Belgian UFO wave
The Belgian UFO wave was a series of sightings of triangular UFOs in Belgium, which lasted from 29 November 1989 to April 1990.
The Belgian UFO wave peaked with the events of the night of 30/31 March 1990. On that night unknown objects were tracked on radar, chased by two Belgian Air Force F-16's, photographed, and were sighted by an estimated 13,500 people on the ground – 2,600 of whom filed written statements describing in detail what they had seen. Following the incident the Belgian air force released a report detailing the events of that night.
At around 23:00 on 30 March the supervisor for the Control Reporting Center (CRC) at Glons received reports that three unusual lights were seen moving towards Thorembais-Gembloux, which lies to the South-East of Brussels. The lights were reported to be brighter than stars, changing color between red, green and yellow, and appeared to be fixed at the vertices of an equilateral triangle. At this point Glons CRC requested the Wavre gendarmerie send a patrol to confirm the sighting.
Approximately 10 minutes later a second set of lights was sighted moving towards the first triangle. By around 23:30 the Wavre gendarmerie had confirmed the initial sightings and Glons CRC had been able to observe the phenomenon on radar. During this time the second set of lights, after some erratic manoeuvres, had also formed themselves into a smaller triangle. After tracking the targets and after receiving a second radar confirmation from the Traffic Center Control at Semmerzake, Glons CRC gave the order to scramble two F-16 fighters from Beauvechain Air Base shortly before midnight. Throughout this time the phenomenon was still clearly visible from the ground, with witnesses describing the whole formation as maintaining their relative positions while moving slowly across the sky. Witnesses also reported two dimmer lights towards the municipality of Eghezee displaying similar erratic movements to the second set of lights.
Over the next hour the two scrambled F-16s attempted nine separate interceptions of the targets. On three occasions they managed to obtain a radar lock for a few seconds but each time the targets changed position and speed so rapidly that the lock was broken. During the first radar lock, the target accelerated from 240 km/h to over 1,770 km/h while changing altitude from 2,700 m to 1,500 m, then up to 3,350 m before descending to almost ground level – the first descent of more than 900 m taking less than two seconds. Similar manoeuvres were observed during both subsequent radar locks. On no occasion were the F-16 pilots able to make visual contact with the targets and at no point, despite the speeds involved, was there any indication of a sonic boom. Moreover, narrator Robert Stack added in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, the sudden changes in acceleration and deceleration would have been fatal to one or more human pilots.
During this time, ground witnesses broadly corroborate the information obtained by radar. They described seeing the smaller triangle completely disappear from sight at one point, while the larger triangle moved upwards very rapidly as the F-16s flew past. After 00:30 radar contact became much more sporadic and the final confirmed lock took place at 00:40. This final lock was once again broken by an acceleration from around 160 km/h to 1,120 km/h after which the radar of the F-16s and those at Glons and Semmerzake all lost contact. Following several further unconfirmed contacts the F-16s eventually returned to base shortly after 01:00.
The final details of the sighting were provided by the members of the Wavre gendarmerie who had been sent to confirm the original report. They describe four lights now being arranged in a square formation, all making short jerky movements, before gradually losing their luminosity and disappearing in four separate directions at around 01:30.
In April 1990, a photo of a triangular object upon which three lights are visible at each corner was taken by Patrick M. Since then, Patrick M. came out and stated publicly that the picture was a hoax by him.
Skeptics say there is no background in the photograph and no element that would allow calculation of the object's size or distance from the camera. Wim van Utrecht, a Belgian skeptic, has reproduced a copy of the photograph with devices. A computer graphics simulation method to reproduce the photograph was developed by a Belgian mathematician, Thierry Veyt at The University of Liège Laboratory of Astrophysics, wherein the apparent "shake" motion, that results in the lights of the craft appearing blurred or out of focus in the photograph contradicts eye-witness statements. This, along with the anonymity of the photographer and fact that the image was not produced publicly until 4 months after the alleged event, brings the authenticity of the image into question.
For 20 years, the ufological organization Société belge d'étude des phénomènes spatiaux (SOBEPS) claimed that this picture was genuine. But on 26 July 2011, in an interview for RTL, a Belgian TV channel, Patrick M. confessed that it was a hoax.
In 1992, about three years after the first sighting, which occurred on 29 November 1989, in Eupen, Belgian skeptic Marc Hallet wrote an essay about the Belgian UFO wave criticizing the work done by the SOBEPS: La Vague OVNI Belge ou le triomphe de la désinformation, arguing that this UFOlogical organisation was spreading misinformations in the media. Marc Hallet's thesis is that the Belgian UFO wave was mostly a mass delusion, boosted by the work done by the SOBEPS. This mass delusion would have followed Philip J. Klass's law: Once news coverage leads the public to believe that UFOs may be in the vicinity, there are numerous natural and man-made objects which, especially seen at night, can take on unusual characteristics in the minds of hopeful viewers. Their UFO reports in turn add to the mass excitement, which encourages still more observers to watch for UFOs. This situation feeds upon itself until such time as the media lose interest in the subject, and then the « flap » quickly runs out of steam..
In 1993, Pierre Magain & Marc Remy published an article in Physicalia Magazine, in which their conclusions don't match those from the SOBEPS. They also state that the Belgian UFO wave would be better studied by people in the human sciences than by physicists.
In The Belgian UFO Wave of 1989–1992 – A Neglected Hypothesis, Renaud Leclet & co. discuss the fact that some sightings can be explained by helicopters. Most witnesses reported that the objects were silent. This report argues that the lack of noise could be due to the engine noise in the witnesses' automobiles, or strong natural wind blowing in the direction of a witness, combined with the wind due to driving a vehicle.
In his article The Beginning of the Belgian UFO wave, Jean-Michel Abrassart argues that the beginning of the wave doesn't contradict the psychosocial hypothesis, contrary to what the SOBEPS claimed in his work. In an article published on his website in 2011, The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies, Auguste Meessen replied to several skeptical criticisms (by Roger Paquay and Jean-Michel Abrassart) and still argues that, according to him, the Belgian UFO wave is completely unexplained. Roger Paquay and Jean-Michel Abrassart both wrote rebuttals to the Belgian physicist's article.
Vague OVNI sur la Belgique (UFO wave over Belgium), written by the defunct SOBEPS organisation.
- "'Sunday Express' article on Belgium UFO". Sunday Express. 17 September 1995. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
- "Report concerning the observation of UFOs in the night from March 30 to March 31, 1990 - ufoevidence.org". Retrieved 21 March 2008.
- "Le mystère du célèbre OVNI des années 90 élucidé : "Une supercherie"". RTL. August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
- Original paper given to the french newspaper Le Soir Illustré and reproduced by Les repas ufologiques parisiens, a french ufo association Le flou de bougé de la photo de petit-rechain par la calcul matriciel
- "Classic" UFO Photo from Belgian Wave - the Hoaxer Confesses
- Hallet, M. (1992). La Vague OVNI Belge ou le triomphe de la désinformation. Liège : Chez L’auteur
- Klass, P. J. (1986). UFOs : The public deceived. New York, USA : Prometheus Books.
- Pierre Magain & Marc Remy (1993). « Les OVNI : un sujet de recherche ? », Physicalia Magazine, vol. 15, n°4, pp. 311-318.
- "The Belgian UFO Wave of 1989–1992 – A Neglected Hypothesis". Retrieved 9 January 2010.
- Abrassart, J-M (2010). The Beginning of the Belgian UFO wave. SUNLite, vol. 2, num. 6, pp. 21-23.
- Meessen, A. (2011). The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies, pp. 21-23.
- Paquay, R. (2011). Answer to "The Belgian wave and the photos of Ramillies". SUNLite, vol. 3, n°3, pp. 20-22.
- Abrassart, J-M. (2011). In defense of the psychosociological hypothesis – Another reply to Auguste Meessen. SUNLite, vol. 3, n°4, pp. 9-12.
- Belgian UFO wave at Ufos.about.com
- Belgian UFO wave at Ufocasebook
- Belgium 1990: A Case for Radar-Visual UFOS? – Tim Printy at Internet Archive
- Skeptic Report
- Triangles over Belgium (Wim Van Utrecht)
- "Classic" UFO Photo from Belgian Wave - the Hoaxer Confesses
- Belgian UFO wave at Latest UFO sightings
- David Marler's UFO book, Belleville News Democrat 7/14/13