A Scintillating UFO Experience

June 18, 2012

Journalist Jacqui Jeras—reporting on CNN Newsroom, Sunday, May 27, 2012—described a UFO that had been seen over Blue Springs, Missouri, for the previous two weeks. It first looked like a star, “experts” said, but then began flashing red and blue colors, leading to descriptions of “a purple light” and “freaky blue lights in the sky.” Video closeups confirmed the effect.

As it happens, the unnamed “experts” consisted of, apparently, a single UFO buff from MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, as reported by a local TV station. (See “UFOs over Blue Springs? Strange objects hover in night sky,” online at https://www.kctv5.com/story/18613289/ufos-over-blue-springs-strange-objects-hover-over-night-sky.) On viewing the video, I recognized obvious scintillation—the “twinkling” of stars (even planets if the atmosphere is particularly turbulent). The color shifts are due to refraction (bending) of the different wavelengths of light. (The “purple” may be chromatic aberration from poor-quality optics: videos, binoculars, etc.)

Scintillation is especially noticeable under magnification, and some Blue Springs observers were using binoculars. As Allan Hendry stated in his classic work The UFO Handbook (1979, p. 31), “Whenever witnesses trained magnifying optics on a star undergoing atmospheric distortions, the magnification served only to exaggerate the distortion effects and make the situation worse.”

CSI consultant Major James McGaha—astronomer, former military pilot, and UFO expert—who has fifty years’ experience looking at the sky, concludes that, indeed, the Blue Springs UFO was probably a star showing scintillation. The news reports failed to give enough information to precisely identify it. However, the assistant state director of MUFON, Margie Kay, had first thought it was Vega, the brightest (first-magnitude) star in the constellation Lyra, often described as “blue-white.” (Unfortunately Kay twice referred to Vega as a planet.) Depending on where observers were looking, other candidates would have included Sirius (the brightest star in the heavens) and the planet Venus (which would have been at its brightest).

Had a competent observer merely recorded the date, time, compass direction, and angle of elevation of the light, it is extremely likely that the Blue Springs UFO would be instantly identifiable.

The operative word, though, is competent. Who, exactly, is Margie Kay? She is owner of a construction business who moonlights (as it were) as a MUFON “investigator” as well as—brace yourself—a clairvoyant, psychic detective, medical intuitive, and ghost hunter (she wrote The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide). According to her bio (see margiekay.com/bio.html), she not only communicates with the dead but also with extraterrestrials, “as well as living trees and plants.” Way to go, MUFON!