The Phoenix Lights were a mass UFO sighting which occurred in Phoenix, Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico on Thursday, March 13, 1997. Lights of varying descriptions were reported by thousands of people between 19:30 and 22:30 MST, in a space of about 300 miles (480 km) from the Nevada state line, through Phoenix, to the edge of Tucson.
There were allegedly two distinct events involved in the incident: a triangular formation of lights seen to pass over the state, and a series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The U.S. Air Force later identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft that were on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona.
Witnesses claim to have observed a huge, coherently-moving V-shaped UFO that produced no sound and contained five spherical lights or possibly light-emitting engines. Fife Symington, the governor of Arizona at the time, was one witness to this incident. As governor, he ridiculed the idea of alien origin, but several years later he described the lights he saw as "otherworldly" after admitting he saw a similar UFO.
- 1 Timeline
- 2 Photographic documentation
- 3 Wind direction data
- 4 Possible explanations
- 5 Public response
- 6 Related films
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
At about 6:55 PST (7:55 MST), a man reported seeing a V-shaped object above Henderson, Nevada. He said it was about the "size of a 747", sounded like "rushing wind", and had six lights on its leading edge. The lights reportedly traversed northwest to the southeast.
An unidentified former police officer from Paulden, Arizona is claimed to have been the next person to report a sighting after leaving his house at about 9:15 MST. As he was driving north, he allegedly saw a cluster of reddish or orange lights in the sky, comprising four lights together and a fifth light trailing them. Each of the individual lights in the formation appeared to the witness to consist of two separate point sources of orange light. He returned home and, through binoculars, watched the lights until they disappeared south over the horizon.
Prescott and Prescott Valley
Lights were also reportedly seen in the areas of Prescott and Prescott Valley. At approximately 8:17 MST, callers began reporting that the object was definitely solid, blocking out much of the starry sky as it passed over.
John Kaiser was standing outside with his wife and sons in Prescott Valley when they noticed a cluster of lights to the west-northwest of their position. The lights formed a triangular pattern, but all of them appeared to be red, except the light at the nose of the object, which was distinctly white. The object, or objects, which had been observed for approximately two to three minutes with binoculars, then passed directly overhead the observers, were seen to "bank to the right", and then disappeared in the night sky to the southeast of Prescott Valley. The altitude could not be determined, but the object was reported to be fairly low and made no sound whatsoever.
The National UFO Reporting Center received the following report from the Prescott area:
|“||While doing astrophotography I observed five yellow-white lights in a "V" formation moving slowly from the northwest, across the sky to the northeast, then turn almost due south and continue until out of sight. The point of the "V" was in the direction of movement. The first three lights were in a fairly tight "V" while two of the lights were further back along the lines of the "V"'s legs. During the NW-NE transit one of the trailing lights moved up and joined the three and then dropped back to the trailing position. I estimated the three light "V" to cover about 0.5 degrees of sky and the whole group of five lights to cover about 1 degree of sky.||”|
Kingman Area Sighting
A report came from a young man in the Kingman area who stopped his car at a payphone to report the incident. "[The] young man, en route to Los Angeles, called from a phone booth to report having seen a large and bizarre cluster of stars moving slowly in the northern sky".
When the triangular formation entered the Phoenix area, Bill Greiner, a cement driver hauling a load down a mountain north of the city, described the second group of lights: "I'll never be the same. Before this, if anybody had told me they saw a UFO, I would've said, 'Yeah and I believe in the Tooth Fairy.' Now I've got a whole new view and I may be just a dumb truck driver, but I've seen something that don't belong here." Greiner stated that the lights hovered over the area for more than two hours.
Twenty years later, in 2017, actor Kurt Russell claimed to have been piloting a small plane to Phoenix with Oliver Hudson that evening when the two saw the formation of lights over the airport. Russell reported the lights to air traffic control, who told him they were showing nothing on radar.
A repeat of the lights[clarification needed] occurred February 6, 2007, and was recorded by Phoenix's local Fox affiliate, KSAZ-TV. According to military officials and the Federal Aviation Administration, these lights were actually flares dropped by F-16 aircraft training at Luke Air Force Base.
On April 21, 2008, the lights were again reported over North Phoenix by local residents. According to witnesses, the lights formed a vertical line, then spread apart and made a diamond shape. The lights also formed a U-shape at one time. One resident, Tony Toporek, recorded video of the lights at around 8 p.m. MST. Another resident reported that shortly after the lights appeared, three jets were seen heading west in the direction of the lights. An official from Luke Air Force Base denied any Air Force activity in the area. On April 22, 2008, a resident of Phoenix told The Arizona Republic that the lights were nothing more than his neighbor releasing helium balloons with flares attached. The following day, a Phoenix resident who declined to be identified in news reports stated he had attached flares to helium balloons and released them from his back yard.
Imagery of the Phoenix Lights falls into two categories: images of the triangular formation seen prior to 22:00 MST in Prescott and Dewey, and images of the 22:00 MST Phoenix event. Almost all known images are of the second event. All known images were produced using a variety of commercially available camcorders and cameras.
There are few known images of the Prescott/Dewey lights.
During the Phoenix event, numerous still photographs and videotapes were made, distinctly showing a series of lights appearing at a regular interval, remaining illuminated for several moments and then going out. These images have been repeatedly aired by documentary television channels such as the Discovery Channel and the History Channel as part of their UFO documentary programming.
The most frequently seen sequence shows what appears to be an arc of lights appearing one by one, then going out one by one. UFO advocates claim that these images show that the lights were some form of "running light" or other aircraft illumination along the leading edge of a large craft, estimated to be as large as 1 mile (5280 ft) in diameter, hovering over the city of Phoenix. Other similar sequences reportedly taken over a half-hour (30-minute) period show differing numbers of lights in a V or arrowhead array. Thousands of witnesses throughout Arizona also reported a silent, mile wide V or boomerang shaped craft with varying numbers of huge orbs. A significant number of witnesses reported that the craft was silently gliding directly overhead at low altitude. The first-hand witnesses consistently reported that the lights appeared as "canisters of swimming light", while the underbelly of the craft was undulating "like looking through water". However, skeptics claim that the video is evidence that mountains not visible at night partially obstructed views from certain angles, thereby bolstering the claim that the lights were more distant than UFO advocates claim.
UFO advocate Jim Dilettoso claimed to have performed "spectral analysis" of photographs and video imagery that proved the lights could not have been produced by a man-made source. Dilettoso claimed to have used software called "Image Pro Plus" (exact version unknown) to determine the amount of red, green, and blue in the various photographic and video images and construct histograms of the data, which were then compared to several photographs known to be of flares. Several sources have pointed out, however, that it is impossible to determine the spectral signature of a light source based solely on photographic or video imagery, as film and electronics inherently alter the spectral signature of a light source by shifting hue in the visible spectrum, and experts in spectroscopy have dismissed his claims as being scientifically invalid. Normal photographic equipment also eliminates light outside the visible spectrum (for example, infrared and ultraviolet) that would be necessary for a complete spectral analysis. The maker of "Image Pro Plus", Media Cybernetics, has stated that its software is incapable of performing spectroscopic analysis.
Cognitech, an independent video laboratory, superimposed video imagery taken of the Phoenix Lights onto video imagery it shot during daytime from the same location. In the composite image, the lights are seen to extinguish at the moment they reach the Estrella mountain range, which is visible in the daytime, but invisible in the footage shot at night. A broadcast by local Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate KSAZ-TV claimed to have performed a similar test that showed the lights were in front of the mountain range and suggested that the Cognitech data might have been altered. Dr. Paul Scowen, visiting professor of Astronomy at Arizona State University, performed a third analysis using daytime imagery overlaid with video shot of the lights and his findings were consistent with Cognitech. The Phoenix New Times subsequently reported the television station had simply overlaid two video tracks on a video editing machine without using a computer to match the zoom and scale of the two images.
Wind direction data
Wind direction measured independently by several weather stations in the Phoenix area and archived by the National Centers for Environmental Information is consistent with reports about the movement of the lights. During the events, wind direction (origin) was changing from roughly west (i.e., blowing towards the east) to north (i.e., blowing towards the south). This supports the hypothesis that the flying objects were wind driven and could simply have been balloons or flares.
There is some controversy as to how best to classify the reports on the night in question. Some are of the opinion that the differing nature of the eyewitness reports indicates that several unidentified objects were in the area, each of which was its own separate "event". This is largely dismissed by skeptics as an over-extrapolation from the kind of deviation common in necessarily subjective eyewitness accounts. The media and most skeptical investigators have largely preferred to split the sightings into two distinct classes, a first and second event, for which two separate explanations are offered:
The first event—the "V", which appeared over northern Arizona and gradually traveled south over nearly the entire length of the state, eventually passing south of Tucson—was the apparently "wedge-shaped" object reported by then-Governor Symington and many others. This event started at about 20:15 MST over the Prescott area, and was seen south of Tucson by about 20:45 MST.
Proponents of two separate events propose that the first event still has no provable explanation, but that some evidence exists that the lights were in fact airplanes. According to an article by reporter Janet Gonzales that appeared in the Phoenix New Times, videotape of the v shape shows the lights moving as separate entities, not as a single object; a phenomenon known as illusory contours can cause the human eye to see unconnected lines or dots as forming a single shape.
Mitch Stanley, an amateur astronomer, observed high altitude lights flying in formation using a Dobsonian telescope giving 43× magnification. After observing the lights, he told his mother, who was present at the time, that the lights were aircraft. According to Stanley, the lights were quite clearly individual airplanes; a companion who was with him recalled asking Stanley at the time what the lights were, and he said, "Planes". When Stanley first gave an account of his observation at the Discovery Channel Town Hall Meeting with all the witnesses there he was shouted down in his assertion that what he saw was what other witnesses saw. Some have claimed that Stanley was seeing Maryland Air National Guard jets flying in formation during a routine training mission at the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range south of Phoenix.
The second event was the set of nine lights appearing to "hover" over the city of Phoenix at around 10 pm (22:00 MST). The second event has been more thoroughly covered by the media, due in part to the numerous video images taken of the lights. This was also observed by numerous people who might have thought they were seeing the same lights as those reported earlier.
The U.S. Air Force explained the second event as slow-falling, long-burning LUU-2B/B illumination flares dropped by a flight of four A-10 Warthog aircraft on a training exercise at the Barry Goldwater Range at Luke Air Force Base. According to this explanation, the flares would have been visible in Phoenix, and they would have appeared to hover due to rising heat from the burning flares creating a "balloon" effect on their parachutes, slowing the descent. The lights then appeared to wink out as they fell behind the Sierra Estrella, a mountain range to the southwest of Phoenix.
A Maryland Air National Guard pilot, Lt. Col. Ed Jones, responding to a March 2007 media query, confirmed that he had flown one of the aircraft in the formation that dropped flares on the night in question. The squadron to which he belonged was in fact at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona on a training exercise at the time and flew training sorties to the Barry Goldwater Range on the night in question, according to the Maryland Air National Guard. A history of the Maryland Air National Guard published in 2000 asserted that the squadron, the 104th Fighter Squadron, was responsible for the incident. The first reports that members of the Maryland Air National Guard were responsible for the incident were published in The Arizona Republic newspaper in July 1997.
Military flares such as these can be seen for hundreds of miles (kilometers) given ideal environmental conditions. Later comparisons with known military flare drops were reported on local television stations, showing similarities between the known military flare drops and the Phoenix Lights. An analysis of the luminosity of LUU-2B/B illumination flares, the type which would have been in use by A-10 aircraft at the time, determined that the luminosity of such flares at a range of approximately 50–70 miles (80–113 km) would fall well within the range of the lights viewed from Phoenix. LUU-2 flares have a burn time of approximately 5 minutes when suspended from a parachute.
Dr. Bruce Maccabee did an extensive triangulation of the four videotapes, determining that the objects were near or over the Goldwater Proving Grounds. Page 5 of Dr. Maccabee's analysis refers to Bill Hamilton and Tom King's sighting position at Steve Blonder's home. Blonder has worked with Dr. Maccabee to fully include his sighting position in the triangulation report. Maccabee has also refined three other sighting positions and lines of sight in 2012.
In the April 26, 2007 episode of the Skeptoid podcast titled "The Alien Invasion of Phoenix, Arizona", scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning evaluated the details of the Phoenix Lights. After a lengthy analysis of the reported sightings, photographic evidence, media coverage, and controversy, Dunning concluded: "The Phoenix Lights were flares. Deal with it."
The Phoenix Lights were examined in eSkeptic, the newsletter of the Skeptic Society in a 2008 article titled "The Phoenix Lights Explained (Again)."The Dateline NBC May 18, 2008, TV special on the incident was a target of the article, which concluded with:
Perhaps it’s a good thing that NBC has now declared this the numero uno UFO sighting of all time. Few sightings have been so thoroughly investigated by reporters, and so well debunked. But you won’t hear that from the networks, who can’t get enough of the ratings that come with 'the unexplained.'
There was minimal news coverage at the time of the incident. In Phoenix, a small number of local news outlets noted the event, but it received little attention beyond that. But on June 18, 1997, USA Today ran a front-page story that brought national attention to the case. This was followed by news coverage on the ABC and NBC television networks. The case quickly caught the popular imagination and has since become a staple of UFO-related documentary television, including specials produced by the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.
|Wikinews has related news: Former Arizona Governor says he saw a UFO during the 1997 Phoenix Lights|
Shortly after the lights, Arizona Governor Fife Symington III held a press conference, stating that "they found who was responsible". He proceeded to make light of the situation by bringing his aide on stage dressed in an alien costume. (Dateline, NBC). But in March 2007, Symington said that he had witnessed one of the "crafts of unknown origin" during the 1997 event, although he did not go public with the information. In an interview with The Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona, Symington said, "I'm a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don't know why people would ridicule it". Symington had earlier said, "It was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too. It was dramatic. And it couldn't have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape."
Symington also noted that he requested information from the commander of Luke Air Force Base, the general of the National Guard, and the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. But none of the officials he contacted had an answer for what had happened, and were also perplexed. Later, he responded to an Air Force explanation that the lights were flares: "As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man made object I'd ever seen. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in formation". In an episode of the television show UFO Hunters called "The Arizona Lights", Symington said that he contacted the military asking what the lights were. The response was "no comment". He pointed out that he was the governor of Arizona at the time, not just some ordinary civilian.
Frances Barwood, the 1997 Phoenix city councilwoman who launched an investigation into the event, said that of the over 700 witnesses she interviewed, "The government never interviewed even one".
- The Phoenix Tapes '97 on Amazon
- The Phoenix Lights...We Are Not Alone Documentary, Lynne D. Kitei, M.D., Executive Producer, in collaboration with Steve Lantz Productions. Based on the book, The Phoenix Lights...A Skeptic's Discovery That We Are Not Alone and featuring Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, former Governor Fife Symington, former Vice Mayor, investigators, military, pilots and witnesses.
- The Appearance of a Man, directed by Daniel Pace.
- Night Skies, a horror movie starring Jason Connery, A.J. Cook, and Ashley Peldon, features the lights. It premiered direct-to-DVD in the US on January 23, 2007.
- They Came from Outer Space (previous title: Phoenix Lights: The Movie), a science fiction thriller starring Ossie Beck, Mackenzie Firgens, Yvette Rachelle, Matt Mercer, Terin Alba, Courtney Gains, Mark Arnold, Michael LeMelle, Aaron Mills, and Luke Amsden.
- Out of the Blue is a documentary on UFOs including an investigation of the Phoenix Lights.
- The Phoenix Incident, an American science fiction horror movie directed and written by Keith Arem (in his directorial debut), and starring Yuri Lowenthal and Troy Baker, about the Phoenix Lights. A documentary thriller style, partially based on the true events of four hikers who disappeared after witnessing the Phoenix Lights phenomenon in 1997. The film was released theatrically April 8, 2016, features dramatic but fictional "unseen footage" that was discovered, chronicling the final hours of their encounter. The film's elaborate online viral campaign attracted more than 20m engagements worldwide.
- Phoenix Nights, a British Channel 4 comedy series, was so named by its creator Peter Kaye after he watched a US documentary about the Phoenix Lights phenomenon
- Phoenix Forgotten, a 2017 found-footage thriller produced by Ridley Scott.
- Black project
- Black triangle (UFO)
- Hessdalen light
- List of UFO sightings
- Marfa lights
- Tinley Park Lights
- Phoenix Forgotten
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I had spent over 100 hours on my computer trying to draw up some kind of images to represent the craft. I came up with several satisfactory images and one in particular that represented the craft best. These images were on display at Village Labs on their computer monitors for quite a while including when the USA Today photographer was there and snapped a picture of my UFO CGI off of one of the computer monitors and put it on the front page of USA Today for June 18, 1997.
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