The 701 Club: Case 3212 - September 18, 1954 Kimpo AFB, Korea
Don Berlinner lists the case as follows:
Sept. 18, 1954; Kimpo Air Base, Japan. 5:55 a.m. Witnesses: two control tower operators, a weather forecaster and a weather observer. One round object, like polished aluminum, flew straight and level for 11-13 minutes.1
Sparks’ entry mirrors Berlinner’s indicating there was little investigation other than listing the case.
The Blue Book file
The file contains one document. It is a seven-page Air Intelligence Report documenting the incident. It is informative to the point
2that a lot of pertinent information was obtained.
The object was observed between 2055Z and 2108Z
There were five observers
Three observers said the shape was round. The other two stated it had no shape but commented about its brightness.
When first observed the object was estimated to be at azimuth 175 degrees and 50 degrees elevation.
When last observed the object was estimated to be at azimuth 180 degrees and 50 degrees elevation
The object disappeared into clouds.
The object was observed with binoculars and determined to be the size of a pea at arm’s length and was brighter than a star.
Sunrise was at 2118Z
A weather balloon was released at 2100Z.
The balloon was traveling towards the east shortly after launch.
For some reason, the observers convinced themselves it was not a star because it was moving in a westward direction, which is what one would expect a star to do.
In the preliminary analysis, the reporting officer, 2nd LT. Anthony Ingrad, stated:
The preliminary analysis of this office reveals that there is apparently no explanation for this sighting. The fact that a weather balloon was released during the time of the sighting has no apparent bearing on the sighting since the balloon was never plotted in a southerly direction where the object was observed. The object was travelling in a westerly heading against the west wind at the time. These reasons seem to eliminate the assumption that the object was the weather balloon released by the K-14 weather station. The local radar station had no plots in the K-14 area during the time the object was sighted.3
There was a comment on the first page by the D/I, which stated:
It is believed that the object was either a star (Cirius)(sic) or a high flying aircraft for the following reasons:
a. Cirius (sic) (the brightest star) would have been in almost the same locations as the object except at a 12 1/4 degree smaller angle of elevation. Observers are generally 10 to 15 degrees high when estimating elevation.
b. Although the sun was not yet visible at the surface, an aircraft at over 45,000 feet would have been illuminated by the sun at the time of the sighting.4
These are the only explanations offered.
It is probably best to examine the two explanations that were offered, but ignored, by Blue Book. The least likely of the two expla- nations was the high flying aircraft. Since the sighting lasted 13 minutes and the object only moved 5 degrees, the aircraft would have to be moving very slow and be very high. It seems unlikely this was the case.
Another possibility not mentioned is a research balloon of some kind. Unfortunately, there are no records of any such balloons be- ing in the area. Most balloons being tested at the time would be launched with an West to East trajectory. This object was moving westward.
This leaves us with the other offered explanation. That being the star Sirius. Using Stellarium, I had the following results for the times given for Sirius and another potential candidate, Rigel.
The five degree westward motion matches with the motion of the two stars. If we were to consider only the estimates of azimuth and elevation, the star Rigel (+0.1) would probably make a better candidate. However, Sirius is much brighter and would be more easily visible in twilight. Seeing Sirius, at magnitude -1.5, visually over twenty minutes prior to sunrise should not be difficult.
I decided to see how quickly after sunset, bright first magnitude stars could be readily visible. I discovered that, in late August, about 15 minutes after sunset, the stars Vega and Arcturus were easily seen without any optical aid. Venus could be seen before sunset, while Mars and Jupiter were visible only a few minutes after sunset. I then attempted this process before sunrise. In late August, I was able to see Sirius with the naked eye about 15 minutes before sunrise. Because of its proximity to the sun, it was in strong twilight. In mid-September, when Sirius is further west and out of the twilight glow, it would be easier to see around this time.
The only problem with Sirius being the explanation is that the angle of elevation was off by almost 20 degrees and the azimuth was off by the same amount. We must remember, that the observers were “estimating” the azimuth and angle of elevation of the object. How good were they at estimating the direction and elevation? This is an unknown. According to the Condon study,
The angular elevation, or apparent location above the horizon, of objects is generally not estimated very accurately at all. The difference from 0° or from 90° of angles near the horizon or near the zenith tends to be substantially overestimated. Anything that is more than 45° or even 30° above the horizon is often reported as overhead.5
While some might consider this only applies to untrained observers, I discovered that even experienced observers have problems estimating elevation and azimuth angles. Using stars as tests, I discovered that the amateur astronomers I tested made estimates of azimuth and elevation that averaged to within about 5-10 degrees of the star’s actual position. This was under a dark sky with the position of Polaris available for determining true North. Making estimates in twilight would introduce some additional inaccuracies. The best one can state is the object was to the south, southeast, or southwest of the observers.
The likelihood that this was Sirius is pretty good. The only reason I can’t give this a positive confirmation has to do with the angu- lar elevation and azimuth estimates not precisely lining up with that star. Rigel was much closer to that location but really did not match the description of the witnesses that the object was brighter than the stars. In my opinion, this should be reclassified as possibly the star Sirius.
Quelle: SUNlite 5/2018