You can bet UFO enthusiasts won’t let this go anytime soon, but this week’s sky lights over Phoenix that caught the interest of Matt Drudge turns out to be a hoax by some joker who attached flares to helium balloons.
Thankfully, quick reporting should keep this incident from blowing up into the fiasco of the so-called “Phoenix Lights” of 1997. But what I was predicting would happen as a result of this new sighting did come true: almost no one in the media seems able to harken back to 1997 and report the most basic facts of that famous event correctly.
Once again, reporters are repeating the same old bad information: that the military supposedly explained the 1997 event as “flares” even as others pointed out there’s no way flares would have been able to fly over the entire state in a vee formation.
Sheesh. When is anyone going to pay attention and get this right?
Listen up, people: There were TWO very different, very separate events over the night sky of Phoenix on March 13, 1997. At about 8:30, a vee formation of lights passed over the city and was seen by many people, including two of my colleagues at the Phoenix New Times. Earlier, the vee had passed over Prescott and would later travel over Tucson. Eyewitness reports showed that the vee had covered about 200 miles in a half hour – which means it was moving at 400 mph, despite the insistence of eyewitnesses who, relying on eyeballs to make estimates of the altitude of point sources of light in a night sky, believed it was just over their heads and traveling slowly. An amateur astronomer, Mitch Stanley, using a large Dobsonian telescope (which, as a Dobsonian builder myself, I can assure you, in the hands of an experienced user, is quite easy to move smoothly enough to observe high-altitude jet planes) saw that the vee was actually a formation of planes. He reported this to his mother, who was standing nearby.
Later that night, at about 10 pm, after many people had come out of their homes as word of the vee formation spread, a SECOND VERY UNRELATED event occurred: airplanes of the Maryland Air National Guard, in Arizona for winter training, dumped flares over the North Tac range southwest of Phoenix. This was the event that was seen and videotaped the most. The flares fell in an arc and disappeared behind the Estrella mountain range. Rather quickly, television reporters suggested that these were flares, but it took a while for my colleagues at Tucson Weekly and the Arizona Republic to get the military to confirm which group of planes was responsible.
Got that? When someone says flares explain the 1997 Phoenix Lights, they’re ONLY TALKING ABOUT THE SECOND EVENT.
So, when you hear people on the endless dishonest shows on networks like the Discovery Channel scoffing at “flares” explaining the famous Phoenix Lights vee formation, you’ll understand that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.