blink, and they could be quite stationary if he upper air was still. If they were attached to, say, a pair of boards nailed at right angles to each other, they wouldn’t move relative to one another.

*The idea of a hot-air balloon made of very thin and light plastic bag, like one of those dry cleaner’s bags, attached to a light framework and carrying a candle to provide hot air has been blamed for many UFO sightings. Philip Klass (ijn his book UFOs Explained) provides photos of such a homemade hot air balloon on the ground and in flight, and the thing does work, and looks appropriately odd. Builders of such balloons don’t come forward, in part because they’re an ilegal fire hazard. But I didn’t think what you saw could be one of these, since there would have been a flame-colored light, even if they’d also attached red and green lights.

I used to make these as a kid from a description out of one of the Mad Scientist’s Club stories (in which they actually built a fake flying saucer). It’s really easy and very freaky; half a dozen of them in the air bobbing and floating look really bizarre even if you know what they are. (I always wanted to do the Monster of Strawberry Lake and the midget submarine, too, but never did.)

Indeed, it is entirely plausible that an alien intelligence capable of traveling to other stars wouldn’t even regard us as being intelligent or worthy of communicating with any more than we would attempt discourse with a sea slug.

I can’t explain the o.p.'s vision, but that stems from a lack of complete knowledge and data from the event that he describes rather than the likelihood of extraterrestrial intervention. There are any number of more plausible explanations for the o.p.'s observation than bug-eyed aliens, although that can be fun, too.

*“Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I intended,” said Ford. “I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years.”

“But how did you get there in the first place then?”

“Easy, I got a lift with a teaser.”

“A teaser?”


“Er, what is …”

“A teaser? Teasers are usually rich kids with nothing to do. They cruise around looking for planets which haven’t made interstellar contact yet and buzz them.”

“Buzz them?” Arthur began to feel that Ford was enjoying making life difficult for him.

“Yeah”, said Ford, “they buzz them. They find some isolated spot with very few people around, then land right by some poor soul whom no one’s ever going to believe and then strut up and down in front of him wearing silly antennae on their heads and making beep beep noises. Rather childish really.” Ford leant back on the mattress with his hands behind his head and looked infuriatingly pleased with himself.*[right]-- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy[/right]


I was actually thinking that the builder might have used flares instead of candles. A flare puts off a decent amount of heat, doesn’t it? And flares might even be easier to get ahold of than candles, on a military base.

Was there more than one Mad Scientist’s Club book? I don’t remember that incident.

There is The Mad Scientists’ Club and The New Adventures of the Mad Scientists’ Club. I believe that the flying saucer story (“The Flying Sorcerer”) occurs in the latter, using materials and helium left over from the balloon race. There is also The Big Kerplop!: The Original Adventure of the Mad Scientists’ Club and The Big Chunk of Ice: The Last Known Adventure of the Mad Scientists’ Club which I didn’t know about until a few months ago and have yet to read.

There was also a Roald Dahl story about a kid and his father making a balloon out of crepe paper and glue; I tried that once only to have it flash away to ash almost immediately.