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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 Ensisheim, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:



Ufologist Franck Marie, convinced that "more than 400 UFOs" had flown over France in the evening of November 5, 1990, noted an observation in Ensisheim in the Haut-Rhin that day at 07:02 p.m. more or less two minutes, with a 90 seconds duration, reported by a witness by letter dated November 11, 1990.

The witness, responding to a call for witnesses about the events of November 5, 1990, indicated that on Saturday an explanation was advanced by scientists, that he is not a scientist, but a sane-minded witness of this "famous event" and that he doubts the explanation given - explanation which is not specified here although there had been several different explanations at that time.

He said it was 15 to 20 luminous stains from white to yellow color and of different intensities.

Some seemed to go out during the observation.

They appeared in the sky in the dark night with no moon, with stars, and followed a southwest toward northeast direction without any noise.

5 or 6 of the biggest lights were followed by a luminous trail, similar to a comet's trail. The formation of these spots was almost symmetrical and the largest was in a central position at the front.

The report is illustrated with this sketch:


This was, of course, one of the numerous sightings of what was absolutely not a "UFO", but the flaming debris of a Russian Proton that crossed the sky of France from the South-West to the North-East on that day and time.


Temporal data:

Date: November 5, 1990
Time: 07:02 p.m.
Duration: 90 seconds.
First known report date: November 11, 1990
Reporting delay: 6 days.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Ensisheim
Place: ?
Latitude: 47.865
Longitude: 7.348
Uncertainty ratio: 2 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 1
Number of named witnesses: ?
Witness(es) ages: ?
Witness(es) types: Not a scientist.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: ?
Type of location: ?
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: Puzzled.
Witnesses interpretation: ?


Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Space junk reentry.


[Ref. fm1:] FRANCK MARIE:

JT 07:02 p.m. (+- 2 mn) 68 ENSISHEIM (90 s)

47°55n -7°20e 1 witness (Letter of 11/11/90)

"You launched this week a call to witnesses concerning the events on November 5, 1990. And then on Saturday, an explanation was advanced by scientists. I'm not a scientist, but I was a witness, of sane mind, of this famous event of which the elements follow: Several bright spots (15 to 20) in colors from white to yellow and different intensities. Some appeared to extinguish during observation) appeared in the sky (dark night without moon with stars) and followed a direction SW/NE, without any noise. 5 or 6 major lights were followed by a luminous trail, similar to comets. The positions of these points was quasi-symmetrical and the biggest was in central-front position. So I am not a scientist but I doubt the explanation given..."

  • Transit : SW/NE, passage in the north
  • 15 to 20 white and yellow lights (extinction of some of them)
  • 5 or 6 big projectors followed of a trail
  • Quasi-symmetrical position of the set of lights
  • The witness rejects the official explanation for this precise case

The report is illustrated with this sketch:




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


68H;ENSISHEIM; 47.87;-7.33
;; 940/-81
Numerous white and yellow lights, the biggest leaving a trail


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.

Regarding this case, all is consistent with the reentry of the Russian rocket debris.

The witness dais he doubts the official explanation, but there are two big problems with this:

First, he gives no reason why the official explanation would be false.

Second, he does not say what official explanation he heard; we only know he disagrees with an explanation that was offered on Saturday after that Monday's observation.

But at this point in time, the correct explanation was not yet widely spread, it was virtually ignored in the media. The "official explanation" which SEPRA, the CNES agency supposed to explain UFO sightings or, as it was called at SEPRA, the "atmospheric reentry phenomena", had suggested as likely that it was a meteor,

If this is the explanation that the witness challenged, he was right, it was not a meteor. But this does not make it a "real UFO", it does not make it an alien spacecraft, or anything other than the reentry of the Russian rocket debris.

Franck Marie [fm1] usually made a point when a witness rejected the "official explanation", but one can see how meaningless an argument it is in this case.


Space junk reentry.

Sources references:

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

File history:


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

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross June 1, 2015 Creation, [fm1], [ra1].
1.0 Patrick Gross June 1, 2015 First published.

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This page was last updated on June 1, 2015