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A Testable Astronautical Theory for UFO Events

T. Roy Dutton

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: This article is about work to probe phenomena currently regarded as taboo by the pillars of modern science. As a result, it has suffered hostility and summary dismissal for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, as will become apparent, the discoveries being claimed have resulted from long-term objective and detailed processing of the best available data. It is hoped that, some day, they may be considered to be of significance.

March 2003

Major changes in human thinking have sometimes resulted from innovative work carried out by lone individuals working in isolation. Understandably, the reactions of professionals operating within the boundaries of established knowledge are initially hostile towards such work. This article is about work to probe phenomena currently regarded as taboo by the pillars of modern science. As a result, it has suffered hostility and summary dismissal for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, as will become apparent, the discoveries being claimed have resulted from long-term objective and detailed processing of the best available data. It is hoped that, some day, they may be considered to be of significance.

Human Limitations

A Quaker philosopher, Isaac Penington, wrote in 1653:

All truth is but a shadow except the last, except the utmost; yet every truth is true in its kind. It is substance in its own place, though it be but a shadow in another place ....
Surely, no truer words have ever been written. Each human generation is trapped within its accumulated knowledge-base and paradigms. This situation is changed only gradually as the old foundations are replaced by new discoveries. Most people are averse to sudden changes.

The dangers of making discoveries ahead of their time have been adequately demonstrated throughout history. What is considered acceptable in a given Age seems to be determined more by political and personal considerations rather than philosophical ones - and even scientists are not exempt from such pressures.

There has been no more effective way to incite outrage and ridicule from modern scientists than merely to mention that one has been researching U.F.O. phenomena. That despised acronym has become to many scientists like a red rag to a bull. Concerted attempts seem to have been made during the past thirty years to relegate the topic to the realms of science fiction. Nevertheless, such unexplained happening have continued to occur all over the world and, despite the much-quoted Condon Report's recommendations1 to the contrary, they surely merit thorough investigation and rationalisation.

During 1998, science writer and SETI author, Edward Ashpole, and I co-authored an essay for a competition being promoted by The National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), Las Vegas. Edward Ashpole's suggested title for the essay was "The Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Solar System".2 He would write a "supporting science" rationale to preface my contribution, which would be a summary of the nature and the results of my thirty years' objective analysis, and global synthesis, of reports of unidentifiable aerial craft, collected from a period of more than a century. Much to our shared satisfaction, we were informed, some months later, that our essay had been selected to be one of three first prize winners of the competition. Furthermore, the NIDS people wanted to display the winning essays on their web site, and to bring them to the attention of leading academics and SETI specialists. So far, there have been no enquiries from any of those people as a result of the publishing of that essay. That has to be surprising in view of the profound nature of the discoveries being claimed. Could it be, given the prevailing attitudes, that they are being regarded as heretical and definitely unfit to be promoted by open debate?

This article is yet another attempt to break through into that exclusion zone. It will describe the manner in which the discoveries were made and will place them within the context of the past fifty years. Finally, the main discoveries will be listed for consideration. Having been arrived at through objective and painstaking analysis and synthesis of the best evidence available, if they are eventually validated by other researchers, they will change several existing scientific paradigms.

The Hynek Contribution

The late Dr. J Allen Hynek, an American professor, was the Director of the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center at Northwestern University and Chairman of that university's Astronomy Department when his book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry3 was published during 1972. Prior to that he had been the official astronomical consultant to the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, a project set up to investigate all American UFO reports and, subsequently, he had become a member of the University of Colorado's team created in 1966 to take over Blue Book files from the USAF. That team, headed by Dr. Edward U. Condon, produced the Condon Report (1968), which concluded negatively. The conclusion was not shared by all the members of the team and Prof. Hynek was one of those dissenters. He wrote his book to set the record straight and to share his own view of the topic. His book is almost essential reading for anyone wishing to come to terms with the discoveries about to be claimed in this article.

The original term "flying saucer" was eventually replaced by Unidentified Flying Object (U.F.O.) to describe mysterious aerial objects being reported by eyewitnesses. That change had the effect of clouding the issues quite effectively. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the name "flying saucer" had indicated that the object being reported had had the appearance of being an aerial craft of some kind, even though many were not saucer-shaped. When SAC were placed under the "UFO" heading, they became rarely-occurring items within a plethora of all sorts of things in the sky that members of the general public had been unable to identify. Whether that change of categorisation had been made deliberately to mislead, or not, it certainly provided the cynics with sufficient evidence to enable them to assert that UFOs were the results of inadequate observation - and any craft-like things were just figments of imaginations over-stimulated by sci-fi books and films.

Offsetting these dismissive assertions in his book of 1972, Dr. Hynek defined six categories for the UFOs he had investigated in his official role with the U.S.A.F.:

Nocturnal Lights - Strange lighting formations seen at night.

Daylight Discs - Objects witnessed in daylight, often disc-shaped.

Radar-Visuals - Objects seen and also picked up by radar.

Close Encounters of the First Kind (CE 1) - strange object seen at close quarters but leaving no physical evidence of its visit.

Close Encounters of the Second Kind (CE 2) - As for the First Kind but with physical evidence left behind.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (CE 3) - Alien creatures reported in association with a strange (usually craft-like) object at close quarters.

Subsequently, the last of these categories was brought into public focus by Steven Spielberg's famous (but fanciful) film of the same name. Hynek was the UFO advisor to Spielberg and his services were recognised when he was given a short walk-on part in the climax scene of the film. Unfortunately, that film opened the topic to a flood of even more fanciful films and TV series and these have played their part in further devaluing UFO research as a serious scientific pursuit.

A Personal Quest

Introduction to the UFO scene occurred, for me, during my final years (c.1953) at Grammar School. One day, a school friend who shared my intense aeronautical interests handed me a book. He asked me to read it and to give him my opinion of it. It was the controversial Leslie/Adamski book, Flying Saucers have Landed.4 When I handed it back, my view of it was that it was very fanciful. Nevertheless, that book made me wonder whether there might be better ways of flying than those we already knew about and set me thinking along those lines. Particularly, it focused my attention on the nature of Gravity. Two years later I had realised my ambition to become accepted as a trainee engineer in the British aircraft industry. One of my new-found friends re-introduced me to the UFO topic when he handed me a book by the late Major Donald Keyhoe, a retired U.S. Marine with contacts in the Pentagon. The book's title was The Flying Saucers are Real.5 That book certainly opened my eyes to the possibility that alien technology could be visiting this planet and it caused me to keep my mind open to new information.

By the year 1967 I had settled with my wife and small son in Bramhall, a Cheshire village on the fringes of the large Greater Manchester conurbation. During the late summer of that year the local press began to feature reports of strange aerial craft received from residents in the South Manchester area. As the weeks passed, the reports became more frequent.

Prior to all this, during the period 1959-1963, I had been a member of the Special Projects Office, Weapons Research Division (WRD), A.V.Roe & Co. Ltd., located at Woodford Airfield, near Bramhall, Cheshire. My work in that think-tank had involved participation in feasibility studies of advanced space launchers and, also, analysis of photographs of existing launchers (American and Russian) to determine their performance capabilities. Our long-term objective had been to explore means by which a more economical launcher system might be produced to enable Britain to maintain a Space Programme. Unfortunately, all that came to an end when new owners, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics, Ltd. decided to close WRD, beginning with the closure of the Special Projects Office during 1963. I had then been pleased to accept a transfer to the Wind Tunnels Department of Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Ltd., at the same airfield site. This was still my application when those reports of strange things in the sky began to create newspaper headlines.

Investigations Begin

Having the background just described, I was naturally curious to know more about the strange aerial craft (SAC) being vividly described by the eyewitnesses during 1967 and began to carry out private investigations of them. Most of the witnesses had been deeply shocked by the sight of large, noiseless, craft hovering or moving slowly over their homes and surroundings, usually at very low altitudes. Furthermore, the craft had sometimes glowed in the darkness and/or displayed multitudes of brilliant lights. There were also several sightings of craft-like objects during daylight. As my investigations of local events progressed, I learned that similar reports were being recorded in the Stoke-on-Trent area of Staffordshire. Subsequently, in 1968, I was able to incorporate some of those events into my database after the limited publication of an in-depth report6 produced by two Stoke-based amateur astronomers, Roger Stanway and Anthony Pace. Having selected some fifty convincing cases from this combined database, I progressed into analysis of craft characteristics and a survey of all the sites from which reports had been received during that exciting period occupying the months between July and December.

The analysis of craft characteristics revealed a number of commonalties effectively defining them as being technological objects demonstrating capabilities beyond human achievement. Even though a variety of shapes was evident, all had appeared to have been propelled in the same puzzling manner. They had operated silently, close to the treetops, in radar clutter, and had sometimes been witnessed to depart, finally, by streaking upwards with very high accelerations, before being lost to view in seconds - thereby again avoiding detection by the radar systems then in service. It was found that the sites visited had mostly occupied a narrow, 35 miles wide, magnetic north-south band, with the newly opened M6 motorway lying near its centreline and that large man-made topographical features, capable of being seen from high altitude, had occupied all the sites visited. Taking all this evidence together, it seemed logical to conclude that a developing part of NW England had undergone detailed survey by non-human agencies. The evidence pointed towards space as being the likely source of those agencies.

After having drawn so much from the data already collected, I decided to continue monitoring British reports and to analyse them progressively. This spare-time study continued until 1973. All the early findings had been, by then, vindicated and there was felt a desperate need to be able to begin a study of similar reports gathered from all over the world. Only in that way would it be possible to recognise any planned activities from space -- it being hoped that, as within Britain, evidence of planned surveillance might become evident in other parts of the world.

The Global Study

Through an association I had established with the Manchester-based investigations group D.I.G.A.P. (Direct Investigations Group for Aerial Phenomena), I was able to create a global database by selecting the most significant reports from two independently-produced comprehensive catalogues. The earliest report selected for a global distribution exercise occurred in 1865. However, when the exercise developed to consider the dates and times of the recorded events, the original database had to be reduced because some records did not provide sufficient information. The earliest case qualifying for the timing exercise occurred in 1885 and the number of cases selected had been reduced from 450 to 368. Then followed years of processing. Several unproductive attempts to synthesise the data used up many hours of precious spare time, but each attempt seemed to point towards another possibility to be investigated. By 1980 a discernible global pattern of activity had emerged from all this, strongly indicating that some sort of programmed, automated, surveillance had been carried out over a period of some 86 years - and was being continued. All the evidence seemed to suggest that the small SAC seen in the atmosphere had been delivered to, and retrieved from, the targeted locations by larger craft operating mainly in space. Further intensive study of the possibilities during the early 1980s led to the recognition of a coherent strategy. This finding was then presented for consideration during an invited lecture to B.U.F.O.R.A. (British UFO Research Association) in May 1987. No lasting follow-up resulted from this, possibly because many present at that lecture did not have the necessary background required to understand the rudiments of astronautics and astro-navigation. Even if anyone there had had that kind of knowledge, they would have found themselves faced with a very unfamiliar scenario. In view of that probability, I felt the need to develop the work, so as to enable testing to be carried out, using new data.

Development by Computer

Until a PC was purchased during 1988, all the work had been done manually. Then began work to write computer programs for the PC that would encapsulate mathematically the features of the model derived by slide-rule and graphs. By 1990 the essential programs had been written and tested.

Next began the process of collecting data to check whether new reported events seemed to confirm (or otherwise) the model created from the historical database.

The reasons why those people already familiar with astronautical techniques would have found themselves considering an unfamiliar scenario were these:


  • The evidence had suggested that those hypothetical delivery/retrieval "motherships" had always approached the Earth in retrograde motion: ie. from East to West, against the planet's rotation.

  • They had always entered short-term or partial orbits, at the same precisely-determined super-orbital speed, to carry out their drops and retrievals, the implied speed being roughly Escape Velocity (if at 380 miles altitude).

  • The paths they had followed over the Earth's surface had repeatedly referenced a set of fixed navigational points on the Earth's equator.

  • Ten well-defined orbit inclinations to the equatorial plane had been adopted to provide coverage of the inhabited regions of the world lying between latitudes 76° North and 76° South.

    No humanly-produced spacecraft of the present time could possibly emulate this activity. Furthermore, the timings and dates of the reported SAC events in the atmosphere had indicated that


  • The paths in space followed by the hypothetical delivery/retrieval craft had been referenced to specific celestial markers.

    It was all rather incredible - and that was why testing was so essential.

    To date, almost 1000 additional selected cases have been processed through the computer programmes. The checking has been done in various ways. Sometimes I obtained a batch of sightings from a given area (eg. the San Luis Valley, Colorado) and this facilitated graphical as well as numerical checking of the data.

    Graphs are computer-produced for a specified location and the computer selects up to seven optional real-time paths in space (selected from the programmed global set) that could be used to access that site. As the programmed timing options available to the perpetrators are linked to celestial markers, the available times for delivery and retrieval of probes associated with the identified paths are predictable, and change from day to day with the movement of the Earth round the Sun. The timings graph displays a series of lines representing those times, throughout any year, for the set of available access paths identified.

    Superimposing actual (reported) time and date for each event on this arrangement of lines shows how close the reported time is to the nearest prediction at that date. If this is done for all the other reports in the same batch, it can then be seen if a particular path and/or orientation has been favoured to access that location. Such indications can aid in-the-field observations.

    Of the additional cases processed, over 60% (600+) of the reported times have correlated within 20 minutes of the nearest predictions. In considering that result, it must be remembered that surprised eyewitnesses do not usually look at their watches immediately on seeing a strange thing in the sky. In other words, some of the times given will have been given with hindsight and from memory. [One special exercise, with data not included in the main checking sample, checked a set of random times against the same number of collected recorded times for a given area and showed that about 20% (60) of the random times had not occurred within 1 hour of any predictions, whereas all the actuals had qualified within that timescale.]

    A further characteristic of the SAC seems to be revealed by these results:


  • Since the SAC in processed reports have been found, largely, to have been sighted within 20 minutes of the nearest predicted times, it follows that an atmospheric probe (SAC) is probably most visible soon after its arrival from space and, again, when it has become highly charged with energy just prior to its departure. However this observation does not preclude that visibility may also occur at other times during the duration of its clandestine mission.

    Examination of a significant number of alleged Close Encounters accompanied by a period of witness amnesia (now known as a CE 4s) has shown that the time at the beginning of the encounter and the time when restoration is experienced often correspond to the predicted times for two consecutive overhead passes of a hypothetical mothership. This implies that


  • the minimum mission time available to any probe (SAC), on a given day, is represented by the gap between two consecutive timing lines on the timings graph produced for a given location.

    Summary of Claimed Discoveries

    It is now possible to bring together all the elements of the Astronautical Theory for SAC/UFO Events, a theory encapsulating the following discoveries:

  • Strange aerial craft (SAC) displaying inexplicable characteristics, but described by reliable eyewitnesses, are physically real.

  • The SAC descend from the sky and depart back into it and display operational capabilities beyond our current understanding.

  • The SAC are atmospheric probes. They are deposited into the atmosphere by advanced spacecraft ("motherships") and are, later, retrieved by them.

  • All the fully automated craft are engaged in continuing Earth surveillance and exploration activities.

  • The hypothetical spacecraft motherships follow well-defined paths in space as they approach the Earth and then orbit transiently, at super-orbital speeds, to release the SAC over selected target zones on the Earth's surface before accelerating away.

  • The motherships' approach paths in space are governed by fixed (programmed) rules determining orbit inclination and celestial orientation.

  • Two kinds of celestial orientation have been identified. Two orientations are referenced to the fixed stars. The remaining two are linked to the position of the Sun amidst the stars and, therefore, move round the sky with the Sun throughout any year.

  • The presence of a solar system body (planet, minor planet, comet, etc.) in visual alignment with one of the programmed approach paths seems often to signal the choice of that path for the activity in hand.

    All of these claimed discoveries are now in great need of rigorous scientific investigation. In view of their potential importance and the weight of evidence supporting them, they surely warrant that kind of response, but to date there has been little movement in that direction.

    One notable exception has been the interest shown by an Irish astronomer who, having had much success in being in several right places at the right times, as a result of using my timing information, is now setting up a special observatory in a remote area of Ireland. The observatory will be equipped with advanced equipment to record and analyse the strange recurring UFO phenomena in the skies of that region. Mr. Eamonn Ansbro, FRAS, is a member of the SETV group of SETI scientists, whose aims are to search for evidence of ET vehicles in the Solar System.

    Testing by Amateurs

    Amateur direct observation groups, using supplied information from me, are sometimes reporting very high success rates. The category Close Encounters of the 5th Kind (CE 5) has been created by Dr. Steven Greer, founder and active member of the controversial Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI). Dr. Greer and his rapid reaction teams have visited many UFO activity areas in the world and claim to have witnessed SAC at close quarters on several occasions. The CSETI mission objective is to establish direct communications with the visiting craft. Light signals from powerful hand-lamps have been used, and it is alleged that signals have been returned by lights on the visiting craft during encounters. It is also claimed that some of those CSETI encounters were facilitated by the use of timing graphs they had received from me.

    Yet more cause for outrage

    For the sake of completeness, it seems important to record the author's investigations into the nature and cause of crop-circles. The 1987 BUFORA lecture resulted in a request, from someone present in the audience, that I might visit Southern England to view the strange circles appearing each summer in the crop fields of that region. That person was Colin Andrews, who is now a well-known celebrity. My first encounter with those enigmas occurred in August 1988 - and from the evidence presented to me then, I knew that the genuine items could not have been produced by any kind of mechanical means.

    This caused me to examine the nature of the swirled patterns produced by the flattened wheat and barley stalks. In this I was aided by near-overhead photographs of small circle specimens donated by Mr. F.C. Taylor (also now well-known as an aerial photographer) and by accurately measured drawings from Mr. Andrews. By analysis of the swirl patterns in each of the cases presented to me, I was able to discover a vortex law that applied to them all. That law did not apply to any natural vortex. When it was written into a computer program for my PC, I discovered the swirled patterns had almost certainly been produced by a piece of technology -- a rotating line-scanner. The stalks in the specimens examined had clearly been laid down as a series of strips. The computer program not only produced the correct swirl pattern but, also, the same number of strips observed in each case. This finding supported my initial observation that the stems had not been flattened by mechanical means and pointed instead towards a focused beam of high-frequency radiation, such as might be produced by a scanning airborne laser. However, the true nature of the beam is still unresolved, because not only would it have to have the ability to heat the plant cells, transiently, at the base of the stems, it would also have to be able to apply gentle overpressure in order to sweep the crop down in the beam's direction of travel, without causing damage. In my view, this is a form of technology not yet developed by Man, and the discovery gives credibility to the idea that genuine crop formations are the result of SAC activity.

    Furthermore, on several occasions these mysterious circles had been witnessed being laid down, without visible cause, in daylight. The time of each of those events, on the dates given, correlated very well with the nearest predicted SAC time for that local area.

    Documentation by the Author

    Over the thirty-six years of this study, the author has documented progress as it has occurred, at first in papers presented to B.U.F.O.R.A. during the 1970s. After the discovery of a programmed activity from space during 1979/80, he began to set down the details of the study in the form of a book, believing that only in that way could all the facts be presented together. The manuscript was completed during 1984, but it then failed to attract a publisher. The next attempt was the paper produced for, and delivered to, B.U.F.O.R.A. during May 1987.

    Over the period of computerised development, 1988-2001, several research papers were written to record investigations into various offshoots of the main theory. They were listed in the bibliography of a major paper7 produced during early 2001, the purpose of which was to place on record all the major steps which led, ultimately, to the derivation of the astronautical theory. That bibliography also listed all the earlier papers and the NIDS essay.

    Closing Comments

    In view of all that, it seems to be significant that, over the years, I have been unable to publish anything in scientific journals, that the British national press has always declined to publish anything about the work and that I have never received further enquiries following my few brief appearances on British television. Why did information sent to our Ministry of Defence (MoD), via MoD author, Nick Pope, fail to stimulate a request for more details? Once again, I have to suspect that I have discovered things that some people in high places think should be kept to myself.

    To offset this effective censorship by exclusion, during 1994, following up a 1992 offer from an ex-aerospace colleague, Roy Rowlands, I recorded the first of a series of three videos8 with the primary purpose of bringing together all the main threads of the work for posterity's sake. The final Part 3 was recorded during June,1999. Although this video trilogy is available in Britain through a local distributor, the major distributors do not consider it to be commercially viable - and that may well be the case. Unfortunately lacking any distributor in the U.S.A., the videos are not currently available in American NTSC format.

    Edward Ashpole, in his book of 1995/6, The UFO Phenomena,9 devoted an entire chapter to the basics of the AstronauticalTheory and requested a sky search by astronomers. The only person to respond, who was adequately equipped to carry out meaningful searches, was Eamonn Ansbro, the Irish astronomer referred to earlier. Edward Ashpole has continued to promote the work in various ways up to the present day.


    1. D.S.Gillmor (Ed.) Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. Univ. of Colorado under contract to the U.S.A.F. (1968).

    2. Dutton/Ashpole. "The Scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligences in the Solar System," Winner, NIDS Essay Competition, 1998. http://accessnv.com/nids/DuttonAshpole essay. shtml

    3. J.A. Hynek. The UFO Experience - A Scientific Enquiry. Abelard-Schuman Ltd. (1972).

    4. D. Leslie/G. Adamski. Flying Saucers Have Landed. Neville Spearman, Ltd. (1954 &1970). Paperback, Futura Publications, 1977, 1978.

    5. D.E.Keyhoe. The Flying Saucers are Real. New York: Fawcett (1950).

    6. R.H. Stanway/A.Pace. "UFOs, Unidentified, Undeniable," Newchapel Observatory, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Report, February, 1968.

    7. T.R.Dutton. "Puzzling Global Reports of Strange Aerial Craft (SAC)/ A comprehensive Technical Assessment and a Testable Theory/ 1. Early work and the derivation of an Astronautical Theory. Paper, March 2001.
    Read on-line.

    8. Dutton/Rowlands. We are DEFINITELY not Alone. Video series Pts 1,2 &3 (4.5 hours) PAL. 㿓 inc p&p (UK only). UK Distributor: Horizon Video, P.O. Box 3, Torquay, Devon, United Kingdom.

    9. Edward Ashpole. The UFO Phenomena. Headline Book Publishing 1995 & 1996 (Paperback).

    About the Author

    T. Roy Dutton CEng., MRAeS, MIMechE, is an innovative professional aeronautical and mechanical engineer, who served for almost 37 years within the British aircraft industry before his early retirement in 1991. Through his versatility (which enabled him to survive several reorganisations) he gained a wide experience of many aspects of the industry whilst serving at the same site. His career began with future Space applications and afterwards encompassed aircraft R&D, Aerodynamics, Performance, Design and Programme Control activities. Before his voluntary retirement at 55 he was a Principal Engineer, Future Projects Department, BAe PLC, Manchester Division, based at Woodford Airfield, Cheshire. He has a life-long vocational interest in aerospace matters in addition to a wide range of other interests besides, some of which this article encompasses. He is currently engaged in the design, building and testing of a large radio-controlled surface-skimming flying boat model, of novel design, with hoped-for future commercial applications - and has several other innovative concepts still waiting to be investigated. He is happily married, has one married son and now has three teenage grandchildren.

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