Phoenix lights again?!

Phoenix lights again?!

Phoenix lights again?!

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
March 23 2007 9:08 AM

Phoenix lights again?!

Wow, the story that keeps on giving.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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I wrote about the Phoenix lights recently: it was a "UFO" formation seen over Phoenix, Arizona in 1997. Even though a lengthy investigation revealed that without a doubt, the lights seen that night were flares dropped from military airplanes, people refuse to let go.

The latest step back from reality comes from... wait for it... former Arizona Governor Fife Symington. Yes, the governor of an entire state says that the lights were from UFOs. And not just literally UFOs -- that is, unidentified objects -- but actual alien spacecraft.

Hey, I didn't elect him.

He was interviewed on TV and CNN did us all the favor by putting it on the web. Watch it and be amazed. A guy who ran the government of a whole state says he thinks that (unless the military comes forward with an explanation -- which, of course, they already have) these were actual little green men.

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Now, ex-Governor Symington may be forgiven -- maybe -- because he's just another guy duped by the credulous thinking in this country. What really gets me steamed is that CNN played this up as if the lights really were UFOs. In that video linked above they actually said that we still don't know what these lights were over Phoenix that night.

Read this next part carefully, folks:

THEY WERE MILITARY FLARES.

There was in fact a squadron of planes flying in that area that night. They did in fact drop flares with little parachutes so they took a long time to fall. These flares were in fact seen to disappear over the mountains as they fell. A young man saw the planes through his telescope (but has been almost totally ignored by the press). The pilot of one of the aircraft has in fact come forward to say these very things.

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CNN has no excuse for the uncritical reporting of this. A Google search on "Phoenix Lights" returns the Wikipedia entry as the first result, and the flares explanation is clearly delineated there.

Now it turns out the story is a little more complicated; there were UFOs seen over the whole state that night, and not just in Phoenix. I have received some snarky emails from UFO folks about that. What could those have been?

Uh, I hate to break it to you folks, but they were airplanes too. Timothy Printy has the whole story, in a LOT of detail.

This kind of stuff makes me nuts. Why do people cling so tenaciously to fantasy? I would love to have conclusive evidence of alien life. And I mean love it; it would be the greatest thing ever. Ever. The problem is, people jump so massively to conclusions that they can sprain their brains in the process.

Shame on you, CNN, for perpetuating this. And shame on CNN reporter Gary Tuchman for not doing his research.

Tip o' the tin foil beanie to the folks at JREF for the links and the many people who emailed me!