Case number 1124: April 17, 1952
Don Berlinner’s list describes it as follows:
April 17, 1952; Longmeadow, Massachusetts. 8:30 p.m. Witnesses: S.B. Brooks, chemical engineer J.A. Eaton. One round, deep orange object flew fast and erratic, occasionally emitting a shaft of light to the rear during a 40 minute sighting.1
Looking at the summary, one would expect that something that “flew fast” would not be visible for forty minutes! The forty minute time frame and time of night led me to consider that the potential source of this event was astronomical in nature.
Blue Book Investigation2
The Blue Book record card documents that the observers were two engineers who observed this UFO for forty minutes. It also mentions that the object was like a star but four times as bright as any star. It performed rapid dives and climbs as well as changing
its appearance as it gained altitude.
Further investigation into the file revealed more information that shed light on the potential culprit. The highlights are3:
The object was round1.
The object was deep orange2.
It occasionally emitted a shaft of light out its rear3.
It moved at speeds of over 600mph according to one witness. The other stated it was speeds of over 1000 mph.4.
The object moved erratically as it increased its altitude.5.
The object changed shaped. It became elongated at times and appeared to approach and recede from the observers.6.
The azimuth was reported as 20 degrees but it was also referred to as in the east or towards Boston. 7.
One of the observers was a graduate of MIT. Both admitted that they had no training in astronomy or aerodynamics. One noted 8. he had recently read the LIFE magazine article about UFOs.
9. inside with the UFO still present in the sky.
Making sense of the report.
The first issue has to do with the azimuth. it was listed as 20 degrees but the observers also mention it was in the east or towards Boston. The real azimuth to Boston from Longmeadow was about 73 degrees (ENE). The entire sentence reads:
He could not estimate the altitude of the object, but stated the azimuth from point of observation was approximately 20 degrees; he further estimated the object to be in the vicinity of Boston. 4
There may have been confusion in the interview since it started with talking about altitude. Perhaps the 20 degree value was actually
and estimated angle of elevation. If we assume this is true, then the object was at 20 degrees elevation and towards the ENE or East. What astronomical object was visible in this location of the sky?
There are two candidates that might fit the bill on this case. Arcturus was at azimuth of 96 degrees and 37 degrees elevation. However,
a more interesting candidate was the planet Mars. Unfortunately, its azimuth was 116 degrees (ESE) at 2030 local time. Is it possible that the witnesses might have been mistaken about the direction they saw the object?
The name of the road, on which they lived, is hard to read in the documentation. However, it appears to read that they lived on Nevins Avenue in Longmeadow. If they were using their road as a compass direction for east, they would have been looking at an azimuth of roughly 109 degrees and not 90 degrees. This might explain why they thought they were looking towards Boston when they were actually looking ESE.
Assuming this was the case, Mars suddenly becomes a viable solution to this case. The descriptions given for the UFO moving erratically,
coming and going, and changing shape is the kind of description often given to astronomical objects like stars and planets. Other observations that indicated it was probably Mars were:
It was described as deep orange in color. Mars is orangish-red.1.
It was described as four times brighter than any known star. Arcturus, the brightest star in the eastern sky is magnitude -0.04. 2. Mars on this date was about magnitude -1.25. A -1 magnitude star is 2.5 times as bright as a magnitude 0 star.
To me, the kicker is the fact that the witnesses reported it still being visible when they ceased their observations forty minutes later and, despite reporting the sighting to Westover AFB, nobody else seemed to have noticed the UFO. This indicates the object was probably astronomical in nature.
Photograph of Mars on February 22nd, 2014. At the time Mars (magnitude -0.13), which is as bright as Arcturus (magnitude 0.15) and Spica (magnitude 0.95). Mars is obviously brighter than Spica. Mars and Arcturus show a distinctive orange hue compared to the blue star Spica.
Is it solved?
Considering the problems we know concerning eyewitness testimony, I consider Mars a likely solution. That does not mean it is a solution that will be accepted by many UFOlogists because the witnesses did not precisely pinpoint or describe Mars. That is their opinion but I still consider classifying this one as “probably Mars”.
Notes and references
Quelle: SUNlite 2/2014