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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 Ensisheim, on November 5, 1990:

Case number:



Ufologist Franck Marie noted in his book on the observations of November 5, 1990, a sighting in Ensisheim in the Upper Rhine, by four witnesses; which came from a letter dated November 8, 1990, and a letter dated November 14, 1990.

The observation took place at 07:05 or 07:07 p.m. with an uncertainty of more or less minutes, and lasted 30 to 40 seconds.

Its is said it was seen from a car on the motorway from Mulhouse to Colmar, at the level of Ensisheim.

The observed phenomenon moved from west to east at low speed like an airliner in landing approach, at low altitude, very low on the horizon, and it quickly disappeared over the mounts of the Black Forest in Germany.

The description is: about a dozen bright spots of different sizes, non-aligned, moving at the same speed in the same direction axis.

Two or three spots let a bright white trail, others a little bigger trail, and a two or three also left an orange trail. The whole occupied a large volume in the sky and moved without noise. A big orange white luminous trail could be seen clearly seen, like a big headlight directed backwards. There were no abnormal reactions of the car.

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: ~07:07 p.m.
Duration: 30 to 40 seconds.
First known report date: November 8, 1990
Reporting delay: 3 days.

Geographical data:

Department: Haut-Rhin
City: Ensisheim
Place: In car driving on the A35 highway, UFO in the sky.
Latitude: 47.866
Longitude: 7.390
Uncertainty radius: 2 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 4
Number of known witnesses: 1 to 2
Number of named witnesses: 0
Witness(es) ages: ?
Witness(es) types: ?

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Letters.
Type of location: In car driving on the highway, UFO in the sky.
Visibility conditions: Night.
UFO observed: Yes.
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: Yes
Entities: No
Photographs: No.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): Yes.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): Yes.
Witness(es) feelings: ?
Witnesses interpretation: ?


Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Space junk reentry.


[Ref. fme1:] FRANCK MARIE:

JU 19H07 (+- 2 mn) 68 ENSISHEIM (40 s)

47°53n -7°21e 4 witnesses (Letter of 11/08/90) (Letter of 11/14/90)

"Place: in car on the Mulhouse-Colmar highway, at the level of Ensisheim

Date: Monday, November 5, 1990, at about 07:05 p.m. - Duration: from 30 to 40 seconds

Displacement: from west to east

Speed: slow like a plane in landing approach

Altitude: low, very low on the horizon, disappeared very quickly above the mountain of the Black Forest in Germany.

Description: many bright spots about ten, of different sizes, non-aligned but moving at the same speed in the same direction axis.

Some spots, 2 or 3, left a bright white wake, others a little bigger, 2 or 3 also, an orange trail. All occupied in the sky a large volume and moved without noise. The whole in rear view could be seen clearly in the orange wakes a white light, like a big lighthouse facing the back. There were no abnormal reactions of the car..."

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)


68G;EINSISHEIM [sic, "ENSISHEIM"]; 47.88;-7.35
30;150; 943/-80
Numerous luminous dots, some of them leaving white or orange 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.

In the case of this sighting specifically, everything matches the Russian rocket debris.


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 May 26, 2015 Creation, [fme1], [rai1].
1.0 Patrick Gross May 26, 2015 First published.

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This page was last updated on May 26, 2015.