The Phoenix Lights Were Flares
This past March 13th marked the 15th Anniversary of the infamous Phoenix Lights.
The event occurred on March 13th, 1997 in which colored, unidentified flying orb-like objects that allegedly hovered over the Valley of the Sun.
Unfortunately, to this day, the local media stations still pitch this as an unexplained phenomenon.
However, the facts about this speak for themselves. The Phoenix Lights were not unexplained and are not unexplainable at all.
The moment that each light disappeared on the videotapes and photographs used to document the event shows that the lights meet the horizon line of the Sierra Estrella mountains, proving that the objects were not over Phoenix but, in fact, were behind the mountains.
In reality, the orb-like colored objects seen that night were nothing more than extra military flares jettisoned by a group of A-10 ground attack planes on maneuvers at the Barry Goldwater firing range from Luke Air Force Base that evening.
A young man saw the planes through his telescope the night this event occured and a couple who were flying a plane near the site where this took place came forward and asserted the lights seen that evening were flares.
In March 2007 Lt. Col. Ed Jones, confirmed that he had flown one of the aircraft in the formation that dropped flares on the night in question.
The squadron he belonged to was the Maryland Air National Guard who used A-10 ground assault aircraft and were in Arizona on a training exercise at the time. The first reports that members of the Maryland Air National Guard were responsible for the incident were reported by Richard Ruelas of The Arizona Republic July 25, 1997
In an excellent, well-researched post on one website, Brian Dunning examined the flares used in the incident and how they correlate with what was seen that night.
The A-10 drops two different kinds of flare: a countermeasure flare, used to confuse heat-seeking missiles; and an illumination flare, used to light up the ground at night either for the benefit of troops on the ground or to light up a target so it can be visually targeted for weapons release. The illumination flare is the one we’re talking about. It’s called the LUU-2 air-deployed high intensity illumination flare. It’s made by defense contractor ATK Thiokol. The variant in use at the time of the Phoenix Lights incident was the LUU-2B/B. It weights 30 pounds and its canister is three feet long and 5 inches in diameter. Once it ejects its parachute and ignites, it puts out 1.8 million candela for 4 minutes, or 1.6 million candela for 5 minutes. It falls in its parachute at 8.3 feet per second. At 1000 feet above the ground, it lights up an area half a kilometer wide at 5 lux. The LUU-2’s pyrotechnic candle burns magnesium, which produces an intense white light. Because it burns so hot, it also ends up burning the aluminum canister, which adds an orange hue to the light for most of the burn. About halfway through the burn, enough of the canister has been burned away that it actually lightens the load and it falls more and more slowly. Once it’s almost completely out, an explosive bolt disconnects the parachute and the flare drops, burning out completely sometime hopefully before landing on someone’s wood shingle roof.
The Barry M. Goldwater Range is a big place — over 4,000 square miles — and the Phoenix metropolitan area is even larger, about 14,000 square miles. The distance between the two is usually cited at 60 to 80 miles, but as we can see, that’s going to depend on a lot. We do know a little about where the A-10’s were flying inside the Goldwater Range. The guy who was in the lead A-10, Lt. Col. Ed Jones, says they were near Gila Bend when they ejected the leftover flares, and Gila Bend is just about exactly 50 miles from downtown Phoenix. Mesa and Scottsdale are farther away, so let’s take a super rough stab at it, be conservative, and say that the average observer of the Phoenix Lights was 70 miles away from the A-10’s. The brightness of the LUU-2 seen from 70 miles away is roughly equal to a star with an apparent magnitude of somewhere between -3.2 and -4.3, which is significantly brighter than any stars visible in the sky, but not as bright as the full moon. The magnitude scale was developed by the astronomer Hipparchus, where +1 represents the brightest star in the sky, and +6 represents the faintest. -3.2 is quite a bit brighter than the brightest star. The noonday sun has an apparent magnitude of -26.7. Thanks to the guys on the Bad Astronomy and JREF forums who helped me with these calculations.
Yet another wrench in the machinery is that all of the above is dramatically affected by atmospheric conditions. It wouldn’t take much haze for absorption and scatter to obscure flares completely at that distance, and in the clear conditions predominant over Phoenix, lights are often distorted by an inversion layer, an effect that you can sometimes see when the landing lights of aircraft approaching an airport appear much bigger than they actually are. So we have a computation based on multiple unknown variables, any of which could wildly throw off our results. The one thing we can say with certainty is that the approximate brightness of the Phoenix Lights as seen in the photographs and videos does fall well within the wide range of brightness that’s possible from LUU-2B/B flares at 70 miles.
The U.F.O. and conspiracy theory crowd have milked this incident for all it’s worth. One con artist … er … author has written a book about the incident and a documentary about the Phoenix Lights was made too.
In an obvious act to gain publicity even former Arizona Governor Fife Symington recanted his earlier denial that the Phoenix Lights were U.F.O.’s and claimed he believed they were from the start.
Fortunately, one interview puts the notion of aliens from other planets visiting us to bed.
During March of 2010, The Seattle Times published a story detailing the experiences of James Noce who is a former U.S. Air Force employee and worked at the location known as Area 51 for over forty years. Noce points out that, while classified projects still go on at the base, the stories about unidentified objects and alien spacecraft housed at the military facility were tolerated by the military and C.I.A. since they helped take away attention from the top secret experiments conducted.
On the one hand U.F.O. believers claim advanced life forms galavanting around the galaxy exist and insist that we are not alone. But when faced with questions as to why aliens with superior knowledge and technology would resort to indirect contact with humans and only select certain people to make contact with or experiment on, they fall back into agnosticism stating we can and may never know their ways.
Such people make similar in many ways how proponents of the existence of God make the case for their deity. Believers in God state their deity exists but when confronted with specifics questions as to why he, she, it resorts to indirect means to make contact, religionists fall back into agnosticism claiming we can never know God’s ways.
As far as the Phoenix Lights are concerned, the facts clearly document that they were flares and nothing more. Other claims of visits by alien life forms are also debunked too. Not only due to questionable claims by some of their stories of seeing unidentified spacecraft and abductions but also the result of people, like James Noce, going public.
In an attempt to prove their assertions, proponents of U.F.O.s (in this case the Phoenix Lights) only have unprovable theories in an attempt to make money off of the curiosity and hopes of others.
This is not to say that there isn’t intelligent life on other planets. But if there is the beings on other worlds are not to the point where they are traveling across galaxies in technologically superior spacecraft. If they were we would have known about it by now since occurrences of people being visited by aliens from other worlds cannot ever be made or kept secret.
However, the fact that there has not been a major event in the vain of The Day the Earth Stood Still should be indication enough that alien life forms traveling through space utilizing space craft and other forms of advanced technology is nothing more than mythology.
UPDATE: 12/10/2012: Phoenix New Times reporter Daniel Ortega has written a report not only explaining what he saw the night of this incident but why there are so many conflicting accounts.