Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Extraordinary 1968 Minot B52 UFO Encounter – a remarkable example of a latent and almost lost scientific opportunity

 As a long time advocate of the value of UFO history to the continuing progress of UFO research, it is always pleasing when particularly impressive examples emerge.  Consider the following example that has only very recently emerged.  Without it and its other similar companions, the quality of UFO research is diminished.  With them progress can be made.

In 1999 the Sign Historical Group emerged as a dynamic association of scholars and researchers whose focus was to facilitate and promote UFO history. Despite its US base I was pleased to join the group.  The published proceedings of its UFO History Workshop included some of my material.  Its editor Tom Tulien went on to champion the value of preserving oral history. 

Early in 2011 an amazing mother load of material appeared under the title of “Investigation of UFO Events at Minot AFB on 24 October 1968” compiled by Thomas Tulien as part of his Sign Oral History Project.  It can be explored in extraordinary detail at:
Tom Tulien introduces the case in this way:
“In the early morning hours on 24 October 1968, United States Air Force (USAF) maintenance and security personnel within the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) complex surrounding Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, observed one, and at times, two UFOs. The Minot Base Operations dispatcher established radio communications with personnel reporting in the field, Minot AFB, Radar Approach Control (RAPCON), and the crew of a returning B-52H aircraft.
“RAPCON alerted the pilots to the location of the UFO, which they observed on the B-52 radarscope maintaining a three-mile distance throughout a standard 180° turnaround. As the B-52 initiated the descent back to Minot AFB, the UFO appeared to close distance to one mile at a high-rate of speed, pacing the aircraft for about 20 miles before disappearing off the radarscope. During the close radar encounter, the B-52 UHF radios would not transmit, and radarscope film was recorded.“Following, RAPCON provided vectors for the B-52 to overfly a stationary UFO on or near the ground. The pilots observed an illuminated UFO ahead of the aircraft during the downwind leg of the traffic pattern, before turning onto the base leg over the large UFO while observing it at close range. After the B-52 landed, both outer and inner-zone intrusions alarms were activated at the remote missile Launch Facility Oscar-7. The duration of reported observations was over three hours.“Strategic Air Command (SAC), Offutt AFB, Nebraska, initiated investigations. In the weeks following, staff at USAF Project Blue Book, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, completed a final case report as required by Air Force Regulation 80-17.” 
Tom Tulien described the context of this remarkable study:
“In May 2000, we interviewed Minot AFB, B-52 co-pilot, Bradford Runyon. This resulted in years of research, and various collaborations in order to present the 24 October 1968, Minot AFB case study online. This offers the opportunity to critically examine an extraordinary UFO event in some detail, and to learn in the process.““That UFOs exist is indisputable.” A four-year intelligence study by Britain’s Ministry of Defense (“Condign Report”) also notes that UFOs occur on a daily, world-wide basis, are credited with distinguishing attributes, “and clearly can exhibit aerodynamic characteristics well beyond those of any known aircraft or missile – either manned or unmanned.” The report concludes that UFOs can be explained as mis-reporting of man-made vehicles, natural phenomenon, or relatively rare and not completely understood natural phenomena. In particular, “the events are almost certainly attributable to physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere.” Some may be triggered by meteor re-entry forming electrically-charged buoyant plasmas, however, “the conditions and method of formation… and the scientific rationale for sustaining them for significant periods is incomplete or not fully understood.”
“The UFO phenomenon continues to defy any reasonably justified explanation as to its actual cause. Professors Wendt and Duvall recently commented that in the current state, “the UFO can be ‘known’ only by not asking what it is.” This disregard of UFOs transforms to active denial of their object status. To this extent “one may speak of a ‘UFO taboo,’ a prohibition in the authoritative public sphere on taking UFOs seriously.””

Figure 57. Drawings of the UFO by copilot Bradford Runyon made in November 2000. Project Blue Book investigators did not interview Runyon in the course of the official investigation.

This massive report deserves your detailed consideration. It is based on some impressive research and also includes a rather striking finding which may have a profound impact on our future science.   Dr. Claude Poher, was behind the establishment of the official French UFO project, GEPAN, which conducted some excellent studies into the UFO phenomenon. Poher was given access to the onboard radar scope photos.  He undertook a detailed analysis which led to his major report describing some potentially groundbreaking results focusing on “power” and “acceleration” estimates extracted from the photos: “These powers are enormous. By comparison, a single modern nuclear electric power plant delivers a peak power of 1.3 gigawatts. Even if we simply consider the lowest values, the Minot UFO was capable of producing a mechanical power comparable to 260 to 39000 actual nuclear power plants. These enormous mean values make it unnecessary to calculate the maximum values.

“Of course, these evaluations are approximations, but they are nevertheless justified given the reported and observed performances of the UFO confirmed by the B-52 radar. This magnitude of power demonstrated by a machine that has little in common with our current understanding of energy technology and production raises several fundamental questions: What is the nature of the UFO’s energy ? We know of nothing that could approach the preceding values. What is the source of the UFO’s energy ? We do not know of any means to supply such levels of energy and deliver it so quickly.
“The order of magnitude of the acceleration allows us to extrapolate that this UFO would be able to attain a relativistic speed in a brief period of time (less than a day), if it could sustain the accelerations that were calculated. For example, acceleration in the order of the 450 g’s observed between photos 772 and 773 would attain 80% of the speed of light in approximately 15 hours. Given this speed, the relativistic time compression would become negligible, and the onboard clock, as well as the metabolism of the occupants would slow down. Under such conditions, interstellar travel becomes compatible with the life expectancy of the occupants of the vehicle.
“n order to declare with relative certainty that interstellar travel is feasible, we have to concede with difficulties other than speed. The second substantial difficulty is the massive quantity of kinetic energy necessary to attain a relativistic speed. This enormous energy must be expended to accelerate and decelerate, in order to arrive with a null speed. The Minot UFO suggests that in nature there exists a form of energy to accomplish this.
“In any case, it seems to me that the discovery of this kind of energy and the means to extract it should be the highest priority for humankind, even if the Minot UFO observations bring only concordant clues and not absolute proofs.”

Dr. Poher concludes:

“It is certainly interesting to consider that this apparently non-aerodynamic aerial device has no comparison with all currently known technological developments. Here again, we are dealing in one or more devices in which the dynamics and energy characteristics are quite simply phenomenal, and have the theoretical potential to allow for an interstellar voyage.
“Effectively, the maximum UFO acceleration deduced from the B-52 radarscope photos (400 g's) allows for a relativistic speed (more than 90% of the speed of light) in a relatively short time (less than a day). This is one of the two indispensable conditions for traveling between stars, since it allows sufficient relativistic time “compression” for the crew to arrive at the destination during their life span. The second indispensable condition is the ability to produce a tremendous amount of energy onboard the spacecraft, something the Minot UFO has demonstrated in its powerful light emissions, and phenomenal maneuvers.
“In this case, we also have a panoply of interesting physical effects, including the extreme luminosity of the air, loss of the B-52 VHF transmissions on two discrete occasions, and a powerful radar echo. We will probably never know all the facts, but what we have been able to reconstruct is perfectly clear from my point of view, and reinforces what I have written on the site
“The conclusions of Blue Book in 1968 appear perplexingly ridiculous, however, it really doesn’t matter since the truth is inherent. And this truth implicates knowledge of considerable potential for the future of humanity. We need to join efforts to understand the physics revealed, since it is by the union of our knowledge that we will advance our understanding.”

Figure 58. The radar echo of the UFO in radarscope photo 773 (negative image).

Figure 59. Enlargement of the UFO echo. (280 m = 920 feet; 140 m = 460 feet).

Poher’s conclusions alone will stir considerable debate, but it is a debate that should have occurred decades ago, with a serious investigation by authorities at the time of the incident.  After all the case included military aircraft in close proximity to a sensitive military base equipped with Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  Instead we got apparently extraordinary neglect.  Neglect of a case that has been now belatedly revealed remarkable opportunities for fascinating scientific advancements.  However remember this incredible event occurred in the immediate wake of the formal end of the USAF commissioned University of Colorado “scientific” UFO study. Had this case been properly revealed and studied by authorities, particularly the Condon Committee, it would have been impossible to sustain the controversial conclusions the Condon Report made, particularly that UFOs have no scientific merit. Yet another blatant lost opportunity, to be added to the long and sorry list of lost opportunities, brought about by the “taboo” status of the UFO mystery. This is a “taboo” that should not be allowed to continue.

Tom Tulien has given me permission to quote from the report.  These quotes are just the tip of a very massive UFO iceberg, and perhaps one that could help sink the “the UFO taboo.”  There is so much to explore in this fine study.

I urge you to study Tom Tulien’s Sign Oral History Project study of the 1968 Minot encounter. I congratulate Tom and his associates for producing such an excellent study.


In the Australian bimonthly magazine "UFOLOGIST" Vol.16, No.1 May-June, 2012, in my column SCIENCE and the UFO CONTROVERSY I wrote a piece with the focus: PAY ATTENTION SCIENCE SKEPTICS AND MEDIA, ASTRONOMERS DO SEE UFOs. I demolish a statement by Sydney Observatory consultant astronomer Dr. Nick Lomb where he stated "Only amateurs see UFOs," and that no serious observer, particularly astronomers or even amateur astronomers, has ever seen a UFO. Dr. Lomb, author of the recent excellent book "Transit of Venus," is an expert on astronomy, but he is clearly uninformed about serious UFO research.


I had the opportunity to briefly met up with Dr. Lomb during an Observatory Sydney Writers Festival event. He cordially signed my copy of his book "To Bill, clear skies to see identified objects," and I gave him a copy of my column which discusses his statement and my response to it. I hope he takes the time to consider this and makes a considered response.

Anyone seriously acquainted with the UFO subject would dispute Dr. Lomb's skeptical statement. For example, Clyde Tombaugh the discoverer of Pluto reported UFO sightings. Dr. Hynek undertook an early 1950s survey which revealed some astronomer's sightings, and Professor Peter Sturrock's survey during the 1970s revealed further evidence of UFO sightings by astronomers. Dr. Hynek once took photos of UFOs himself. He couldn't explain what he captured on film from a plane window.

In my 1996 book "The OZ files - the Australian UFO Story" I describe a 1957 Mount Stromlo sighting, of which the assistant director of the observatory, Dr. A.R. Hogg stated, “It was the first time the observatory had sighted what might be called an unidentified flying object. What it was remains an open question."

Much earlier, 1902 in fact, Adelaide observatory astronomers reported an aerial object they couldn’t identify. I describe that incident in detail in the column, focusing on an extraordinary legacy story of astronomer George Dodwell, as it has a fascinating deeper story that flows from it - Dodwell not only witnessed a UFO from Adelaide Observatory in 1902, he was in later years convinced that alien UFOs existed.

In “The OZ Files” I also describe a UFO sighting made by the late Dr. John Dawe, who was the manager of the Sidings Springs Observatory. He described his sighting near Merriwa in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 January 1995, stating it was "classic stuff ... It was something I still cannot explain. But I am 99.99 percent certain it was nothing alien." A UFO still - an unidentified flying object.

Over 3 issues of the UFO Investigation Centre’s UFOIC Newsletter (No. 37, 38 & 39: 1972 – 1973) the group’s secretary at the time William Moser (also president of the local chapter of the British Astronomical Association) had his article “Astronomers and UFOs” published, listing numerous sightings by astronomers.

To skeptics and astronomers such as Dr. Nick Lomb, you need to realise that some “serious observers”, indeed astronomers and professionals, do observe UFOs, and it is often the uniformed opinions of their peers that prevent the reporting of their UFO sightings. Another lost opportunity to discover something fascinating that is being reported by serious observers, not just amateurs, but a serious engagement by science of the UFO mystery could change this unsatisfactory dynamic, leading to the development of a productive field of UFO science.