The 701 Club: Case 5559: December 17, 1957 Fruita, Near Grand Junction, Colorado
Don Berlinner lists the case as follows:
Dec. 17, 1957; near Grand Junction, Colorado. 7:20 p.m. Witness: F.G. Hickman, 17. One round object changed from yellow to white to green to red; red tail was twice as long as the body. It stopped, started, backed up for 45 minutes.1
Sparks description mirrors Berlinner’s.2
The Blue Book file
The Blue Book file is a bit disappointing since it includes a one page UFOB report and a record card. The two do not exactly agree with each other because the card has information that does not appear in the UFOB report.
The record card states the object moved from Southwest to South over a 45 minute period and that it had passed in near Venus during that time period.3 The UFOB report makes no mention of Venus and it states the object was initially to the south at an elevation angle of 70 degrees and then went Southwest at an elevation of “eye level”. It added that the object disappeared over the mountains.4
The observer added that he had seen a red vapor trail behind the object. Most importantly, it was noted that the observer used binoculars to observe the object.5
It seems strange the record card mentioned Venus as being seen as well as the UFO. However, the UFOB report never mentions such a detail. Was this due to missing information (perhaps a phone call?) or is it due to some piece of information that was misinterpreted by those writing the information down on the record card?
The reason that Venus’ location is important is because this appears to be the source of the UFO report. Arguments for Venus are that Venus set around 0311Z at an azimuth of 245 degrees around the same time the witness stated the object disappeared over the mountains towards the Southwest. This coincidence is difficult to ignore. Venus was near greatest brilliancy at magnitude -4.65 making it a brilliant object in the Southwestern sky that would have stood out.
The arguments against Venus are the following:
The record card states Venus was near the UFO at some point
The object was initially observed at an elevation of 70 degrees to the south. At 0220Z, Venus was at an azimuth of 236 degrees and elevation angle of 8 degrees.
The object had a red vapor trail
My rebuttal to these arguments are:
Venus was only mentioned in the record card. It is not stated in the UFOB report.
Angles of elevation are often overestimated. Directions can be inaccurate as well. The observer was a 17-year old and, despite being visible for 45 minutes, there were no other reports received of the object being visible.
Using hand-held binoculars is never an easy task. Getting a correct focus, setting the diopter lens correctly, and holding them steady is difficult unless you are familiar with the equipment. Seeing a “vapor trail” or other effects could have been nothing more than a perception issue amplified by poor or misaligned optics. This sketch from Alan Hendry’s handbook is of the star Antares as viewed through binoculars and demonstrates that optics can introduce effects in a report that are not really there.5
In my opinion, this case can be explained as possibly Venus. I would have it classified as probably Venus if there wasn’t mention of Venus being seen with the object on the record card. Since, much of the information leans towards Venus, I conclude that this was the possible source of the report.
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2019