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9/11/2008 12:28:32 PM

1952 Washington D.C. summer sightings

Probably the most widely publicly circulated photograph of UFOs is from 1952 showing them flying over the Capitol. Some skeptics claim they're reflections of street lights, presumably caused by a thermal inversion. The lowest inversion during the sightings was at about 800 feet. I'm going to use somewhat technical terminology, but I'm sure you'll understand the analysis. The Capitol rotunda was illuminated by floodlights giving an incident light intensity on the building of at least 20 Lux. I'm not sure what type of street lights were used on the roads in the area, however I did a lot of research and found the G.E. NA-9 sodium vapor lamp was very common for illuminating highways and major thoroughfares. It produced 10,000 lumens. Simple geometry tells us when the light reached the inversion 800 feet above, it would have had an intensity of only about .01 or 1/100 Lux, 1/1000th foot-candle. That's as bright as a candle at a distance of around 30 feet. Pretty dim. In other words, the incident light on the underside of the inversion would have been at least two thousand times less bright than the incident light against the rotundra. Most likely less. This doesn't consider the difference in distances between the camera and inversion, and camera and rotundra, which would yield an even greater differential, since the Capitol was much closer to the camera. Yet, looking at the photograph it's very obvious the UFO's and Capitol rotundra were about equally bright. This can mean only one thing. The UFO's weren't reflections or refractions of street lights, but were objects in flight over the Capitol. Objects that were self- illuminated. Each appears to be identical in size and shape, which eliminates meteors. The only conclusion I can reasonably reach is these were extraterrestrial craft. Why were they the same brightness as the Captol? Perhaps to give a sign they were intelligently controlled.

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9/12/2008 9:02:48 AM

As I said, the light from the streetlamps would have had an intensity of about .01 lux or 1/1000 foot-candle on the inversion's underside. The refracted or reflected light from the inversion would have been .0025 lux or 1/4000 foot-candle on the ground directly beneath the inversion. That's about 1/4 as bright as a quarter moon. It's doubtful film of the period would have even been exposed at such low intensity, let alone produce such clear and sharp images on enlargement. Further, the uncropped photograph clearly shows it wasn't taken from directly below. Subsequently the light reaching the camera would have been lower, making it that much more unlikely the UFOs were a visual effect caused by streetlights interacting with a thermal inversion. While it's not critical, I'll try to determine about how far the camera was from the Captol.

9/12/2008 5:14:28 PM

Hi Joe,
Great to see someone doing some credible and worthwhile research regarding this (or any other) UFO sighting.

A couple quick questions pop into my mind that I'll ask here. For some odd reason, I am unable to find this case among the UFO Evidence cases! I did an advanced search for cases from 1952 in Washington, DC and the result is zero! This case was also not among the Classic or Major cases, again odd. Therefore I am just working from memory, so please forgive any mistakes.

Although you are attempting to debunk the (debunkers!) explanation that the sighting was reflections of light, was this not a radar sighting case? That is, the objects appeared on radar, so how could they simply be reflections of light?

I thought sodium vapor lighting, that you mention, was a relatively new technology, meaning not available in 1952, but I guess that is incorrect?

I thought that military aircraft were sent to investigate this sighting at least once (this being a mulitple instance sighting)? A bit extreme if the only motivation was lights in the sky seen by civilians.

Keep up the good work, UFOology needs all the credible help it can get!

9/15/2008 10:42:58 AM

Parsec, It's nice to meet you. I'll answer some of your questions. Sodium vapor lamps were first experimentally installed on June 13- 1933, in Schenectady, New York. They were 4,000 lumen lamps. In January of 1934, 10,000 lumen sodium vapor lights were installed in Revere, Massachussets. I know they were in use in 1951 in Lubbock, Texas during the famous sightings there. Sodium vapor lamps produced a characteristic orange-yellow glow. The photograph of UFOs over the Capitol building in 1952 show the Capitol bathed in an orange-yellow light, indicative of sodium vapor lamps. You're right, Parsec. These were radar/visual sightings. It's a typical example of debunkers having to come up with separate explanations for each. The radar part was caused, they say, by temperature inversions. The CAA immediately afterward conducted an "investigation" coming to this conclusion. My question is, how can a thorough investgation be done without the participation of the principle witnesses? To my knowledge, the radar operators on duty those nights didn't take part in it. Harry Barnes was the senior CAA radar operator on duty then, and like the others, had years of experience, including in the Washington area. He stated on the nights of the sightings, the radar operators were well aware of the presence of thermal inversions, and knew how they appeared on the scopes. They had seen them on many occasions, that summer and previous ones. The inversions always showed themselves as indistinct blobs. Dim, relatively faint. They always recognized them for what they were, and discounted them. The UFOs gave bright, strong, well defined returns on the radar screens. As they said, the same kind of return an aircraft would. Because what they were seeing on their screens was something they were completely unfamiliar with, the operators checked their equipment to see if it was working properly. It was. Many years later, they adamantly maintained the UFOs were unlike anything they had seen on their scopes, before or since.

9/15/2008 10:07:33 PM

Hi Joe, thanks for the tutorial on S-Vapor lighting, I recall them coming to the Chicago area in the 70's, which is why I thought they were something new at that time.

The story on the radar operators is very interesting and is a classic case of the powers that be creating the reality they wish to exist. Curious that these operators, whom were "unable" to discern the difference between temperature inversions and objects in the skies were allowed to keep their jobs, given such a level of incompetency. It's a good thing they did not ignore some of the other "temperature inversions" while on duty, the pilots on board would have been rather irate when told they don't really exist.

Is it so difficult to see the simple truths in these things, or do most people prefer to believe they were temperature inversions? Or is it simply to much effort to think. Regretably that seems to be the case.

Keep us filled in on your findings when you can. See ya on radar!!


9/24/2008 1:07:56 PM

In the interest of thoroughness, I'm pointing out someone elses analysis of the 1952 photograph of UFOs over the Capitol building which they say proves the UFOs are reflections of spotlights on the ground surrounding the building. It states the UFOs are in the exact same patterns as the spotlights. To show this, lines are drawn from the lights on the ground to the UFOs. I have several serious problems with the analysis. First, they're not spotlights surrounding the building, but clearly omnidirectional lamps. This makes a huge difference. The analysis accounts for only some of the lights around the building, not all. Why aren't " reflections" of the others seen? To make the analysis work, the lines from the lights on the ground to the "reflections" crisscross. Why? Doing so skews or biases the analysis in favor of reflections. Also, the UFOs are at a high elevation, at least 45 deg. If they were caused by spotlight reflections in the air, why would their beams be going over the Capitol building? Last, the analysis never does explain what the lights on the ground are reflecting off of.

9/24/2008 2:24:46 PM

One final critical observation about the analysis. The photograph accompanying it is the uncropped original. In it, the UFOs appear as round lights, the same shape as the lights on the ground, supporting the "reflection" conclusion. However, upon enlarging the UFOs one sees they're not simple round lights, but elongated. Like the orange or red balls with short tails described by some witnesses.

9/25/2008 8:27:05 AM

The author of this analysis basically connected the dots. If a person is presented with a group of dots and they look at it long enought they may mentally arrange the dots into something that isn't there. That's because the human brain likes order. A perfect example of this is how the constellations got their names. When our ancestors looked to the night sky they saw people, animals etc. See over there it's Cassiopeia, Taurus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Perseus, Pisces. Just because we perceive a connection doesn't mean one is there.

9/25/2008 12:02:08 PM

The analysis claims the lights on the ground were spotlights. As noted before, it can be readily seen they're omnidirectional lights. The obvious reason is that so much light is projected towards the camera. Another perhaps not so obvious reason is there aren't visible beams between the lights and the spots (UFOs) as would be the case had they been spotlights.

9/25/2008 2:05:48 PM

The more I analyze the analysis, the more holes in it become apparent. As noted before, it says the UFOs are in the exact same patterns as the spotlights. This can not be definitively determined since the photograph lacks depth.

9/29/2008 8:04:04 AM

While confident my observation that the Capitol's lights cited ijn the analysis weren't spotlights, but lamps for general lighting like streetlights, I tried to find specs on the Capitol's exterior lighting from '52, without luck. I researched the Capitol's present day lighting and found the area most of the lights mentioned in the analysis were in is called the terrace. Today the terrace is illuminated by 50 watt sodium vapor bulbs. Comparing the '52 photo with one from today clearly shows the same number (8) in identical locations. In other words, what we see in the '52 picture were essentially streetlamps, not spotlights. Presumably the person(s) doing the analysis wrongly asumed the imagined spotlights illuminated the Capitol Dome. Then, as now, the Dome was lit by lighting fixtures on the roof.

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