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ALSACAT:

As its name suggests, ALSACAT is my comprehensive catalog of UFO sighting reports in Alsace, the region is the North-East of France, whether they are "explained" or "unexplained".

The ALSACAT catalog is made of case files with a case number, summary, quantitative information (date, location, number of witnesses...), classifications, all sources mentioning the case with their references, a discussion of the case in order to evaluate its causes, and a history of the changes made to the file. A general index and thematic sub-catalogs give access to these Alsatian case files.

Case of Duttlenheim, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1995-11-05-DUTTLENHEIM-1

Summary:

From ufologist Christian Morgenthaler, we have an observation report of November 5, 1990, near Duttlenheim, documented in the ufology magazine Lumières Dans La Nuit in July 1991.

A motorist was near Duttlenheim, driving towards Strasbourg, when he observed three lights placed in a triangle with the point ahead, passing over the highway from Molsheim to Strasbourg and then making a turn to the east.

The front light was white, both lights at the back were bluish. The thing made no sound, and seemed to fly low.

The phenomenon came from the direction of the Hautepierre district of Strasbourg.

About a minute later, two military jets followed the same path, and took the same direction as the triangle with the same turn. During the passage of these jet planes, the witness heard the sound of engines, and recognized the shape of the jet planes.

The commander of the air base, after a letter was sent to him, replied that the concurrent passage of the two military jet planes had nothing to do with the appearance of "the aerospace quirks."

The investigator said that the case is explained as caused by the civilian aviation, others said that it was the famous Russian space debris return of November 5, 1990, and others that it was a UFO of the alleged November 5, 1990, UFO flap.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: November 5, 1990
Time: 06:22 p.m.
Duration: ?
First known report date: July 1991
Reporting delay: Hour, 9 months.

Geographical data:

Department: Bas-Rhin
City: Duttlenheim
Place: From the car driving near Duttlenheim to Strasbourg, UFO in the sky.
Latitude: 48.518
Longitude: 7.566
Uncertainty ratio: 1 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 1
Number of named witnesses: 0
Witness(es) ages: ?
Witness(es) types: ?

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Local ufologist Christian Morgenthaler.
Type of location: From the car, driving, UFO in the sky.
Visibility conditions: Night
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: ?
Entities: No
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: ?

Classifications:

Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Probable airliner, or space junk.

Sources:

[Ref. fm1:] FRANCK MARIE:

JK 06:22 p.m. (+- 8 mn) 67 DUTTLENHEIM

43°25n -7°33e 1 witness (LDLN, #304)

Extract from the report - Investigator: Christian Morgenthaler.

"Being near Duttlenheim, and drivin in the direction of Strasbourg, the witness observed three lights placed in a triangle, passing over the highway (Molsheim-Strasbourg) and then taking a turn to the east. The phenomenon was coming from the direction of Hautepierre. The triangle's front light was white, both back lights were blueish. The thing made no sound, and seemed to fly low. About a minute later, two military jet planes followed the same path and took the same direction as the triangle (turn). When these planes passed, the witness heard the sound of engines, and recognized the shape of the jet planes.

Note: The commander of the air base, after a letter we sent him, answered that the concomitant passage of two military jet planes is totally alien to the appearance of these aerospace quirks."

  • Transit: NW/SE, passage in the East, turn to the East, low altitude
  • Light: 1 white (in front), 2 bluish (at the back)
  • Tringular object point ahead
  • Two military planes follow the same trajectory (at 1 mn).

[Ref. ra1:] ROBERT ALESSANDRI:

OBSERVATIONS FILE NOVEMBER 5, 1990

Reference;Place;Latitude;Longitude
Time;Duration (sec);Heading;Passage at the closest
Angular elevation;Dimension(m/km);Distance Atmospheric re-entry (origin/passage at the closest)
Description
Remarks

________________________________________

67A;DUTTLENHEIM; 48.52;-7.55 18H22+-;;SE;E
;; 990/-26
3 lights in triangle, bluish behind, big white at the front
Turns to the East; 2 planes passed 1 mn later

[Ref. sp4:] SPICA UFOLOGY GROUP:

City Date and hour of observation General shape
Identification
General color
Hypothesis
Conclusion
DUTTLENHEIM Monday 5 November 1990 at 06:15 p.m. triangular
Civilian aeronautical
blanche
Civilian aeronautical
Solved

Discussion:

On 5 November 1990, one or two minutes after 07:00 p.m., a very commonplace phenomenon occurred, explained, and devoid of any actual strangeness, but it nevertheless started a UFO delirium of some of the French ufologists.

The sightings started with an explosive decay over the Bay of Biscay in France, resulting in combustion fragments seen from afar, and generally, as they approached, seen as a group of three main lights - hence it was called a "triangle" - of large angular size, and followed by trails of smoke and sparks.

Once over land, the thing was seen from different angles and at various distances by people on the ground, which gives a range of quite diverse descriptions.

The thing crossed France following a line approximately from Bordeaux to Strasbourg, in silence, in a straight line without any maneuver, in two to three minutes, reaching Strasbourg at about 07:06 p.m.

There were also sightings reported from the South of England, London, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, but not beyond.

In the evening, several Gendarmerie brigades contacted the National Center for Space Studies to report what people told them. Gendarmes brigades of Angers and Tulle got the chance to see the display themselves. In the evening, the Press service of the armies, SIRPA, confirmed that military pilots had seen something without being able to formally identify it. Near Paris airports of Orly and Roissy, the luminous phenomenon was seen from the control towers. Hundreds or even thousands of civilians reported their sightings to the authorities, the Press and other media.

Radio stations, television channels, newspapers, talk of a UFO, then a meteor, and finally the correct explanation appeared through information given by NASA: it was the entering in the atmosphere of the remains of a Russian Proton rocket launched from the Baikonur space center to put a Gorizont 21 satellite in orbit. Calculations had predicted the fallout of the rocket debris at its 36th orbit, crossing France from the South West to the North East on November 5, 1990 around 07:00 p.m.. SEPRA, then officially in charge of such matters, provided this explanation to news agencies on November 9, 1990.

In November 5, 1990 already, an amateur expert in satellites and space debris impact trajectory calculations, Pierre Neirinck, had seen himself, and had also identified the phenomenon, independently of NASA, as space junk from the Proton rocket.

Any sensible ufologist should have understood what is was from the beginning, given the descriptions, and at least understand thereafter that it was a classical space junk case. But some ufologists refused to hear anything about a rocket and continued to talk and write about it as a "UFO flap", of "400 UFOs" or even "thousands of UFOs", often mixing other, unrelated sightings that were more or less of the same day, sighting who have other explanations. This resulted in the continuing presence of this explained case as massive UFO sightings in some of the UFO literature, and of course this includes observations made in Alsace.

Now let's comment on this sighting report:

Driving to Strasbourg in the vicinity of Duttlenheim, the witness had to be located either on the A352 highway, or the route de Strasbourg, both just a bit in the south of Duttlenheim, driving eastward.

Note that he thus faced the strip of the Strasbourg - Entzheim airport:

Note also the indication of a "non-rounded" hour "06:22 p.m." in [ra1] and "6:15 p.m." in [sp4]. But the return of the Russian space debris was at 19:03. When a time of minutes like "25", "15", we can think of a simple estimate of the time when it is "to the minute" as in "22", "43" may have thought the witness looked at his watch. Not here certainties, but nevertheless reasonable speculation.

Note that in the SPICA listing [sp4], the explanation is not that of the return of space junk, but "civilian aeronautical". SPICA of course knows of the Russian space junk, that they give as explanation to other cases of that evening, but here they give another explanation, suggesting that there may have be an investigation on their part that led to this conclusion. Christian Morgenthaler actually became a SPICA member.

Note the trajectory given path as "NW / SE, passing East, turn to the east." It corresponds neither to the Russian space junk nor to a plane taking off from Entzheim. But can we trust this anyway? A passing motorist does not necessarily get the correct orientation and did not necessarily check a compass.

Note that the witness also indicates that the object came from the direction of Hautepierre: this is a district of Strasbourg, northeast of the witness and this time it perfectly matches a plane taking off from Entzheim, and does not match the Russian space junk that went to the northeast, whereas the reported UFO thus came from the northeast.

As for the fact that two military jet planes pass a minute later, there is nothing odd about it. The first plane, unidentified, was perhaps a large airliner passing close enough to the driver and the two next planes, smaller, possibly most distant, seen from another angle as the driver drove one more minute, were recognized as such this time. Note that the witness said the two jet planes had followed the same path as what was considered to be a UFO.

So I think the right explanation is probably rather that of an airliner taking off from Entzheim, than the explanation by the Russian space junk.

Evaluation:

Probable airliner, or space junk.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:

Authoring:

Main author: Patrick Gross
Contributors: None
Reviewers: None
Editeur: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross May 17, 2015 Creation, [fm1], [ra1], [sp4].
1.0 Patrick Gross May 17, 2015 First published.
1.1 Patrick Gross June 11, 2015 Addition [sp4].

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This page was last updated on June 11, 2015