by Bruce Maccabee (c) B. Maccabee, 1998

July 2, 1998. A quiet Thursday evening in Ticonderoga, NY (population about 3,500 - 4,000). Fred and Mary (pseudonyms; witnesses requested anonymity) were in their yard. Mary was working in the garden while Fred was watering plants. It was about 8:00 PM when he decided he needed a short break and put down the hose. He walked over the the driveway and stretched while looking up at the partly cloudy sky in the southeast. Then he saw it. He didn't know what it was, but he was immediately struck by the fact that he could not see any wings. He watched closely. No noise, either. Suddenly it dawned on him: maybe it was a UFO! He ran into his house to get the videocamera which he keeps loaded and ready to use. Mary heard the door slam behind Fred as he entered the house. She looked toward the house to see what was going on. About 10 seconds later she saw him running out the door with the videocamera ready to operate. He pointed the camera upward, spotted the object through the lens and started videotaping. Mary looked in the direction the camera was pointing and she, too, saw the object traveling northward through the sky east of them. She walked over toward him and stood there watching as he got about 12 1/2 seconds of video before the object disappeared above a cloud. Fred walked to another location to see if it might come out of the cloud luck. That was it. The sighting had lasted, perhaps, 25 to 30 seconds, maximum. About a week later Fred was wondering who to tell about this event. He managed to locate Stanton Friedman and a local MUFON investigator, Jim Bouck. Fred sent a copy of his video to Stanton who then recommended that he call me, which he did on July 31. Subsequently he sent me his "affadavit" which recounted the history of the event and the original video for analysis. Fred wrote about their sighting as follows: "(We) observed an object in flight moving through the clouds (and) blue sky (between clouds) from south to north. The craft was soundless and wingless and flew at a fairly fast rate of speed. The cloud ceiling level was 5,000 feet and (the object was) viewed at a 65 degree angle. It flew on the eastern side (of Ticonderoga, N.Y.) past St. Mary's Church. (My wife) viewed it with the naked eye and said it resembled a peanut, contoured some (i.e., narrowing down) in the center with a vertical black band or (vertical) line around the center portion of the object and that she could hear no sound from it, nor did it have any wings. We both saw it as cream or beige in color. I also didn't see wings or hear any sound coming from it. That's the reason why I quickly ran into my house to get my video camera." The whole sighting took about a minute. TECHNICAL ANALYSIS The MUFON investigation determined that Fred first saw the object coming from the southeast at an azimuth of about 125 degrees. It was last seen at an azimuth of about 65 degrees. It took 25 - 30 seconds to cover this angular distance The analysis described below indicates that either there was a single object with a very small (so small as to be unresolved by the video) structure connecting two larger white structures or else there were two objects with the second traveling at a fixed spacing close behind the first. There is no clear evidence in the video imagery of a connection between the white images. However, since the resolution isn't good enough to prove there was no such connection, I refer herein to "the object(s)" in the singular, thereby allowing for either possibility. The video begins with a wide angle view that shows the object(s) as a faint white dot in the sky, above thin clouds. The initial scene also shows Fred's house at the left and, to the right of his house, the steeple of St. Mary's church (see Figure 1, the first frame from the original video; the circle at the right end of the track indicates the location of the image of the object(s)).

The object(s) had passed its point of closest approach to the witnesses and was already traveling away when he began videotaping. During the first several seconds Fred zoomed in on the object(s) and then he followed it as it moved to his left (north) past the cross on top of the church. After a few seconds it disappeared in the clouds just before it reached the edge of the roof of his house. The complete track of the object(s) recorded on video is a straight line about 10 degrees in length, as illustrated in Figure 1. The object(s) was optimally illuminated by the sun which was low in the west northwest at the time. Fred obtained about 378 frames of which about five dozen have images clear enough for analysis. For most of the other frames either the camera is out of focus, there is too much motion blur or the object(s) is lost in the clouds.


Figure 2 shows the object(s) just before it passed the top of the cross on the church steeple at an azimuth of about 70 degrees. The overall image

consists of two whitish elliptical or ovoid images "end to end" with a darker space between them. This gap is more easily seen in the blowup inset which was extracted from a frame in the original video that occured a few seconds after the object(s) passed the steeple. Blowups of the clearest images show that the two white ellipses are separated by a very small distance and that between the elliptical images there is, what certainly appears to be, blue sky. Although there is no video evidence indicating a structure connecting the two ellipses, the image resolution is not sufficient to rule out the possibility of a narrow connecting structure between them. Because the white images are somewhat brighter than the blue sky the gap between them appears as a dark area or vertical dark line even though the area actually is a pale blue color (probably a result of the white images "bleeding into" the blue sky color in the gap). The two white ellipses traveled close together without changing the spacing between them. This explains why Fred's wife had the impression that there was a single object, narrow at the center, and with a dark vertical line separating the front and back sections.


The steeple is at an azimuth of about 70 degrees (east northeast). The top of the cross was about 140 ft above the camera and about 267 ft away horizontally, according to measurements made by Fred and MUFON investigator Jim Bouck. Thus the angular elevation of the top of the cross was about 28 degrees. Fred obtained the airport weather information for Glens Falls, NY. This showed about 20% sky cover at 5,000 ft, ground level visibility of 15 miles and zero wind speed. The object(s) was occasionally partially obscured and at other times completely obscured by thin clouds and ultimately was lost to view as it passed into or beyond a cloud its altitude was at least 5,000 ft. Hence the radial distance from the camera as it passed the cross was at least 5,000/sin(28) = 10,700 ft.


At my request Fred provided zoomed images of a yardstick at 69 feet. This allowed me to determine the angular size calibration. The analysis was done using computer-grabbed images from the original videotape of the object(s) and of the yardstick, for which distances are measured in pixels. At full zoom the yardstick image is 448 pixels long. The angular size of the yardstick at 69 ft is 0.0434 radians or 2.49 degrees (0.01745 radians per degree) so the angle per pixel is 9.75E-5 rad or 5.56E-3 deg. (This corresponds to an effective focal length of 10,256 pixels. Exponential notation is used: 1E0 = 1.0, 2.5E1 = 25.0, 1E2 = 100, 1E-1 = 0.1, etc.) As the object(s) passed the top of the cross its overall length was about 19 (+/-)1 pixels measured along the slanted axis (connecting the centers) of the elliptical image in Frame 189 (Figure 2). This corresponds to (1.85 +/- 0.1)E-3 rad in angular length. The overall length of any object, as projected onto a plane perpendicular to the sighting line (a plane parallel to the focal plane), is the product of the distance to the object and the angular size of its image as measured in radians (a good approximation for angles less than 10 degrees). At a distance of 10,700 ft along the sighting line, the projected length of the image corresponds to 10,700 x (1.85 +/- 0.1)E-3 = 20 +/- 1 ft. (If the object(s) were above cloud altitude the projected length would be larger than this.) Because the image actually appears as two elliptical white areas that may be disconnected, a dimension more applicable to these images is the spacing of their centers. In Frame 189 this is about 9.5 pixels or 9.3E-4 radians. At 10,700 ft this corresponds to a projected spacing distance of about 10 ft. Thus if these were two elliptical objects flying along, each was about 4 ft in radius and they were traveling with a spacing of only a couple of feet. Of course, if the distance had been greater, then these dimensions also would be greater. The length just presented is not the actual length of the object(s) since it was viewed at an oblique angle. (This is the length as projected onto a plane parallel to the focal plane.) It is now necessary to estimate the actual length.


The actual length can be calculated only if one makes an assumption about the orientation in space of the major axis of the object(s). I have chosen to assume the major axis was horizontal and that the object(s) traveled in a horizontal plane at a constant altitude, although I could not rule out the possibility that it traveled upward or downwards at a small angle. With this "horizontal assumption" the tilt angle, b, of the axis of the image (connecting the centers) relative to vertical on the focal plane and the angle of elevation, e, of the sighting line can be combined to calculate the angle, a, between the horizontal axis of the object and the (horizontal) azimuth of the sighting line. The angle, a, is measured in a horizontal plane at the altitude of the object(s) by performing a counterclockwise rotation (as seen from above) starting in the direction of the sighting azimuth and ending in the direction of the axis of the object(s). The formula for calculating a is a = arctan[(tan b)(sin e)], where b is measured relative to a vertical line on the image plane that passes through the image by starting at vertical and rotating clockwise "down" to the axis of the image. In this case b is about 70 deg (see insert in Figure 2) and e = 28 deg so a = 52 deg. Since the azimuth of the steeple, 70 deg, is measured clockwise from north and angle a is measured counterclockwise from the sighting azimuth, the axis of this object(s) had an azimuth of 70-52 = 17 deg relative to north. Since the track of the object(s) as illustrated in Figure 1 aligns with the axis of the object(s), it was traveling almost due north. Using angles a and e the actual overall length of the object(s) can be calculated from the projected length, 20 ft, again assuming that the object(s) axis lies in a horizontal plane. This is accomplished by dividing the projected length by a projection factor which is the square root of ( [sin a]^2 + [cos a]^2 x [sin e]^2), where "^2" means "squared." With a = 52 and e = 28 this factor is the square root of 0.70 which is 0.84. Hence the projected length should be divided by 0.84: 20/.84 = 24 ft (comparable to but smaller than a Piper Cherokee Lance or Beechcraft Model 76, single engine propellor driven). The height of the object(s), allowing for the natural diffuseness of the edges of the elliptical images, appears to be about 1/5 or 1/4 of the overall length, i.e., about 4 to 6 feet if at an altitude of 5,000 ft. Similarly, the centers of the white images were separated by 10 ft/0.84 which is about 12 ft if at an altitude of 5,000 ft.


The object(s) was occasionally partially obscured and occasionally totally obscured by the clouds. This means that the object(s) could have been at cloud height (5,000 ft) or above. If above, then the calculated size would be larger. For example, if it were assumed to have been at 10,000 ft altitude the range would have been 21,400 ft (4 miles) and the overall length would be about 48 ft (comparable in size to a business jet [Gates Learjet] or fighter aircraft [e.g., Grumman A-6E]), ; if at 15,000 ft, then it would have been 6 miles away and about 72 ft long; if at 32,000 ft it would have been about 12 miles away and about 145 ft long (comparable to a Boeing 707).


The object(s) passed behind the lightning rod at the top of the cross. It required 4 frames (at 30 frames/second) or 4/30 = 2/15 of a second to pass the lightning rod. If it were about 24 ft in length this would correspond to about 180 ft/sec or about 123 mph. If it had been twice as high its speed would have been about 246 mph, and so on for other assumed heights. At a height of 32,000 ft the speed would have been nearly 746 mph, the speed of sound (at sea level). If this had been a large jet airplane "breaking the sound barrier" the witnesses might have heard a sonic boom even though the plane would have been about 13 miles away. Instead, on this quiet night with no wind, they heard nothing.


The only conventional non-hoax explanation for this sighting is that the witnesses misidentified an airplane. However, the airplane hypothesis is not without its problems. It must answer the questions, why didn't the witnesses hear the aircraft, why couldn't they see any wings and why did it appear, oddly enough, as two whitish ellipses with a darker, bluish area between? As a possible answer to the last question, Jeffrey Sainio, MUFON image analyst, has pointed out that a glint (a very bright reflection of the sun) off the fuselage, the center of which was blocked from direct view by the wing closest to the observers, could appear as two bright objects with a dark space between. The answers to the first and second questions then follow from the glint hypothesis: the airplane was so far away that the wings and other portions of the airplane were not visible (even though the bright glints were visible) and the sound was too faint for them to hear. This explanation is based upon the idea that a glint actually occurred. It also assumes that the nearest wing blocked the direct view of the center of the fuselage, thus creating two approximately equal sized areas, to the front and back of the wing, which made the white images. Since it appears that the object(s) was flying along a level and straight trajectory, i.e., a hypothetical airplane was not turning left or "banking" with its left wing downward, this explanation also requires that the wing be attached at the bottom of the fuselage so that it could be between an observer on the ground and the main body (sides) of the fuselage. It just so happens that many models of aircraft have the fuselage "riding" on top of the wing. For these aircraft the wing could obstruct the ground-level view of part of the fuselage even when the plane is flying level. If one assumes that this type of aircraft was flying past the witnesses then one may propose the hypothesis that the two white images were glints from the front and rear portions of the fuselage while the nearest wing blocked the direct view of the center portion.


The glint or optimum reflection from a flat mirror (specular) surface takes place at a particular angle that satisfies the well-known reflection rule: angle of reflection (the "specular reflection angle") equals the angle of incidence. A non-specular (i.e., diffuse) but nevertheless smooth or "shiny" surface will reflect light over a wide range of angles, but the reflection will be brightest only over a small range of angles (a few degrees) centered about the specular reflection angle. The amplitude of the reflection will decrease considerably as the angle is tilted away from the specular reflection angle. The glint hypothesis requires a particular alignment between the sun, the assumed airplane and the observers. The sun was at an angular elevation of about 5 degrees and an azimuth of about 297 degrees (according to the Expert Astronomer computer program). That is, the sun was about 27 degrees north of due west. As nearly as can be determined the axis of the assumed fuselage was at an azimuth angle of about 17 degrees measured as rotation clockwise from due north. Therefore, if the sun had been 17 degrees north of due west the sun rays would have been at an angle of 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the axis and the (specular) reflection angle would also have been 90 degrees to the axis. However, since the sun was 27 degrees north of due west the sun rays were hitting the assumed fuselage at an angle of 90 - (27-17) = 80 degrees measured as counterclockwise rotation from the direction the assumed airplane was traveling, i.e., from the 17 degree azimuth. This is the incident angle. The angle of reflection would be the same, 80 degrees from the axis, but measured as clockwise rotation from the direction opposite to the direction the airplane was traveling, i.e., 80 degrees measured clockwise starting at the 197 degree azimuth. The brightest glint would occur at this angle of reflection. Thus the brightest rays from the glint would be traveling along an azimuth of 197+80 = 277 degrees as measured at the location of the assumed airplane. Recall that the direction from the observers to the object(s) was at an azimuth of about 70 degrees as the object(s) passed the steeple. The direction opposite to this 70 degree azimuth is the direction that reflected rays would have to travel from the assumed airplane to reach the observers. The opposite direction is 180 + 70 = 250 degrees. This is 27 degrees less than the azimuth for maximum glint, 277 degrees, calculated above. In other words, the observers' viewing location was 27 degrees away from the direction for an optimum glint, too far for the glint to be much, if any, brighter than the ordinary diffuse reflection from the assumed fuselage.


Fred saw the object(s) initially at an azimuth of about 125 degrees and he saw (videotaped) it again over the azimuth range from about 75 1/2 degrees to about 65 1/2 degrees. In other words, he saw it coming and going as it traveled in a straight line over a wide range in angles. A glint could not persist over such an angle range. Even within the relatively narrow range of about 10 degrees of azimuth captured on video one would expect a continual decrease in the glint brightness if there had been a glint. However, the only changes are several instances where the brightness decreases and returns to the full value as the object(s) is obscured by clouds. The size of the angle away from the expected glint direction combined with the lack of brightness variation attributable to alignment with the sun rules out glints from an airplane fuselage. If these images are glints, then they are glints from circular or elliptical objects, for which there is always some portion of the surface that satisfies the reflection rule.


The hypothesis that two white images could be created by a wing blocking the view of the center of a fuselage could be valid even without a glint. This would be based on the normal reflection from the fuselage under viewing conditions in which the wings, for some reason, could not be distinguished from the blue sky background. However, in this case the explanation of the failure to detect the wings could not be based, as before, on the assumption of a great distance to the airplane (with the consequent large size and speed). Under this hypothesis, as the plane traveled in a straight line past the observer the wing would first block the rear of the fuselage (as it approaches). Then the blocked area would move toward the front as the plane continued to fly past the observer. At some angle between the azimuth of the line of sight and the axis of the aircraft the wing would block the center of the fuselage. The size of this angle would depend upon the location of the wing attachment to the fuselage and also whether the wing was swept back or sticking straight out from the fuselage. Some aircraft have the wing attached forward of the center of the fuselage, some at the center and some have the wing attached behind the center. For the particular situation of this video, the assumed aircraft was viewed from the rear with the angle ranging from about 47 to about 57 degrees between the axis of the fuselage and the azimuth of the sighting direction. Under these viewing circumstances a wing that sticks straight out from the fuselage might block the front portion from direct view, but it wouldn't block the center portion. Thus it might create a single bright image, but not two equal bright areas. However, an aircraft with a narrow (not wide like on some fighter jets) swept back wing attached at about the center of the fuselage, such as on a Boeing 727, 747 or a Lockheed 1011, could block the view of the center of the fuselage while not blocking the front or rear portions. (Small passenger aircraft [Beechcraft, Piper] have the wings at the center of and perpendicular to the fuselage and thus do not satisfy this "swept-back" requirement.) The swept back wings on these aircraft make an angle of about 50 degrees with the fuselage. Therefore if the witnesses had been looking at one of these aircraft they would been looking at the nearest wing "end-on," but from below. However, to create the overall image length recorded on the videotape, a 727 (153 ft long), 747 (230 ft long) or 1011 (178 ft long) would have to have been so far away that it would have been exceeding the speed of sound, which they cannot do. So, the object(s) was not a large jet aircraft. Some fighter jets (50 - 65 ft long) also have swept-back wings. To make the image size recorded on video one of these aircraft would have to be about 4 miles away. However, the wings on these aircraft are very wide and block most or all of the view of the rear half of the fuselage so there would again be only a single bright image of the front of the fuselage. Furthermore, it is quite likely that the witnesses would have heard the sound of a fighter jet only 4 - 5 miles away.


Since the glint explanation, with its accompanying assumption of great distance to a large airplane, is rejected, then the assumed aircraft must have been reasonably close (within several miles). In this case the most important reason for rejecting the aircraft explanation is the lack of any indications of wings. Fred and his wife have said they could see no wings on the object(s) even though they saw it over a wider range of angles than is represented in the video. The video images are small, but they support this claim. The right hand inset in Figure 2 shows a comparison image constructed to look the way a typical T-shaped airplane would look if flying along the same path as the object(s). The comparison was constructed with the projected "fuselage" length equal to the overall length of the image of the object(s). This projection was carried out under the assumption that the wingspan, tip-to-tip, was approximately equal to the length of the fuselage, which is typical for aircraft that are not designed for supersonic flight. As can be seen from the comparison "airplane" image, if the object(s) had been an airplane seen at the same angular elevation and direction of travel relative to the sighting azimuth the wings would have been visible as protrusions above and below the image of the fuselage. Although the diagram shows the situation for a T shaped aircraft, the same situation would occur for a large aircraft with swept back wings or a high performance jet (fighter): the outer end of the nearest wing would be silhouetted against the sky above the fuselage and the farthest wing would be silhouetted against the sky below the fuselage. Fred has demonstrated that his camera could have detected wings under roughly comparable viewing conditions by videotaping objects known to be aircraft. The wings are clearly visible. The image of the object(s) has no indications of wing-like protrusions. Figure 2 also has several blowups of the image. These are representative of roughly four dozen other images for which wings should be apparent if the object(s) were an aircraft. These blowups also show that the spacing between the white images appears to be blue or pale blue, as if some of the white color from the elliptical images was "spilling over" into the darker blue area. Such "spillage" is common for optoelectronic systems such as videocameras, and so may be expected here. Over the five or so degree range of azimuth angles for which there are good images there seems to be little change in the size, location, bluish color or brightness of the dark space between the white ellipses. If the dark space were the result of a wing blocking the direct view of the fuselage, the space between the two white reflections would not appear to have the blue sky color. Instead it would have a darker version of the same color as the elliptical images (unless the color of the bottom of the wing were different from that of the fuselage).


For all the reasons cited, then, the image is not consistent with what would be expected if the object(s) was an aircraft. On the other hand, it is consistent with what might be expected if two elliptical objects, white in color, close together and either connected by a small appendage or entirely separate, traveled at a moderate speed and moderate altitude (5 - 10,000 ft) past the witnesses. In this height range each object would have been 8 - 16 ft in diameter.


The MUFON investigation indicates that this was not a hoax since the witnesses are upstanding citizens of the community, are both employed in law-enforcement at a state prison in New York and have requested anonymity.


Since the aircraft and hoax explanations are ruled out, the image can be considered to be that of a single unidentified flying object with two major whitish sections connected by a narrow structure not seen on the video or of two whitish elliptical unidentified flying objects traveling in a close formation. By way of comparison, the statistical study carried out by the Battelle Memorial Institute under contract to the Air Force (Project 10073, Special Report #14, May 1955, published by the Air Technical Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) carefully studied 3201 sightings (designated as "All Sightings") reported between January 1947 and the end of December, 1952. They determined that 689 sightings (21.5% of the total) were unexplained after analysis. Of these, 177 (26% of the unknowns) were of white or "glowing white" objects, 331 (48% of the unknowns) were elliptical, 64 sightings (9%) involved two objects (150 involved more than 3 objects), 56 sightings (8%) lasted 11-30 seconds and 61 (9%) lasted 31 to 60 seconds. A direct comparison between these statistics and this sighting cannot be made since the Battelle study did not distinguish between daytime sightings of white ellipses and nighttime sightings of glowing white objects. A closer comparison can be made with the statistics presented in "The UFO Evidence" (Hall, 1964; soon to be republished) which show that of 253 daytime or twilight sightings for which color was reported, 81 or 32% were white objects and of 333 sightings for which shape was given, 173 (51%) were round or elliptical. These statistics show that the sightings of multiple, white, elliptical objects form a sizeable fraction of the totality of UFO sightings. In other words, except for the video, this sighting is far from being a unique event. The calculations presented above are based on the assumption that the axis of the object(s) was in a horizontal plane. If the axis were not in a horizontal plane, i.e., if the object(s) were traveling upwards or downwards, then these numerical values of length and speed would have to be revised somewhat depending upon the angle of tilt. Hence these lengths and speeds must be considered approximations to the actual size and speed of the object(s) for any given assumed height, but must not be considered definitive. I thank Fred and his wife for providing the original video along with calibrations for the analysis and videos of various aircraft for comparison purposes. I also thank Jim Bouck for help in interviewing the witnesses and making measurements at the site and Jeffrey Sainio for valuable comments on the analysis of the images.

(Note: After the preceding analysis was published in the MUFON Journal in January, 1999 I was been informed by John Thompson of a February 1997 sighting in LaGrange, Georgia involving a sheriff and other witnesses who saw a similar or identical object. They took one picture which shows an object that appears identical to the one videotaped by Fred. The sighting in Georgia had not been publicized at the time of the sighting discussed here, nor was I made aware of the Georgia sighting until several months after this analysis had been completed. For details on the Georgia case and a view of the photo see and click on "UFO Photo Case, LaGrange, Ga."