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.
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!