Recently, a comet-like UFO sighting over a Chinese airport created quite a worldwide stir. The curiosity turned into a frenzy after video of the object became a Youtube hit. In both photos and videos, something is clearly seen in the sky. The question of what was seen is what has gotten people talking.
Already, the Chinese government is claiming that the object was military in nature (probably a smoke trail from a rocket, my guess) and is something that cannot be discussed publicly.
However, that hasn’t stopped the wild speculation (note video title).
In science, one must rule out all possible logical explanations before moving onto those that are normally considered “extraordinary” as the natural attitude of scientists is one of skepticism. A vital part of the scientific method is called Occam’s Razor. For those not acquainted with science, this is simply the idea that, if two theories explain the same observation equally well, go with the simpler, as the world (unlike people) does not make things more complicated than need be.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the opposite of what was done in the case of the UFO over China. Observation: I see something weird in the sky that I cannot identify. Conclusion: it must be an alien spacecraft (never mean that UFO just means unidentified flying object). This is hardly scientific thought, as someone thinking scientifically would use Occam’s Razor to exhaust all possible, down to earth (literally) alternates before jumping to the conclusion that it was a spacecraft from an alien world flying over the airport.
A similar leap of faith occurred in Cleveland area earlier this year when a Euclid man saw strange lights over Lake Erie. Observation: strange lights I cannot identify. Conclusion: aliens. After some objective investigation, the lights were found to be planes and many people weren’t happy about it, either.
Thinking about the whole UFO phenomenon, it is not the least bit surprising that UFO reports coming from astronomers (professional or amateur) are extremely rare despite the fact that astronomers spend more time with an eye on the sky than most people. Why? Astronomers are used to seeing the night sky and are far less likely to jump to extraordinary conclusions than the general populace. In fact, chances are that astronomers will be able to identify the “UFO” as one of the following:
1. Planets (especially Venus)
4. Bright stars
6. The Moon!
Now this is not saying that all UFOs can be explained astronomically, but a good percent of them can. Remember, scientists are skeptics and there is a big difference between a skeptic and a debunker.
For some astronomy tonight:
4 planets, the little king, and Luna line up at dusk