Holy UFO hoax!

The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 9 2011 12:00 PM

Holy UFO hoax!

I have received approximately an infinite number of emails about a video purporting to show a UFO hovering over the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The video went viral last week, with several others being released not long after. When I first saw it, I knew instantly it was a hoax. How? Watch for yourself.

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!  


It's pretty cool, but an obvious hoax. Imagine you're standing late at night videotaping the scene with a friend because it's so pretty. Out of nowhere a bright light comes down out of the sky, hovers over one of the most famous temples on the planet, then flashes brilliantly and shoots straight up at fantastic speed.

Would you just stand there like a lump without showing any reaction at all, like the guy in the video?

Also, it seems a little weird that such an incredibly bright object could hang over this heavily visited site, even in the middle of the night, and there were no reports of any eyewitnesses. Just one video that turns up, and a few days later a couple more. Seriously?

And now this video has been conclusively shown to be faked. Whoever made it used commercial software to mimic the "handheld camera" effect, as can be clearly shown in this debunking video (you only need to watch the first minute to see how it was done):

I compared this to the original video, and the mirrored lights at the border are clearly there. In the immortal words of Elaine Benes: "fake, fake, fake fake."

When I was a kid, a video like this would've been a sensation, but today the availability of good video editing software makes it clear that any video of a UFO should be treated with an even more-than-usual degree of skepticism. And now that Hollywood has discovered viral video campaigns there's almost no reason at all to trust any UFO videos (though I doubt this one is for a movie; a professional visual effect company wouldn't have made that border mistake). As the technology improves, so too must our demands of solid evidence.

Call me when a spaceship lands on the White House lawn and an alien with clearly non-terrestrial evolutionary adaptations hands us a piece of material with non-tellurian isotope ratios. And even then, keep asking questions.

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