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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 Wolfgantzen, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:

ALSACAT-1995-11-05-WOLFGANTZEN-1

Summary:

In his book on what he thinks was "the UFO wave" of November 5, 1990 in France, ufologist Franck Marie gave a testimony written by a former pilot with 21 years of flying experience by letter on November 7, 1990, about his observation from Wolfgantzen near Neuf-Brisach, on November 5, 1990, at 07:00 p.m., lasting a minute at most.

The former pilot had apparently sent his letter to the Presidency of the General Council and to the newspaper Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace.

He reports that he was walking his dog along the "Kastenwald" forest when he saw a "luminous cluster" coming from the west and heading east.

He first thought of a night flight of airplanes or a drill flight of American bombers joining the Ramstein base, but the lights were not conforming to the external aspects of a squadron of airplanes on a drill.

He then found that the speed of the phenomenon was greater than the fastest jet fighters, with a flying altitude well above the average of "high altitude" flights.

Then he noted that the speed matched that of a satellite and not that of a meteorite.

He explains that as he had been a pilot for 21 years, he knows to beware of shapes that the human eye seem to see in relation to nocturnal occurrences; that taking into account the impacts of light appearing intermittently, the large space containing all of the fireworks, the speed and duration of the phenomenon, it could be "a satellite carrier rocket disassembling in contact of the atmosphere, creating the famous luminescent meteorite-type trails..."

This was, of course, as the witness correctly identified, 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.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: November 5, 1990
Time: 07:00 p.m.
Duration: 1 minute.
First known report date: November 7, 1990
Reporting delay: 2 days.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Wolfgantzen
Place: From the edge of the Kastenwald forest, UFO in the sky.
Latitude: 48.027
Longitude: 7.494
Uncertainty ratio: 3 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 1
Number of known witnesses: 1
Number of named witnesses: 0
Witness(es) ages: Adult or aged.
Witness(es) types: Former pilot.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Copy of letter to the regional Press.
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: Rocket debris.

Classifications:

Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Space junk reentry.

Sources:

[Ref. fm1:] FRANCK MARIE:

KB 07:00 p.m. 68 WOLFGANTZEN (Neuf-Brisach) (1 mn)

48°02n -7°28e 1 witness (Letter of 11/07/90)

Envelope: "Presidency of the General Council"; witness was a pilot for 21 years.

"Copy of this letter was sent to the chairman of the newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace

Subject: balls of fire in the Alsatian sky on Monday, November 5, 1990

Place: Wolfgantzen, near Neuf-Brisach

Hour: about 07:00 (Duration: 1 minute at most)

Circumstances: while walking my dog on the edge of the forest "the Kastenwald" I saw from the west a luminescent agglomerate going eastward.

First estimate: night flight of planes or formation of American bombers joining the Ramstein base! "

Second estimate: lights were not conform to the external aspects of planes in squadron formation.

Third estimate: speed quicker than the fastest jet fighter with flying height well above the average of a flight said "High Altitude".

Fourth estimate: movement speed corresponding to the characteristics of a satellite rather than a meteorite.

Conclusion: As a former pilot for 21 years ...; beware of shapes and forms that the human eye seems to see in relation to the material reality of the facts in the night; taking account of the light impacts appearing intermittently, width of space, containing all of this fireworks, speed and duration of the phenomenon. It could be a satellite carrier rocket disassembling in contact with the atmosphere creating these kinds of luminescent trails similar to meteorites..."

  • Transit: O/E, passage at the zenith, slow speed, low altitude
  • numerous blinking lights (firework)
  • Dispersed on a large width (excluding the high altitude!)
  • Apparent vastness of a set of lights

NOTE: It is obvious that the witness, a man experienced in the night vision and rationalistic, is troubled by the observation. His successive analysis, no doubt very fast, "adjusts" the overall assessment of the situation as of the progress of the phenomenon, based on logic but inconsistent findings among themselves in approach, low vision on the horizon, he thinks of landing aircraft but not signaling compliant); soon considering the apparent gigantism and slowness lights, the analysis then deducted a huge formation at high altitude (the fastest of the jet fighters, at the altitude of satellites). This visual immensity related to the altitude alleged here, means that the carrier rocket of which he tells us about would have measured hundreds of kilometers long. The witness also says he saw "light impacts appearing intermittently"; the flight is synchronous (everything moves together at the same speed on the same course), which could not be the case in the hypothesis - that of the CNES - he considers good. In addition, a re-entry has more the appearance of a short meteoric slow drag than a vast firework covering the sky. that's it: Beware of reasoning that the human mind wants to impose on itself, even to contradict the material reality... in the name of rationalism!

[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

________________________________________

68N;WOLFGANTZEN; 48.03;-7.47
07:00 p.m.+-;50;E;
90;; 959/-70
Group of lights leaving trails
The witness, former pilot, believes in the reentry of a rocket part

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 see this observation.

This was obviously the Russian rocket falling debris on that date, at this hour, in this direction.

Here, the witness is a former pilot - even if he is not in a plane at the time when he made the observation, many ufologists, skeptical or not, "quiver" when a pilot is involved.

For some, the pilot function guarantees a special quality to the testimony, under various pretexts: more credible, more reliable, more competent... For others, the fact that pilots see UFOs proves that "even" reliable people can be mistaken.

My position is: a pilot is to be considered in general as a person like any other person. Only a specific context can change the situation. A pilot in the middle of his career reporting something out of the ordinary may possibly be more credible than a prankster schoolboy for example, as the publicity would not be good for his career. A novice pilot can be mistaken and call Venus a UFO, whereas, possibly an experienced pilot may have gained experience of this sort of things.

What is interesting in this case is that we have a pilot who is going through the succession of hypothesis; which is classic, and finally reaches the correct identification, having rightly eliminated the incorrect explanations.

His explanation is correct: rocket debris.

Better still: his explanation is better than that of the famous amateur astronomers and satellite trackers Pierre Neirinck and Daniel Karcher: the latter both thought it was a satellite burning in the atmosphere, whereas or pilot correctly understands that it was the debris of a rocket that had brought a satellite on orbit.

We can marvel at Franck Marie rejecting that explanation by a totally weird mind process, accusing the pilot of rationalism and inconsistency!

The heights of wishful thinking are reached when Franck Marie claims to hold knowledge of "material reality"... His incompetence about this event is proven when he says, "an atmospheric reentry has more the appearance of a short trail meteoric slower than that of a large fireworks covering the sky"...

In many testimonies he presented, Franck Marie noted that "the witness rejects the official explanation"; Here, the witness finds the correct explanation by himself (on November 7, it was not publicized, there was talk of UFO or meteor) and Franck Marie rejects explanation by the witness...

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
Editeur: Patrick Gross

Changes history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross May 26, 2015 Creation, [fm1], [ra1].
1.0 Patrick Gross May 26, 2015 First published.

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