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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.

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Case of Colmar, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:



In his book "OVNI Contact - Une Enquête Choc - 400 OVNI sur la France le 5 novembre 1990!" ("UFO Contact - A Shock Investigation - 400 UFOs over France on November 5, 1990!"), in 1993, ufologist Franck Marie listed the many sightings over France that evening, of what he thought was "400 UFOs"; including one in Colmar, for which a letter informed of an "enormous triangular mass which is followed by numerous trails..." which had passed from West to East, at the zenith, at a slow speed corresponding to a journey of 180° in 5 minutes.

A "wingspan" is given as 1 meter at arm's length, a "width" is given as 35 cm at arm's length.

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 about 07:01 p.m.


Temporal data:

Date: November 5, 1990
Time: 07:20 p.m.
Duration: 5 minutes.
First known report date: 1993
Reporting delay: 3 years.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Colmar
Place: ?
Latitude: 48.079
Longitude: 7.358
Uncertainty ratio: 5 km.

Witnesses data:

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

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Letter.
Type of location: ?
Visibility conditions: Night.
UFO observed: Yes.
UFO arrival observed: Yes.
UFO departure observed: Yes.
Entities: No.
Photographs: Yes.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): Maybe.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): Maybe.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: ?


Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Space junk.


[Ref. fme1:] FRANCK MARIE:

JS 07:20 p.m. 68 COLMAR (5 mn)

(48°04n -7°20e) 1 witness (Letter of 11/09/90)

"It's a huge trinagular mass that is followed by numerous trails..."

The report is illustrated of this sketch:




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


68E;COLMAR; 48.07;-7.33
90;1200; 952/-61
Huge triangular mass followed of numerous trails


On November 5, 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.

On 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 case in Colmar.

The duration may seem long, 5 minutes. But we also see that the report claims the "UFO" was seen crossing 180° of the sky; which means, the entire sky, from one horizon to the other.

Of course this seems unreasonable, since the Vosges mountains block the Western horizon, as seen on the sketch itself. However, the "UFO" was likely seen on a good strech of its trip. The "5 minutes" might have been a bit exagerated too. A sign of unreliability is of course the time of the sighting, given as 07:20 p.m., whereas the space junk crossed the sky at about 07:01 p.m.

Surely some ufologists would insists that this time discrepancy would mean that what this witness saw was not the space junk reentry, but something else, an extraterretrial spacecraft they may want to claim. This, even though what is described is quite exactly alike to what hundreds of people described when the space junk crossed the sky...

But do not let yourselves fooled. It would be totally crazy to believe that such a "huge" thing, crossing the entire visible sky, 5 minutes long, at a time when many people are outside, would have been seen, in the whole Alsace, if not the entire France, by only one witness.

One needs to understand that when there are hundreds of testimonies of a single event such as a meteor or space junk reentry, it is simply impossible that one or more witnesses would not het the time a bit wrongly! Hundreds of quasi-simultanous witnesses of a single event just cannot all have looked at a watch to check the time; some must be slightly in error about that.

There is a frthe hint of this. I explianed it often, but it is not iuseless to repeat it once again:

When a witness gives a time such as "07:13", "11:28", you could assume it is a time that was checked against a watch, because it is not rounded.

When a witness gives something like "07:05", "11:30", the chances are high that it is an estimate made later, based on circumstances such as "about 10 minutes after I left the office", because it appears rounded.

Whatever the reality was here, taking the time of "07:20" as fact, as exact to the minute, is bad ufology. An experinces investigator must ask the witness, after he told of the sighting, how the time was known: "how do you know the time?" One has to get a detailed answer as to whether "I know because I immediately looked at my wristwatch" (an then the investigator has to wonder it the watch was set up properly) or whether the time is know by circumstances such as "that's about the time I am used to do (this or that)".


Space junk.

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 August 4, 2022 Creation, [fme1], [rai1].
1.0 Patrick Gross August 4, 2022 First published.

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This page was last updated on August 4, 2022.