Amazing Easily-Identifyable-Flying-Objects Of 2009


2010 is almost upon us, and it’s around about this time of the year that people start doing niche retrospectives of the year. Top 10 twitterers of 2009. 15 of the best political balls-ups of the year. 2009 in animal dentistry: a retrospective. That kind of thing. Well, I never claimed to be particularly original, just as The Sun hasn’t ever claimed to be conduct truthful reporting of the story. With this in mind, and the end of the year fast approaching, I give you your-super-soaraway-whopping-Sun’s ‘Amazing UFO pics of 2009‘.

As anyone who keeps their eyes to the skies – or, more likely, to the news and the skeptical blogosphere – might imagine, this bumper UFO-tastic article follows on not only from the recent strange spirals over Norway (which turned out to be a stray Russian missile, rather than a stray alien emissary) but also from the news that the Ministry of Defense has latterly closed the UFO-hotline. I know recent Righteous Indignation guest Nick Pope was particularly interested in that latter story, which you can hear over on the RI Podcast site. Feel free to have a listen, I’ll wait if you like.

Actually, that’s a lie – I won’t wait at all: if the MoD have decreed alien sightings too unimportant to report to them, I best crack on through the story before the MoD’s lack of interest inevitably trickles down to your alien-believer on the street, and the whole UFO story goes cold. That’s how it works, right? Picking up from The Sun:

Norway’s skies lit up last week with this incredible unearthly looking spiral of light. The phenomenon was dubbed ‘Star-Gate’ – as the world’s top scientists and the military lined up to admit they were baffled.

I’ll stop you there, My Sun – I don’t think top scientists and the military were all that baffled. In fact, while this phenomenon was an interesting mystery to begin with, it was all but over before it began – it’s almost a shame to say it, but gone are the days and weeks of wild speculation between seeing this kind of site and finding the cause. I think there was a time-elapse of around 2.6 nanoseconds between the mystery and the reveal in this case. I guess The Sun must have interviewed the world’s top scientists and military (leaders, I presume) in that nanosecond. Good journalist works fast, time is money and all that. I’m sure that’s it. Still, those bastions of real reporting continued:

And this is not the first mysterious sighting to wow UFOlogists in 2009. In the same year that the government inexplicably axed the MoD department that investigates UFO threats and sightings – despite record levels of sightings in the UK – we have seen flashing orbs, hovering crafts and spooky lights in the sky.

Again, just to interject – the MoD ‘inexplicably’ axed the MoD department? I take umbrage of that – I have an explanation for closing the UFO hotline: there are no aliens. No extra-terrestrial UFOs. In fact, the calls to the hotline were so alien-free, I’d have it renamed the coldline. What we did have, though, was a fair bit of cash being pumped into a department that, during a recession, was ineffective as a threat-early-warning system, but incredibly effective as a waste-our-time-and-funding-with-inane-reports-of-Chinese-lanterns-which-you’re-positive-are-UFOs system. Which is less economically justifiable during the harsh winter of post-Moneygeddon Britain.

So, on to The Sun’s amazing UFO!!!!1!1!! list. And coming in at number 9, the new entry you heard at the top of the show – the Norwegian spinny spiral thingy, which we now know for certain to be a Russian missile. So far, so terrestrial.

Number 8 in the immensely overdone and cliched charts metaphor is titled by The Current Bun ‘The Empire Strikes Barack‘. I suspect they thought of the title first, and were just dying for the first opportunity to use it (I can’t complain, I do exactly the same thing). This was, apparently, the alien encounter captured on film during the inauguration of President Obama, back in January. It’s an oldie, but a… well… shit effort, frankly. Listeners to the SGU (ie everyone who reads this blog, listens to any podcast or simply has ears) might be familiar with this story – if you can call it a story. Personally, I’d call it an insect/bird/bat, flying relatively near the camera, thus looking larger than actual size. This explains 1) the movement of the blurry shape, 2) the shape of the blurry shape, 3) the fact that it is quite clearly an insect/bird/bat, 4) the fact that nobody was screaming, pointing to the sky in horror, running to the hills or offering themselves up as slaves to our new intergalactic overlords (everyone knows the smart move is to get the aliens on side, then take them down from within. Textbook). What I particularly like from the story is the way The Sun quotes ‘UFO experts’. Which is like asking homeopaths if magic water can cure illnesses – I think we can see how a degree of bias might have crept in on their answers there.

So, to number 7, and the shockingly-titled ‘5..4..3..2..1 Thunderbirds a UFO!‘ My money’s on this one being a case of story first, then title at the very last nano-second. There are two elements I find particularly weird about this effort – the first being that it was newsworthy, given the photo’s unremarkable nature. The other element that I find bizarre, is the emphasis in The Sun’s opening sentence:

UFO experts went into orbit in February over this amazing photo of a “Thunderbird” flying high above BOURNEMOUTH.

‘UFO yaddah yaddah yaddah… experts, orbit, February whatever… amazing photo, Thunderbird flying, sure, old hat… Fuck me! Bournemouth! That MUST be newsworthy!’

Number 6 is just plain weird – given that the story is specifically on the amazing photos and videos taken over the last year, the decision to include the story in their ‘Turb-ulence‘ report is particularly bizarre. It shows a turbine (hence the crunching pun in the title, naturally)… photoshopped with the famous silhouette of Elliott and ET on the flying bicycle. I guess the pun-barrel isn’t the only one that gets scraped back at Sun HQ.

Number 5 – a cool photo of a hot-air balloon crashing into a house, that’s only slightly spoiled by the reflection in the window of the interior lights of the photographer’s room. Or so it seems to me. Taking into account the angle the photo is taken from (clearly high enough up to be a second floor window), the grey skies outside which would well have required interior lighting and the shape of the ring of lights being consistent with a ceiling arrangement, ‘UFO all hot air’ seems a dud story to me. In fact, even the quotes from the photographer seem to be cherry-picked and unconvincing:

Darryl, 47, said: “It’s surreal. I wouldn’t have believed my eyes if I’d seen it.”

This could clearly apply as much to the sight of a crashing hot air balloon as to a mystical ring of lights. Lame story, The Sun.

Number 4, and another lovely video, not to mention another unforgivable pun (I see a trend here: poor evidence, poor wordplay). ‘Oo Arr Not Alone‘, so titled because… well… I have no idea actually. Which may be the biggest mystery in this article, given that the mysterious cylindrical object appears to be a Solar Balloon – essentially a binbag, sealed at one end, heated in the sun (the astronomical body, not the tabloid newspaper) until it takes flight. Weren’t these supposed to be the best 2009 had to offer in terms of UFOs? There’s not been a single case where the supposed UFO hasn’t been easily explainable with a plausible and logical scenario, and that’s before you consider that articles 3 (‘Life… But Not As We Glow It‘) and 2 (‘Shock And Orb‘) are quite clearly chinese lanterns.

Eight stories down, eight explainable non-phenomena – what will be the final piece of The Sun’s 2009 dossier on why the MoD ought to have kept the UFO hotline open? Ladies, gentlemen and little-green-guys-who-flew-in-on-the-last-Chinese-lantern/solar-balloon/living-room-light, I give you: ‘Great Scot, It’s Spooky!‘ Yep, another Chinese lantern. If I were BT, I wouldn’t be expecting a call from the MoD to reconnect the hotline any time soon.

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  1. #1 by Chris on December 21, 2009 - 13:34

    What makes me dispair about this is apart from the story being aload of shite clearly, the pics being shite and the way the article has been put together being shite, apart from all that the Sun has the largest readership in the UK (well more people buy it anyway, they might eat it I suppose). Think about that, the Sun actually thinks this passes as journalism for a newpaper that sells millions of copies per day. How stupid do you have to be to read stories of similar quality to this and then the next day think “I’ll buy that again”.

    Actually I take it all back, maybe I’m over reacting, maybe it tastes like bacon.

  2. #2 by AexMagd on December 21, 2009 - 15:41

    People don’t have the time or inclination to read around the subject – that’s why stories about political correctness and health ‘n’ safety have such long lifespans. I’m willing to bet everyone remembers Winterval, kids banned from playing conkers and Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep but they’re all bollocks. Tabloids (and some other papers) know that all they have to do is hit the key buzzwords/themes in the first third of an article, and then it doesn’t matter after that. Doesn’t even matter if they’re forced to make a retraction: people’s inherent laziness will ensure the story hangs around for years. Be prepared to encounter this UFO thing time and time again…

  3. #3 by Michael on December 21, 2009 - 20:34

    Does Marsh actually ‘buy’ the Sun or does he forage around waste bins and chip shops? We should be told!

  4. #4 by Marsh on December 21, 2009 - 21:08

    I take one for the team, and read the Sun’s website. And then I shower with bleach afterwards, lest I use ‘Phwoaaarrrr’ in conversation.

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