By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily
Two Wyoming experts on UFOs are reminding Wyoming residents that strange lights they may see in the state’s wide open skies are often terrestrial in nature.
Richard Beckwith, Wyoming’s director of the Mutual UFO Network and city attorney for Rock Springs and Samuel Singer, founder of Stargazing Wyoming, do not agree on what may have been responsible for a report of a UFO in Jackson.
A Jackson woman reported she may have witnessed an unidentified flying object and caught it on video. Singer, who has been staring up at the night skies since he was a child in Nevada, said after viewing the video that he believes the object is a drone.
“Is it definitely not a meteor and almost certainly a drone,” Singer said. “This object is by definition a UFO, an Unidentified Flying Object. However, in this case I think it is being flown by a human and not an alien.”
Singer is near the Spring Creek Ranch area multiple times a week and often sees drones in that area.
Beckwith, who works with MUFON to educate the public about UFO phenomenon, agreed with Singer that the object was not a meteor, but questioned whether it was a drone.
“This is not a meteor,” he said. “It is, indeed, moving too slowly. It also does not appear to be either a small commercial or private drone because it traverses a wide, long path across the sky from nearly the horizon.”
He added that the video could be analyzed by software to help identify useful information such as size, distance and speed.
“For now, I can only say that the object appears to be moving more slowly than a commercial airline, at an appreciable altitude, is bright and clearly cigar-shaped, and probably of appreciable size,” he later added. “I cannot tell you what it is.”
Whatever the object may be, both sky watchers agreed people are too quick to believe such phenomena are always extraterrestrial.
“All that being said, most alleged UFO sightings can be explained by things such as meteors, airplanes, birds, balloons, fireworks, drones, etc.,” Beckwith said in an email. “However, a hard core of approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of UFO sightings remains unexplained. That is as true for Wyoming as it is anywhere else, perhaps even more so. People do see strange things in Wyoming, and some of them cannot be explained. This, unfortunately, is not one of those cases.”
Singer said he is skeptical of UFO claims in general, but as a viewer of the night skies he knows some phenomena are not typical.
“I’ve definitely seen a couple of these things I can’t explain,” he said. “Such as light jumping from one horizon point to another.”
But for all the light phenomena that cannot be explained, he too finds that many have common answers.
Singer said many of the lights people see are iridium flares. These flares are caused by Iridium satellites, which are communication satellites that have reflective panels. The panels will reflect light toward earth in various, sometimes seemingly strange, manners.
“They create a little point of light that moves quickly across the sky,” Singer said.
Another nocturnal light is often attributed to bolide meteors, which are very bright meteors or as Singer describes them “very large chunks of space debris.”
“Their dust trail is visible for a couple of seconds after,” he said. “They are audible. They create a sizzle. They are beautiful when you see them because they are full of color.”
However, Beckwith reminds people that not all experiences are explainable.
“Anomalous nocturnal lights are common in Wyoming,” Beckwith said. “More than 10 percent of them are unknown.”
But he added those who report an encounter with an extraterrestrial craft are rare.
Richard Beckwith said if someone believes they may have witnessed an unexplained light event, the best thing to do is report it. If they can, they should also try to capture it with a photograph or video and include that in the report.
Beckwith sees MUFON as the best organization for investigating claims.
“They (MUFON) are the world’s oldest and largest civilian UFO organization,” he said.
MUFON has been in existence since 1969.
“MUFON tries to identify or not identify an object,” Beckwith said. “We don’t skip to the conclusion ‘It must be from outer space.’ When people say these objects are alien spacecraft, it is purely conjecture.”
Singer also doesn’t mind when people ask him about the night skies or any light or objects they may have seen.
“I love it when people get pictures or video and send it our way,” he said.
Singer said with the dark skies of the state, there are great viewing opportunities.
“Under a dark sky, more people are looking up and marveling at the beauty,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about Wyoming.”