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Sturrock Panel Report, "Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports": Project Hessdalen

Peter A. Sturrock

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Summary: Section on Project Hessdalen from the Sturrock Panel Conference Report, "Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports".

Peter A. Sturrock ,  Ph.D.

author's bio

Section 3: Photographic Evidence
Subsection: Hessdalen Project

Strand summarized the design and operation of the Hessdalen Project. Hessdalen is a valley in central Norway, 120 kilometers south of Trondheim. The valley is 12 kilometers long and a maximum of 5 kilometers wide. The hills to the west and to the east rise to about 1,000 meters above sea level. Most people in the valley live at a height of about 800 meters.

In December 1981 the inhabitants of the Hessdalen valley began to report seeing strange lights. They were sometimes visible three or four times a day. There were hundreds of reports during the period 1981 to 1985, but the phenomenon began to decrease during 1984, and since 1985 there have been comparatively few sightings. Most observations were on winter nights: there were comparatively few during the summer or during the day.

Witnesses reported observations that seemed to fit into three different categories:

Type 1: A yellow "bullet," with the sharp end pointing down.
Type 2: A strong blue-white light, sometimes flashing, always moving.
Type 3: A pattern comprising many light sources with different colors that moved as if they were physically connected.

In 1983, a small group with five participants set up "Project Hessdalen." They received assistance from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, the University of Oslo, and the University of Bergen. They carried out field work in the Hessdalen valley from January 21, 1984 to February 26, 1984, when up to 19 investigators were in the field at the same time. The project then involved three stations with observers and their cameras, some cameras fitted with gratings to obtain spectroscopic information. At the principal station, observers used the following equipment: cameras, some fitted with gratings; an infrared viewer; a spectrum analyzer; a seismograph; a magnetometer; radar equipment; a laser; and a Geiger counter.

Lights that were recorded to be below the contours of the mountains must have originated in the Hessdalen region, but lights that were recorded to be above the crest line may have originated at a great distance. Without triangulation or other information, it is impossible to determine the distances of the lights. However, some of the events that were seen as lights were tracked also by radar. If taken at face value, the radar measurements would imply speeds up to 30,000 kilometers per hour. (However, see Appendix 4.)

During a period of four days, unknown lights were seen on 10 occasions, and the flux-gate magnetometer registered 21 pulsations, of which 4 appear to correspond with the observations of lights, suggesting an association between some of the unknown lights and magnetic disturbances. The gratings on the cameras were intended to obtain spectroscopic data: the spectra appear to be continuous, with no indication of either emission lines or absorption lines.

Observations continue to be reported from the Hessdalen valley; the rate is now about 20 reports per year. An automatic measurement station, for installation in Hessdalen, is now being developed and prepared at Ostfold College (Norway), which is the present base of Project Hessdalen. This station will include a CCD-type camera in the visible region. The output from the CCD-camera will be fed automatically to a computer which will trigger a video recorder. This automatic station will hopefully prove to be but a first step in the development of a network of stations.

As a result of this presentation, the panel concluded that there would be merit to designing and deploying a not-too-complicated set of instruments. These should be operated according to a strict protocol in regions where the probability of significant sightings appears to be reasonably high. It is recommended that, as a first step, a set of two separate video recorders be equipped with identical wide-angle objectives and installed on two distant fixed tripods to help eliminate the possibility that some of the apparent motions detected by video recorders are due to the operators' hand movements or ground vibrations. It would also be useful to set up two identical cameras, one of which is fitted with a grating. However, experience so far at Hessdalen indicates that a grating may not be adequate for obtaining spectroscopic information. In view of the great importance of spectroscopic data, it would be highly desirable that special equipment be developed and deployed for obtaining high-resolution spectroscopic data from transient moving sources. This may be a nontrivial problem.

If it proves possible to obtain useful results from a small system, such as suggested above, one may be able to make the case for the design and implementation of a permanent surveillance network. This should be designed as a multi-purpose system so that costs and data can both be shared. This could resemble the Eurociel project that was studied in Europe in the 1980s at the request of GEPAN/SEPRA. (See Appendix 1.)

The panel notes that in cases that involve repeated, semi-regular sightings of lights (such as are said to occur at Hessdalen in Norway and at Marfa in Texas), it is difficult to understand why no rational explanation has been discovered, and it would seem that a small investment in equipment and time should produce useful results.

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Project Hessdalen (Hessdalen Lights)