This article was published in the daily newspaper Le Petit Mauricien, Maurice Island, March 10, 2005.
Fallen in Petite-Rivière yesterday evening
The UFO was a balloon
The Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) of Petite-Rivière is identified... the remains visible by Le Mauricien in the police station of the district, this morning, indicate that it was a large hot air balloon, made of paper. It is towards 23:30 yesterday evening that it supposedly crashed in the nearby cane field, in Bonieux, while still carrying cylinders of carbonized fabric - which were extinct thereafter -, indicate the police sources. The balloon could have been launched from Maurice Island itself. The weather services (which daily launch weather balloons, which use another technique of inflation) confirmed this morning that this balloon of Petit-Rivière is not one of theirs.
CI Chady and his colleagues of the police station of Petite-Rivière had difficlulties in making out a shape to the "UFO" while they took it out of the station this morning. And indeed: instead of an object out of metal that would have been launched by extraterrestrials or which would have fallen from a plane or from a satellite, it was an enormous piece of torn white and gray paper large like a cupboard, to which pieces of wire and three cylinders in carbonized fabric were attached. Obviously, remainders of a large paper balloon, which had been inflated with hot air by the burnt cyclinders.
Information obtained from police source gives a story of flames hung under a balloon while it approached the area of Port-Louis.
Among the remains visible this morning, there was a circle of tin wire, on which - all around - part of the large paper sheet is fixed. Under this circle, there are hooks, which carry the cylinders in carnbonized fabric. Indication of an artisanal construction of the system "heating" system of the balloon, known since centuries.
The principle: to heat air in "ballon" of light material: the hot air rises in the atmosphere, because it is less dense than the ambient air. If one produces sufficient heated air "imprisoned" in a balloon, it rises, carried by the heated air which it contains.
If the heated volume of air is sufficient, it can be also used to raise loads which are fixed on the balloon. An experiment largely put into practice since the first flights of Joseph and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier in ... 1783. The name "Montgolfière" indicates since then the hot air balloons, like those, done paper and of silk, which they used already at the time to make human flights. Nowadays, such flights use more advanced balloons of technology, with gas-burners which heat the air in large polymer balloons.
The polymer is also the material used in the manufacture of weather probe balloons. The latter are inflated with a light gas (helium or hydrogen) and rise in the atmosphere while "being raised" by this gas, less dense than the air. They carry weather sensors (temperature, moisture, wind, etc.) who return their data in the weather center while they rise in the atmosphere. Arrived at approximately 30 000 meters of altitude, they burst and fall down in the sea.
As this balloon does not come from the weather services of Maurice, the manufacturers of the "UFO" of Petite-Rivière, who repeated the Montgolfierexperiments, are yet to identify.
Airplane engine traces
No UFO either in the upper atmosphere yesterday towards 6 p.m.. The long white traces which stretched South to North gradually, in the sky of Maurice, were caused by a completely normal phenomenon of transformation into crystals, of gases produced by planes. The conditions of the sky - free of clouds - were favorable to the visibility of this phenomenon.
Airplane jet engines reject gases (among them steam). When they fly very high, where the temperatures are quite lower than 0°C, these gases change immediately in small crystals of ice. Behind the engines of the plane, is thus formed a crystal wake, which can be visible from the ground under certain conditions. Such was the case yesterday afternoon, during the passing of a very high plane in the Mauritian sky, plane which did not make a stopover in Maurice but passed, like many others, just above the island while following the road of the air control "checkpoints".