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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 in Mulhouse, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1990-11-05-MULHOUSEBALE-1

Summary:

In April 2001, UFO researcher Joel Mesnard, in an article claiming that there was a UFO flap over France on November 5, 1990, reported that between Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin and Basel, there was an observation recorded by ufologists Jean-Jacques Goetschy and Thierry Guichard, of a "huge dark mass" that "seemed motionless, and had portholes" and had "disappeared at lightning speed."

Mr. F.B., aged 28, on November 5, 1990, between 7:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., was driving on the highway from Mulhouse to St. Louis, "adjacent to the Mulhouse-Basel Airport". He was with his wife and their 6.5 years old son.

Arriving at the height of the locality Ile Napoleon, these witnesses noticed several cars stopped on the side, the occupants scanning the sky. F. B. slowed and drove slowly, and it was then that his son and himself saw over a building to their left, a huge dark mass that stood out of the night by its extremely pronounced darkness.

The object seemed motionless, and had portholes with white lights in front and to the side. The craft was huge, it "looked like a small town, topped by a floor". The sighting lasted about ten seconds before "it" disappeared at lightning speed in the direction of Germany.

The investigators note that F.B.'s wife woman, yet very present during the event, did not remember anything during the interview. F. B. was struck by the resemblance of the object he observed with the one that was seen in the Dordogne, which is described in LDLN 310, p.16, the object being "almost identical".

There were twenty witnesses at the edge of the road, a remarkably high number, "but twenty witnesses do not mean twenty reports, unfortunately."

Except for Joêl Mesnard who believes that it was a "UFO", no interpretation or explanation is offered in the first source. But this was obviously one of the many observations of what was by no means a "UFO" but glowing debris from the Russian Proton rocket that crossed the skies of France South West North East that day and that time.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: November 5, 1990
Time: Between 07:00 p.m. and 07:15 p.m.
Duration: ?
First known report date:
Reporting delay:

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Sausheim, Illzach, Rixheim
Place: From car driving to highway at Ile Napoléon, UFO in the sky.
Latitude: 47.772
Longitude: 7.381
Uncertainty ratio: 500 m

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 3
Number of known witnesses: 2
Number of named witnesses: ?
Witness(es) ages: 28, adult, 6
Witness(es) types: A couple and their son.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Ufologists Jean-Jacques Goetschy and Thierry Guichard.
Type of location: From car driving to highway, UFO in the sky.
Visibility conditions: Night
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: Yes
UFO departure observed: Yes
Entities: No
Photographs: Yes.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: A huge craft with portholes.

Classifications:

Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Space junk reentry.

Sources:

[Ref. ld1:] JOEL MESNARD - LDLN:

Between Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin) and Basel: "The huge dark mass seemed motionless, and had portholes. It disappeared at lightning speed."

Jean-Jacques Guichard and Thierry Goetschy recorded the testimony of Mr F.B. (28-year-old), on November 5, 1990, between 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. traveling on the motorway from Mulhouse to St Louis (adjacent to the Mulhouse-Basel airport). He was with his wife and their son, aged six and a half. Arriving at the height of the Ile Napoleon locality, these witnesses noticed several cars stopped on the roadside, the occupants scanning the sky. F.B. braked, and drove slowly. It was then that his son and himself saw, above a building, to their left, a huge dark mass that stood out of the night by its extremely pronounced darkness. The object seemed motionless, and had portholes with white lights in front and at the side. The craft was enormous: "It looked like a small town, topped by a second floor". The observation lasted about ten seconds before it disappeared at lightning speed in the direction of Germany.

Investigators notes: F.B.'s wife, though present during the event, does not remember anything during the interview! (5) Mr. F.B. was struck by the resemblance of the object he observed with the one that was seen in the Dordogne; which is described in LDLN 310, p.16: the object is "almost identical". There were twenty witnesses at the edge of the road. (This is a remarkably high number, but twenty witnesses do not mean twenty reports, alas)

[Ref. ld2:] "LUMIERES DANS LA NUIT":

The magazine published a "summary map" of the 30 "most significant" sightings of the evening of November 5, 1990.

Among the latter, it is noted that between Mulhouse and Basel, according to LDLN 360 page 17 between 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. motorists had observed "a huge dark mass, with portholes and white lights on the front and side."

After a period of immobility, the thing moved away at dazzling speed towards Germany.

[Ref. ls1:] "OVNIS LUEURS SCEPTIQUES":

The authors indicate that in the case of November 5, 1990, between Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin) and Basel, it was said:

"The huge dark mass seemed motionless" and had portholes. It disappeared at lightning speed."

They comment that it is a good description of the reentry of the space debris at that moment, the apparent anomalies of trajectory can be explained by the movement of witnesses in the car.

They indicate that the observation was made by a couple and their child who were driving on a highway towards the east-northeast. They were very well placed to see the return passing at the closeest to their left (NSN), with an angular height of 51°. Their attention was drawn by many cars stopped on the roadside, whose occupants were peering at the sky.

The description and time correspond to the atmospheric reentry, the observation was short, about ten seconds only. In these ten seconds, the phenomenon had moved slowly enough to believe it was still, especially when one is in a moving car...

They indicate that only the disappearance "at lightning speed" remains to be explain but if one looks at the map, it can be seen that some 500 m after the place of the beginning of the observation, a distance that can be covered in about fifteen seconds on a motorway, the motorway towards Basel turns 90° to the right, so the reentry found isself quickly in the back of the witnesses, or at least at their rear-left, and so it is not useful to go further, "even if it is not a re-entry who saw this couple, one wonders what all the other motorists (a score according to this testimony) who had parked their car on the roadside to observe the sky were looking at!"

They indicate that there was another detail that had troubled Joel Mesnard: during the investigation, the motorist's wife did not remember anything of the event... A "strange amnesia" that Joel Mesnard related to that two of the four linas joggers, and the trend of the fourth to "minimize the incident"; but in reality two joggers had downplayed the incident and one had forgotten: which make Joël Mesnard "definitely well placed to realize that memory is fallible!"

They add that we would have liked to know when the witnesses were interviewed, what Joel Mesnard of course did not say, because "amnesia" would be strange indeed if the lady had been interviewed in the days following the observation, whereas if it is after 5 or 10 years, "I would think she just did not find this observation as exceptional as her husband, and having accepted the official explanation she ended forgetting this event she did not find that important."

In conclusion, it is noted:

"The only thing that really surprises me in this story is that even in such a case where the only detail that may seem bizarre is the "amnesia", Mesnard considers the date of the testsimony is unimportant information, not worth mentioning!"

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.

A few words on the case.

The location is at Ile Napoleon, right next to Mulhouse, so very far from Basel and the Basel-Mulhouse airport, about 30 kilometers away.

The "windows" are only an intepretation: luminous spots are estimated to be portholes lighted from inside a "craft".

This impression was linked to that of a "mass"; usually luminous dots in the night sky seem to fit a shape, by several possible mechanisms:

Note that the motionless appearance and start the start at "lignting speed" - no witness quote about that - would be, taken at face value, in flagrant contradiction with the observation of the Russian rocket debris.

But we can actually wonder how the witnesses would not have also seen the rocket debris; as they were at that hour at that place in the sky, highly visible...

Robert Alessandri et al [ls1] explain the motionless start and the fast departure well.

The motorist is driving from Mulhouse to St. Louis "on the motorway" and is located at the Ile Napoléon. The phenomenon is on their left. Here's the map:

The red circle represents the intercommunal area which is called "Ile Napoleon" - though since long not an island anymore.

Thus, the witnesses wanted to take the highway to Basel; so they were certainly on the road section in blue, then joined the motorway (green line) by the road section in yellow.

They say they first saw the thing above a building; the green circles materialize possible buildings.

On the stretch of road in blue, the space junk was indeed on their left, and when they took the road section in yellow, it appeared to drift, behind them.

The section of road in blue could make them think of immobility, and the abruptness of the turn to the right to the section road in yello made them think of a tremendous acceleration.

Evaluation:

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:

Authoring:

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

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross May 31, 2015 Creation, [ld1], [ld2], [ls1].
1.0 Patrick Gross May 3, 2015 First published.

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This page was last updated on May 31, 2015