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In cryptozoology and ufology, "rods" (also known as "skyfish", "air rods", or "solar entities") are elongated visual artifacts appearing in photographic images and video recordings. Some paranormal proponents claim them to be extraterrestrial lifeforms, extradimensional creatures, or very small UFOs. However, these artifacts appear naturally in video and outdoor photography as the result of an optical illusion due to motion blur, especially in interlaced video recording, and are typically afterimage trails of flying insects and their wingbeats.
Various paranormal interpretations appeared in popular culture, and one of the more outspoken proponents of rods as alien life forms was the late Jose Escamilla, who claimed to have been the first to film them on March 19, 1994 at Roswell, New Mexico, while attempting to film a UFO. Escamilla later made additional videos and embarked on lecture tours to promote his claims.
The Straight Dope columnist Cecil Adams called rods a hoax "where unscrupulous people are exploiting a gullible public for profit", and said that investigators have shown that rods are mere tricks of light which result from how images (primarily video images) of flying insects are recorded and played back. In particular, the fast passage before the camera of an insect flapping its wings has been shown to produce rodlike effects, due to motion blur, if the camera is shooting with relatively long exposure times.
In August 2005, China Central Television (CCTV) aired a two-part documentary about flying rods in China. It reported the events from May to June of the same year at Tonghua Zhenguo Pharmaceutical Company in Tonghua City, Jilin Province, which debunked the flying rods. Surveillance cameras in the facility's compound captured video footage of flying rods identical to those shown in Jose Escamilla's video. Getting no satisfactory answer to the phenomenon, curious scientists at the facility decided that they would try to solve the mystery by attempting to catch these airborne creatures. Huge nets were set up and the same surveillance cameras then captured images of rods flying into the trap. When the nets were inspected, the "rods" were no more than regular moths and other ordinary flying insects. Subsequent investigations proved that the appearance of flying rods on video was an optical illusion created by the slower recording speed of the camera.
After attending a lecture by Jose Escamilla, UFO investigator Robert Sheaffer wrote that "some of his “rods” were obviously insects zipping across the field at a high angular rate" and others appeared to be “appendages” which were birds' wings blurred by the camera exposure.
- Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). "A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions". John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- Adams, Cecil (September 18, 2000). "What's up with "rods," the mysterious insects that can be seen only on video?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- 中国UFO悬案调查：飞棍出没的世界(下) SINA Technology News, "China's outstanding UFO Investigation: fly rod Haunted World (Part Two)"
- Sheaffer, Robert (March–April 2000). "ET, You've Got Mail". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 6 April 2010.