UFO sighting: Strobe lights spotted by pilots were ‘celestial bodies’ claim astronomers

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On May 25, 1995, America West flight 564 had a close encounter with an unidentified flying object (UFO) while en route to Las Vegas, Nevada. Captain Eugene Tollefson and his co-pilot John Waller were at cruising altitude with a full cabin of passengers flying from Dallas, Texas, when a flight attendant spotted something strange ahead of them. Among a scattering of clouds, the crew reported strange lights in the distance.

Although there was no interaction between the UFO and the plane, the close proximity of the sighting made it an extremely intriguing case.

Mr Waller contacted Air Traffic Control in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to report the object.

A transcript of the exchange showed Mr Waller saying: “Off to our three o’clock, got some strobes out there. Could you tell us what it is?”

Asked what he could see, Mr Waller said: “There’s a strobe and starts… um, going on counter-clockwise, and uh… the length is unbelievable.”

Radar systems were not detecting the aircraft, so Air Traffic Control in Albuquerque contacted the control tower at the nearby Cannon Air Force Base to see if they had any military aircraft in the skies.

Air Traffic Control called the pilots back, saying: “Cactus 564… we checked with Cannon and they don’t have any, uh, weather balloons or anything up tonight.

“Nobody up front knows any idea about that. Do you still see it?”

The pilots replied: “Negative… back where we initially spotted it it was between the weather and us and when there’s lightning you could see a dark object… and, uh, it was pretty eerie looking.”

The incident remains a mystery, but astronomers attempted to explain the phenomena in the 2015 Smithsonian Channel documentary ‘UFOs Declassified: Pilot Eyewitness’.

Seth Shostak, lead astronomer at the SETI Institute, told the documentary: “The kinds of things that can fool even, I think, trained pilots are, for example, bright planets.

“For people who are not paying attention to the night sky very much it’s a little startling.”

The documentary’s narrator explained that “celestial bodies” could have played a part in America West flight 564’s bizarre experience.

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The narrator added: “From 30,000 feet, a distant planet or star can appear to strobe, giving the illusion of the UFO.”

Dr Michael De Robertis, Professor of Astronomy at York University in Toronto, added that the UFO sighting was not necessarily as exciting as it could have been.

He said: “There are extensive records of military pilots and commercial pilots seeing things in the sky that are unidentified.

“Some of the brightest stars can give an illusion that they’re strobing, that they’re changing brightness really rapidly.”

Dr De Robertis suggested pilots might be fooled by phenomena that most people rarely see.

He explained: “As much as we respect our commercial and military pilots, part of their training does not include courses in astronomy and astrophysics.

“The sky is filled with apparitions and mystery, but not all of them are UFOs.”

According to Space.com, 2021 saw an upsurge in UFO sightings, with both UFO and UAPs — Unidentified Aerial Phenomena — set to receive even more attention this year.

Mark Rodeghier, scientific director of the Centre for UFO Studies in Chicago, said: “The effort to detect, track and measure the UFO phenomenon in the field, in real time, has recently entered a new phase.

“The technology has gotten better, software tools have improved and the current interest in UFOs has attracted new, qualified professionals.

“While one can’t predict how soon we will gain new, fundamental knowledge about UAP/UFOs, I believe that these efforts are very likely to succeed and set UFO research onto a new foundation of reliable, physical data.

“And as a consequence, we will have even more evidence — as if it was needed — that the UFO phenomenon is real and can be studied scientifically.”

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