Interesting in-flight “UFO” Video

A new youtube video is making the rounds showing a mysterious object appearing to fly outside of a commercial airliner on December 19th 2012. The video is pretty interesting, the person filming it, Mauricio Ruiz, attempts to record good evidence and even tries to rule out cabin lights as a source for the object. Go take a look at the video and read on!

I’m fond of this video, I must admit. The person recording it tries to do the right thing, he seems (from his youtube comments) to be sincere and seeking to learn the truth. A bit more digging reveals that Mr. Ruiz is a UFO enthusiast and has a number of sightings credited to him, as well as a few videos.  I love how clear the object is in some of the frames from the video. Here is a screen capture I took from the video.

Screen Capture showing UFO

I admit that my first impression, despite the clarity of the “structures” over the light, was that the image was perhaps a planet or the moon as viewed through partial clouds. To that end, I downloaded a free copy of the Stellarium software to see what the night sky might have held for Mr. Ruiz. From the video comments, Mr. Ruiz reveals that the flight occurred on the evening of December 19th on a SouthWest flight from New York LaGuardia to Chicago Houston (early reports were NYC to Chicago). I set the approximate location to North American mid-west and the approximate time around 9pm (I ran the clock from sunset to sunrise the following day). The moon and Jupiter were both up. Unfortunately, the moon was about a quarter waxing and wouldn’t really have looked like the image, even with clouds. Jupiter might have worked, with the curvature of the window imparting some distortion, but I wasn’t buying it.

Discovery Channel did a piece on the UFO sighting on their web site. The author, by well known skeptic Ben Radford, did a much better job deconstructing the video than my novice efforts. I could have saved myself some time, perhaps.

Mr. Radford concludes that the image is likely a reflection from the interior of the aircraft. Mr. Ruiz did try to control for that with his hand, but Mr. Radford noted that Mr. Ruiz only blocked window-left, not window-right.

I’ve traveled a lot in airplanes due to my job. Now that I had the proper cues from Mr. Radford, the UFO became less mysterious to me. Unhappily, again, I am scooped. Take a look at this comparison photo by the folks at the illuminutti blog:


Yep, it does match quite a bit. There are other variations of that style reading light in use, but this one was the model I was thinking of.

So, this is probably not an alien ship, but it is a good example of how to deconstruct this sort of evidence and determine its veracity, or at least get a better feel for the probabilities. Happy New Year!


About Mike Weaver

Husband, father, skeptic, technologist, motorcyclist, hunter, outdoors-man, and evil genius. I am formally trained in computer science, physics, mathematics, and emergency medicine (paramedic, former).
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6 Responses to Interesting in-flight “UFO” Video

  1. Adam says:

    My first thought was that it could have been refracted light from the light on the tip of the wing (which he shows towards the end of the video).

    I’m sure someone who was interested enough could find the refractive index of the type of glass used on commercial airliners and do the maths to see if that’s feasible — but that someone is not me 🙂

    • Mike Weaver says:

      That’s a thought. I believe there are two or three layers of “window” in a commercial jet, all of which are plastics of some sort. The UFO really looks like an aircraft light to me, with the structure over the dome of the light. It would match the potential design of a wing-tip light. I’m judging that it’s more likely a reflected interior light, however.

  2. jeffwagg says:

    I like your hypothesis, Mike.

  3. Steve says:

    The other object that it looks a bit like is the ISS which a very rough search on a tracker website could well have been over the USA on the night in question. We really need to know a bit more about the time of the observation to be a bit more accurate but a time of say 20:10 puts the ISS over the centre of the USA.

  4. Freke1 says:

    He places his hand exactly where the light beam (if causing the reflection) would be cut off. If the window acted as a mirror then the light should be on the passenger seat in front of him (it’s not). If You want to see the ceiling light reflection in the glass I would imagine You would have to place Your head straight below the window (give or take). I should be a simple test to see if one can produce a reflection like that from inside the cabin, but I don’t think anyone will bother…

  5. mud says:

    Something so underwhelming deserving a torrent of cynicism and all we can say, maybe next time it will be much better.

    Yes, credibility for people who see UFO’s posting even more ufo’s clearly indicates that the method be improved before we are mutually satisfied.

    I wonder if a simple hint about breathing technique may help these minute men..

    Jupiter has been hanging around taurus for a goodly period now. Its spectacular. Have a look out the window tonight. Superlatives will abound rather than fallacies. Ties this thread with Orion (else skep blog). For the adventurous, get a blow up matress and quilt and romantically watch the sky revolve for the entire night.

    Your eyes become accustomed to the reduced light quickly, so champagne, cheese crackers combined with the above will ensure you never hear my first three paragraphs spoken!

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