The Belgium Triangle UFO

The following is a report written by the secretarial staff

of the Belgian Air Force staff.


REPORT ON THE OBSERVATION OF UFOs

DURING THE NIGHT OF MARCH 30-31, 1990


1.Introduction

a. This report gives an overall view of the reports from the concerned Air Force units and of the reports from ocular witnesses of the gendarmerie patrols, about the unknown phenomena watched in the air space (hereafter called UFOs), south of the axis Brussels-Tirlemont, during the night of March 30-31,1990.

b. The observations, visual and radar, were of such a nature that the take off of two F-16 of the 1 J Wing has been decided, in order to identify these UFOs.

c. This report has been established by Major Lambrechts, VS/3 Ctl-Met 1.

2. Context.

Since the beginning of December 1989, strange phenomena have been regularly noticed in the Belgian air space. The Air Force has at its disposal several ocular witnesses, most of them having been informed by the gendarmerie. The Air Force radar stations could not confirm, in any case, up to March 30-31, these sightings, and the presence of the UFOs could never be established by the fighters sent in that order. The Air Force staff has been able to produce several hypotheses about the origin of these UFOs. The presence or the testing of B-2 or F-117 A (stealth), RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicles), ULM (Ultra Light Motorised) and AWACS in the Belgian air space during the facts can be excluded.

The cabinet of the MLV (Ministery of National Defense) has been informed about these discoveries. In the meantime, the SOBEPS (Societe Belge d'Etude des Phenomenes Spatiaux) got in touch with the MLV, in order that the MLV backed the SOBEPS in its inquiries about this phenomenon.

This request has been accepted, and after that the Air Force has regularly cooperated with this society.

3. Chronological summary of the events during the night of March 30-31,

1990.

Note: local time.

March 30:

23 h 00: The supervisor responsible (MC) for the Glons CRC (Control Reporting Center) receives a phone call from Mr. A. Renkin, gendarmerie

MDL, who certifies to see, from his home at Ramillies, three unusual lights towards Thorembais-Gembloux. These lights are distinctly more intense than stars and planets, they don't move and are located at the apexes of an equilateral triangle. Their color is changing: red, green and yellow.

23 h 05: The Glons CRC asks the Wavre gendarmerie to send a patrol at this place in order to confirm this sighting.

23 h 10: A new call from Mr. Renkin points out a new phenomenon: three other lights move towards the first triangle. One of these lights is far brighter than the others. The Glons CRC observes in the meantime an unidentified radar contact, about 5 km north of the Beauvechain airport. The contacts moves at about 25 knots towards west.

23 h 28: A gendarmerie patrol including, among others, Captain Pinson, is on the premises and confirms Mr. Renkin's sightings. Captain Pinson describes the observed phenomenon as follows: the bright points have the dimension of a big star(*); their color changes continually. The prevailing color is red; then it changes itself in blue, green, yellow and white, but not always in the same order. The lights are very clear, as if they were signals: this enables to distinguish them from stars.

23 h 30 - 23 h 45: The three new lights, in the meantime, have drawn closer to the first observed triangle. In their turn, after a series of erratic moves, they arrange themselves also in triangular formation.

In the mean time, the Glons CRC observes the phenomenon on radar.

23 h 49 - 23 h 59: The Semmerzake TCC/RP (Traffic Center Control/Reporting Post) confirms in its turn to have a clear radar contact at the same position pointed out by the Glons CRC.

23 h 56: After prerequisite coordination with the SOC II, and since all conditions are fulfilled to make the QRA take off, the Glons CRC gives the scramble order to the 1 J Wing.

23 h 45 - 00 h 15: The bright points are still clearly observed from ground. Their respective position does not change. The whole formation seems to move slowly in comparison with the stars. The ocular witnesses on ground notice that the UFOs send from time to time brief and more intense luminous signals. In the mean time, two weaker luminous points are observed towards Eghezee. Those, as the others, have also brief and erratic moves.

March 31:

00 h 05: Two F-16, QRA of J Wing, AL 17 and AL 23, take off.

Between 00 h 07 and 00 h 54, under control of the CRC, on the whole nine interception attempts have been undertaken by the fighters. The planes have had, several times, brief radar contacts on the targets designated by the CRC. In three cases, the pilots managed to lock on the target during a few seconds, which, each time, induced a drastic change in the comportment of the UFOs. In no case, the pilots have had a visual contact with the UFOs.

00 h 13: First lock on the target designated by the CRC. Position: "on the nose" 6 NM (Nautical Miles), 9000 feet, direction: 250. The target speed changes within minimum time from 150 to 970 knots, altitude coming down from 9000 to 5000 feet, then up to 11000 feet, and, shortly after, down to ground level. From this results a "break lock" after some seconds, the pilot losing the radar contact. The Glons radar informs, at the moment of the break lock, that the fighters are above the target position.

+/- 00 h 19 - 00 h 30: The Semmerzake TCC as well as the Glons CRC have lost contact with the target. From time to time a contact appears in the region, but they are too few to have a clear track. In the meantime, the pilots contact on VHF the radio of the civilian air traffic, in order to coordinate their moves with the Brussels TMA.

The radio contact on UHF is maintained with the Glons CRC.

00 h 30: AL 17 has a radar contact at 5000 feet, 20 NM away Beauvechain (Nivelles), position 255. The target moves at very high speed (740 knots). The lock on lasts during 6 seconds, and, at the break lock, the signal of a jamming appears on the scope.

+/- 00 h 30: The ground witnesses see three times the F-16 pass along. During the third pass, they see the planes turning in circles at the center of the great formation initially seen. At the same time, they notice the disappearance of the little triangle, while the brightest, western point of the big triangle moves very fast, probably up. This point emits intense red signals, in a repetitive way, during the manoeuvre. The two other points of the great triangle disappear shortly after. The clear points above Eghezee are no longer visible, and only the western brightest point of the triangle can be observed.

00 h 32: The Glons and Semmerzake radars have a contact at 110 / 6 NM away Beauvechain, which heads for Bierset at 7000 feet and high speed.

The registered speeds go from 478 to 690 knots. The contact is lost above Bierset. The Maastricht radar control center has had no contact with this UFO.

00 h 39 - 00 h 41: The Glons CRC mentions a possible contact at 10 NM from the planes, altitude 10000 feet. The pilots have a radar contact at 7 NM. Again is noticed an acceleration of the target from 100 to 600 knots. The lock on lasts only a few seconds, and the planes as well as the CRC lose the contact.

00 h 47: The Beauvechain RAPCON mentions a contact on its radar, at 6500 feet altitude, position away Beauvechain: 160 / 5 NM. The Glons CRC has also a contact on the same position. This one is observed up to 00 h 56.

00 h 45 - 01 h 00: Some attempts are undertaken in order to intercept the UFOs. The planes register only a few very short radar contacts.

The ground observers see the last UFO disappear towards Louvain-la-Neuve (NNW). Around 01 h 00, the UFO has completely disappeared.

01 h 02: AL 17 and AL 23 quit the frequency of the Glons CRC and go back to their base.

01 h 06: The Jodoigne gendarmerie mentions to the Glons CRC that has just been observed a phenomenon like the one observed by Mr. Renkin at 23 h 15.

01 h 10: Landing of AL 17.

01 h 16: Landing of AL 23.

01 h 18: Captain Pinson, who in the meantime has gone to the Jodoigne gendarmerie, describes his observation as follows: four luminous white points at the apexes of a square, the center of which is Jodoigne. The UFO seen towards Orp-Jauche (SW of Jodoigne) is the brightest and has a yellow-red color. The luminous points move with jerky and short moves.

+/- 01 h 30: The UFOs lose their luminosity and seem to disappear in four distinct directions.

 

4. General information.

a. Meteo. The data mentioned by the Air Force Wing Meteo regarding the concerned area and during the night of March 30-31, 1990, are the following:

Visibility: 8 to 15 km with clear sky. Wind at 10000 feet: 50/60 knots. A slight temperature inversion at ground, and another, as slight, at 3000 feet. These data are confirmed in Captain Pinson's report. He mentions also that the stars were clearly visible.

b. Because of lack of appropriate material, the ground observers could not make any photo or film of the phenomenon.

c. The UFO observed with a telescope is described as follows: a kind of sphere, a part of which is very luminous; a triangular shape could also be distinguished (For a more detailed observation, see Captain Pinson's report, in appendix H1).

 

5. Constatations.

a. In contradiction with other pointed out UFO sightings, for the first time a radar contact has been positively observed, in corrrelation with different sensors of the Air Force (CRC, TCC, RAPCON, EBBE and F-16 radar), and this in the same area as visual observations. This has to be explained by the fact that the March 30-31 UFOs have been noticed at +/- 10000 feet altitude, whereas in the former cases there was always talk of visual contacts at very low altitude.

b. The visual evidences, on which this report is partially based, come from gendarmes in duty, whose objectivity cannot be questioned.

c. The UFOs, as soon as seen by the F-16 radar in the "Target Track" mode (after interception), have drastically changed their parameters.

The speeds measured at that time and the altitude shifts exclude the hypothesis according to which planes could be mistaken for the oberved UFOs. The slow moves during the other phases differ also from the moves of planes.

d. The fighter pilots never have had visual contact with the UFOs. This can be explained by the changes of luminous intensity, and even the disappearance of the UFOs, when the F-16 arrived in the neighborhood of the place where they were observed from the ground.

e. The hypothesis according to which it was an optical illusion, a mistake for planets, or any other meteorological phenomenon, is in contradiction with the radar observations, especially the 10000 feet altitude and the geometrical position of the UFOs between themselves. The geometrical formation tends to prove a program.

f. The first observation of the slow motion of the UFOs has been made roughly in the same direction and with the same speed as the wind.

The direction differs by 30 degrees from the direction of the wind (260 degrees instead of 230 degrees). The hypothesis of sounding balloons is very improbable. The UFOs altitude during all this phase remained 10000 feet, whereas the sounding balloons go on higher and higher, up to burst at around 100000 feet. It is difficult to explain the bright lights and changes of color with such balloons.

It is very improbable that balloons stay at the same altitude during more than one hour, while keeping the same position between themselves. In Belgium, during the radar observation, there was no meteorological inversion in progress. The hypothesis according to which it could be other balloons must be absolutely dismissed.

g. Though speeds greater than the sound barrier have been measured several times, not any bang has been noticed. Here also, no explanation can be given.

h. Though the different ground witnesses have effectively pointed out eight points in the sky, the radars have registered only one contact at the same time. The points have been seen at a distance one from another sufficient for them to be distinguished by the radars also.

No plausible explanation can be put forward.

i. The hypothesis of air phenomena resulting from projection of holograms(*) must be excluded too: the laser projectors should have been normally observed by the pilots on flight. Moreover, the hologram cannot be detected by radar, and a laser projection can be seen only if there is a screen, like clouds for example. Here, the sky was clear, and there was no significant temperature inversion.

(end of report)

(*)sic


This is the transcript of the exchanges between the pilots and the ground controller during the interception of "UFOs" over Belgium, night 30-31 March 1990 (TIME is GMT).

30/03/90 QRA(I) SCRAMBLE

TIME C P ITEMS TAD 465

 

2207 C Loud & clear how me

P Reading you 5, flight level 90

C Task VID check armament safe

P Safe

C For your info, contact at your bearing 310 range is 15

P 310, 15, and confirm it's still on FL 90

C checking

220730 P Bravo reading you 5

C Bravo 5 as well. No

C No height on the contact for the moment

P Both levelling off FL 90

C Roger and both starboard 310

P OK, SB 310

C Last altitude on the contact is FL 210

C Keep on turning, roll out 320

P 320

2208 C 320, 17 miles. And for the moment maximum level 10000ft

P Steady 320

C Roger 330, 5 to 10 right range is 15

Possible altitude 10000ft

P Steady at 10000. No contact

2209 C Contact 330 range 10. 11000ft

Starboard 330

P Steady 330

C 330. 5 right range is 9

P No contact keep on taking

C 345 range 7. Reduce speed. Slow moving

P Roger, slow moving

C Still at 10000ft. Bearing 345 range 5

P Confirm altitude

2210 C Last altitude 10000ft. Check 10 left range is 3. Left side 2 miles. No altitude. Passing overhead

P No contact

C Just below you

P Say again

C Just below you now. Both vector 090.Contact is 090 range 2

When steady check 090 range 3. Slow moving.

Inside turn 4 Nm, 060, 3.

P One blinking light just in front of you, do you see it, just below you. An orange one.

C Range is 3, 060, 3.

P ... heading 180. Roger reversing 180 You have contact on me MEEL. Roger contact on you.

If you reverse 180, on your nose 1 mile. It should be 1 o'clock for you.Blinking orange light.It's on the ground P Efflux, you still have the contact.

C Contact for the moment 020, 15

P Confirm 020

C 020, 5 miles

P See the blinking light I mean unreadable....flash

C 030, 6 miles

P Contact on the ground seems to be 1 light

C Another contact now 360, 10 miles

P 360, 10

2213 C Altitude 11000ft, 350, 11 miles

P I have a contact 9000 heading 250 at 970 knots

C Possibly your target

P One contact on the nose 9000ft speed 310

C Range is 6?

P Eddy do you confirm contact

I have the same in B 15 now unreadable

C Contact is at 3 miles now. On the nose 3

P Contact is coming in and out

C Roger and now... 2miles Right inside turn, level 1 mile 2214 Expedite right, roll out 130

P unreadable. 130

C 140 range 3

P Confirm heading efflux

C 130, 120 even. And continue roll out 180 He's now 170,4. Check camera on. 160, 3.

P Camera on I've a possible contact now at 550 knots in C. 6 alt 10000

C Just overhead 2215 If possible take a maximum of pictures.

P May I suggest you keep the HUD, I keep...

C At your 6 o'clock 2

P unreadable

P Efflux, give a new heading

C Roll out 360, 360, 2. unreadable Continue SB 030

P 030

C He's now 050, 3. Altitude 105. Keep on turningtowards 090

P Steady 090

C 090 on the nose 2

P One a/c passing below. Efflux is it possible ?

C At what altitude ?

P I see it efflux

C On the nose 2 miles

P MEEL, you see it, just below me now Efflux you have a new heading

C South, 2

P Say altitude

C FL 105. Snap 130. 130, 3. Last alt. reported 10000ft On the nose 2

P come in attack

C Past the contact now. Altitude is 10000ft

P I'm at 9000ft

C Still no contact?

P " " " ! Heading please

C 270, 2

P Confirm 260 2219

C 270 2220

P Roll out 270. Steady 270. 10000ft

C No more contact for the moment

P MEEL you switch 135 05 go

C Can you contact Brussels on 127.15

P 127.15, go Efflux, confirm new heading 2221

C Keep on turning right 090

P Turning left 090. Efflux steady east now

C Roger, maintain

P Positive contact as well

C For the moment no more contact on the scope 2222

P No contact on the scope as well Check fuel. unreadable Possible contact at 19 miles 800 knots h 350 2223 3000ft // Efflux confirm one contact at 5 miles, left side, speed fast

C No contact for the moment

P 4 miles to the left

C Clear to investigate

P Investigating. Rolling out now 034 2224 Brussels is calling. No contact.

C Traffic approaching from 320 range 15, 9000ft. Possible contact bearing 270 range 12.

Starboard turn 2225

P Turning right 270 This contact seems to be civilian traffic

P Say again Efflux

C Contact is civilian traffic 2226

P Rolling out 277

C Roger, maintain 17 from efflux

P Come in efflux

C Did you see in the previous investigation...

P I had a kind of flashing light on the nose 5 miles

C And this light was coming from the south? 2227

P This light is steady

C When did you pass over the light, give me a top

P Turning left to pass overhead at 10000ft and give you the coordinates Just passing overhead the light

C Roger

P Coordinates : 50.32.08 04.11.08 Reversing east, 10000ft

C Roger

C Possible contact bearing 020 12 miles

P 12 miles looking out

C High speed roll out 040

P 040

C Heading is 115 Starb 060

P One contact on nose 10 miles

C That's the target. No alt on him for the moment

P Contact in C 12 MEEL, at 5000ft. 740 knots Good contact again. Investigating One contact on the nose 7 miles

C Chear to investigate, check armament safe 2231

P Sweet and safe

C Passing overhead BE for the moment

P Lost contact now, he's moving very fast

C That's affirm High speed for the moment

P One contact on the nose 6 miles, speed to 100 knots

C 080, 10 miles. Heading is 120

P 120 confirm

C Affirmative 2232

C Last alt. reported 10000ft 070, 10 miles

P 070, 10 confirm Rolling out 070. Altitude 7000ft Lost contact more info efflux

C Lost contact as well. It should be 090, 10 Roll out 100 2233

P 100

C Normally on the nose range 15 You have contact 2234

P No contact

C 095 Range 18 17, both starboard 310

P SB 310 Fuel 044

C 17 check playtime left

P Playtime left 15 minutes

P 17 steady 310

C Roger 17. Maintain hdg for the moment One civilian traffic 315 range is 12 at 5000ft in the TMA 2238

P Looking out Contact at 6000ft slow moving at C

C It's civilian traffic. Passing 2 o'clock 5 miles 5000ft, check 310, 12 miles possible contact 2239

P 10 miles on the nose 10000ft Contact

C On the nose range 7 2240

P Got the same

C Check camera on 2241

P Camera on

C If possible take max of pictures

P Very slow moving

C Check alt. of contact

P I still have the contact, 5 miles

C No height

P No height

C 3 o'clock 2 miles

P " " "

C Crossing left to right

P Say again

C Left side high

P Looking out. I see one beacon on the nose 2242

C One civilian traffic west, 10 miles

C Contact 100, SB 100

P Roger SB 100

C Civilian traffic 300, 5 miles

P " " " " "Steady 120

C Continue 100

P 100

C Even 060 now 060, 5

P Steady 060

C 060, 3. You have contact?

P One contact but speed is changing from 100 to 600

C I have the same contact

P Slightly to right 4 miles

C Affirmative. High moving

P Steady east now

C Roger

P Lost contact

C Both vector 180

2244 P Turning right south

C Contact south higher

P Looking out. Steady south.

C Nine o'clock 3. sorry 3 o'clock

P Steady south no contact 2245

C Disregard snap 360 now

P 360 to the left Check fuel

C Possible contact 350 range 10

P 350, 10

C 2 contacts due to civilian traffic same position 345, 9 left 330 17 left 330 left 330 2246

C Civilian traffic 340 range 7

P Contact on traffic

C At 5000ft, other contact at 325 range is 7, no height

P Contact on the radar now

C Check camera on

P Camera on loosing contact

C He's now 345 range is 5

P We have the same in B 8, 10000ft. MEEL

C 350, 3

P Radar contact Contact slightly to the left, 8 miles, lost contact now 2247 C He's at your 360 now 360...

P Request to turn north

C Clear now

P Steady north efflux

C Roger, no contact

P negative

C Reverse south (... going on up to time 22h53, but nothing really interesting) (The light at Coordinates : 50.32.08 04.11.08 has been easily identified; it was just a light on the top of a chimney stack).

The radar contacts of one F-16 with the so-called "UFOs" have been registered on a video record. One lasted for 46 seconds. Two F-16 were involved. One of the F-16 had 13 registered contacts; the other one had also contacts, but they were not registered because the pilot did not push the right switch. The contacts can be divided into 5 groups, separated by periods without contact.

contact lasting beginning

number (seconds) at

1 2.3 00 h 13 March 31,1990 (March 30 22 h 13 GMT)

2 3.4

3 19.9 00 h 15

4 27.5 00 h 29

5 8.0

6 11.4

7 9.3

8 < 0.1

9 45.9 00 h 39

10 16.2

11 11.4

12 9.5

13 11.2 00 h 46

All positions and speeds are available on the video record. Speeds of vertical displacement seem to be sometimes above 1000 knots.

Measured speeds are digitally displayed with only three numbers, so 200 knots could be 1200 or 2200 knots. Knowing that, positions and speeds can be correlated (however, above 1000 knots, the three last digits are dubious).


Here is the transcript of one of the contacts:

Seconds after Heading Speed Altitude lock-on (degrees) (knots) (feet)

00 200 150 7000

01 200 150 7000

02 200 150 7000

03 200 150 7000

04 sharp 200 acceleration 150 6000

05 turn 270 = 22 g 560 6000

06 270 560 6000

07 270 570 6000

08 270 560 7000

09 270 550 7000

10 210 560 9000

11 210 570 10000

12 210 560 11000

13 210 570 10000

14 270 770 7000

15 270 770 6000

16 270 780 6000

17 270 790 5000

18 290 1010 4000

19 290 1000 3000

20 290 990 2000

21 290 990 1000

22 300 990 0000

22.5 300 980 0000 Break lock

When you see for example altitude 5000, this means between 4500 and 5500.

So 0000 means between 0 and 500. 0 is sea level; mean ground altitude in this area is about 200 feet (therefore 0000 means in fact between 200 and 500).


What follows are comments from a person who is in holidays at the moment, so I couldn't contact him to have his agreement to give his name, so I ammm following the net etiquette and won't tell it before he comes back. Anyway I quite agree with the following :

The Belgian skies south-east of Brussels were densely populated during the night March 30-31, 1990. There were at least three, and maybe six bright lights with changing colors, observed by gendarmes from 23 h (local time) to 1 h. There were two F-16 hunting true or false echoes from 0 h to 1 h. Local time = GMT + 2.

But there was something else. At 0 h 28, the Semmerzake radar detected an object 2500 ft over the western part of the Brussels agglomeration, moving towards Liege (roughly speaking, towards east) at 450 knots. At 0 h 29, the Glons radar detected it also. From 0 h 29 to 0 h 33, both radars followed the craft, which was going in straight line towards Liege, increasing its speed and its altitude. The Semmerzake radar spotted it again 6000 ft over Liege at 0 h 35, speed 650 knots. The last point was some 12 miles east of Liege, altitude 12000 ft, at 0 h 36.

The Semmerzake radar is an array type radar. It is used for military air safety. Semmerzake is about 30 miles west of Brussels.

Glons CRC is a part of NADGE (NATO Air Defense Ground Environment).

There are about 80 NADGE CRC in Europe (including Turkey). Its missions are: 1. detect and follow every flight in the Belgian air space, 2. identify friend or foe, 3. if foe, intercept and/or destroy according to the alert status. The Glons radar is a multipurpose impulsion type radar. Glons is about 6 miles north of Liege. The distance Brussels-Liege is about 60 miles.

There is another radar at Bertem, for civilian traffic. The craft passed 5 miles south of Bertem at 0 h 30. The Bertem radar did not see anything.

What was this?

1) Civilian traffic? I don't know anything in aviation, but I believed that airliners did not go that fast when they were that low. Also, I thought that each civilian flight was known to the military.

2) A little private jet? Maybe, if all this story is a hoax (it should be a really big hoax, with airship(s), jet(s) and probably ULMs). And are there private jets which go that fast?

3) A military plane? It was not one of the two F-16, which, instead of moving in straight line, were describing complicated loops (I have the plot of all the trajectories). In my opinion, it looks more like a stealth aircraft (F-117 A or TR-3 A), because it was seen only from certain angles. The Bertem radar, which was the best located, never saw it. But apparently the Belgian military did not know of this plane, at least in May 1990, when the Belgian Air Force released its first report about the incidents:

# 00 h 32: The Glons and Semmerzake radars have a contact at 110 / 6 NM

# away Beauvechain, which heads for Bierset at 7000 feet and high speed.

# The registered speeds go from 478 to 690 knots. The contact is lost

# above Bierset. The Maastricht radar control center has had no contact

# with this UFO.

 


Summary

29 November 1989: Massive sightings by at least 30 groups of witnesses between Liege and Eupen.

30 March 1990: Belgian Air Force scrambles two F-16s in response to ground sightings; multiple radar locks obtained by both ground and airborne radar.

22 June 1990: Belgian Air Force releases detailed information on the

30 March 1990 sightings, including radar recordings.

Conclusion: 'Unable to identify either the nature or the origin of the phenomena.' Balloons, ultralights,

remotely-piloted vehicles, conventional aircraft, stealth aircraft, laser projections, and mirages all

ruled out.

6 November 1990: Various sightings all over Europe. Paris Air Traffic Control sees the Triangle but nothing shows on radar. Others report triangles, balls, lights, smokes, etc. Locations include France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

 


The following report has been provided by Jean Manfroid of the Liege University and the Institute of Astrophysics. Mr. Manfroid is a subscriber to the ParaNet digest on Internet.

 

SCIENTISTS OF THE ASTROPHYSICAL INSTITUTE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LIEGE COMMUNICATE THE FOLLOWING REPORT ON THE SOBEPS BOOK ABOUT BELGIAN UFOS, AND AGREE TO HAVE IT DISTRIBUTED VIA PARANET.

 

Belgian UFOs

SOBEPS, a Belgian association of UFO buffs has compiled and published a series of accounts of UFO sightings in the Liege area. The title is "The UFO wave over Belgium" (in French), and it is now a top selling book here. The preface is by the French CNRS scientist Petit, well-known for the fact that his scientific inspiration is due to aliens (coming from planet UMMO, 15 light years from us, as you should know). Coincidentally, Dr Petit and others are publishing at the same time books on the UMMITs.

The Belgian scientific community and specially the astronomers have followed the development of this UFO story since its beginning two years ago. The first events were reported at a time when many astronomers were busy observing several comets, among other things. Moreover, Western Europe was blessed with nice weather, so that the night sky was particularly well examined by many expert observers. A very impressive Venus hung for several months in the evening sky. There was also a rather intense activity at the local airport, with frequent AWACS patrols. And, as usual, lots of aircrafts crossed the Liege area, with, at any time, a minimum of 3 or 4 to be seen.

As always during the eastern elongations of Venus (sensibly more than for the morning elongations, like the current one), we received many calls from people excited by strange lights crossing the evening sky. When more information was asked, it almost invariably turned out to be Venus, although the Moon and halos were sometimes implied. We were also asked to examine several video tapes received by the national TV station. Again, Venus was almost always the culprit. These tapes were, as a rule, affected by very bad images, the automatic focusing being fooled by surrounding objects, or by trying to catch a point source at infinity... Nice effects were obtained with extra-focal images of the aperture stop, pulsating disks etc. We were often surprised by the descriptions given by the people who took the videos: they cited distances of 30 or 50 meters, they spoke of hanging globes, moving rapidly, following their cars etc... though their recordings showed much more benign events.

Invariably, all those people were looking at the sky for the first time. This raises some doubts on the validity of occasional witnesses.

Some of these accounts, as well as others, were relayed by the media. Video tapes of aircrafts at night, showing only their lights were visible. The snowball effect rapidly developed.

Witnesses appeared, reporting triangles in the sky, while frustrated astronomers, albeit logging many more hours of observations (with sophisticated equipment), continued to see satellites, meteorites, aircrafts (at times as triangles of light spots). Apparently SOBEPS accepts the fact that Belgian UFOs adopted the international conventions for the lights on their flying crafts. That three lights could form a triangle seemed to have impressed SOBEPS analysts.

Meanwhile the public became "ripe" for a "serious" brain-storming by SOBEPS. Several observing campaigns were set up with many UFOs being caught. The air force was somehow involved, with air fighters ready to take off on short notice. One fighter caught, during a few seconds, spurious echoes with supersonic velocities. Certainly some atmospheric or electronic disturbance, but this was interpreted by SOBEPS as the ultimate proof of alien visitors (when a police radar clocked a road signal above the speed limit some years ago, nobody thought of that interpretation). Nothing was seen visually, which means that, though UFOs can be invisible, they do not have the certainly much simpler stealth technology.

Again, during those campaigns, expert amateur and professional astronomers saw no UFOs at all.

All these accounts are compiled in the biased SOBEPS book. A typical example of the scientific philosophy of the SOBEPS can be found in a UFO sighting during the February 90 lunar eclipse. Hundreds of people were in the field, observing the sky, and they saw the Moon, but also planets, stars, satellites and aircrafts. But from inside the bathroom of a nearby house, one person glimpsed some fast-moving light close to the Moon. She got another brief glimpse from another window. This witness was retained in the SOBEPS compilation. The poor folks who had perfect observing conditions, who knew something about the sky, and who saw a plane instead of a UFO, are not given consideration.

The photographic and video material included in the report is very poor. After picking out aircrafts and astronomical objects, only out-of-focus, blurred images remain. Some of them certainly are fabricated. Most awful of all is the grotesque cover picture. One of the strangest aspects is that, in spite of thousands of witnesses, no clear, crisp, image has been produced. Any other so widespread phenomenon would have resulted in hundreds of nice photographs and kilometers of indisputable video material.

The release of the SOBEPS report was greeted by full-page articles in newspapers with provocative titles stating that alien visitors are among us, and that this is now a scienfically accepted fact. The national TV network danced to the same tune.

We made public our concerns on the issue and a note was quickly released to the press by 10 scientists from various institutions. This note found some positive echoes in the media.

Our intent was to disprove the alleged implication of the scientists in this affair (only 2 or 3 scientists are involved in the SOBEPS activities). We have looked at the SOBEPS report, and we found that it is in no way a scientific work. It does not bring the tiniest bit of evidence in favor of alien visitors.

Discovering evidence of extra-terrestrial life would be a tremendous feat in the history of mankind, but SOBEPS-like worksdo nothing toward such a discovery. On the contrary, there is some risk to bring bad publicity to serious projects like SETI.

A conclusion that might be drawn by some, is that the Belgian UFO wave is just a well-orchestrated commercial affair, with deliberate exploitation of human credulity.

Our general opinion is that the SOBEPS report totally lacks scientific objectivity.

N.B. An excellent, in-depth, exhaustive, coverage of the UFO phenomenon, had been published in early 1990, by Marc Hallet -- "Historical and scientific analysis of the UFO phenomenon" -- but in a limited number of copies. The small impact of this serious, scientific, work, compared to the giant waves generated by SOBEPS and other farcical compilations is frustrating.

J. Demaret, N. Grevesse, A. Lausberg, J. Manfroid, A. Noels J. Surdej, J.P. Swings

 

(Institute of Astrophysics, University of Liege)