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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 somewhere North of Strasbourg, on August 4, 2003:

Case number:

ALSACAT-2003-08-04-NORD-STRASBOURG-1

Summary:

On August 5, 2003, Christian Morgenthaler, of the SPICA Alsatian ufology group, informed the SPICA investigative team that a sighting was reported somewhere north of Strasbourg on August 4, 2003. The summary description was about a blurry cloud visible for six hours, from 00:00 to 06:00 a.m., to the North.

There were two witnesses, the youngest seemed impressed by what he saw, and photos were taken with a 4 megapixels digital camera.

Both witnesses had asked the newspaper Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace if there had been other witnesses.

Christian Morgenthaler and Dominique Schall of the SPICA met the witnesses on August 7, 2003, at 08:30 p.m.. They learn that the phenomenon was in reality observed for two hours, from 04:00 a.m. to 06:00 a.m., and to the south, at the approximate angle of 210°.

The photos showed the inevitable "shake". The two best ones, taken at 05:30 a.m. and 06:00 a.m., were shown to them as printouts by the witnesses. As they had thought to include a foreground, the phenomenon could be located respectively at 205° and 215°.

The youngest witness told them:

"I had decided, due to the heat wave, to spend the night from Sunday to Monday (the 3rd to 4th August) in the garden. About four in the morning I was awakened by the strange noise made by the pump of the pool. This happens from time to time and it is a technical problem. Waking up, I felt like something was just above the house standing still in the sky, just at the place where I saw the phenomenon. It had the form of a luminous ball of yellow / white color. Somewhat perplexed, I observed for a while before taking the first pictures and finally waking up my father. You can imagine his reaction!"

The father agreed to stand up and watched the thing too. His description differed somewhat from that of his son since he said he saw a luminous ball of yellow-white color, but with the impression that other smaller balls turned around it.

However, it was much less impressed than his sons, thinking that many other people see the same thing. Together, they took more photos, especially from the first floor of their residence.

With the photos, SPICA noted that the UFO was right on the ecliptic plane, so that an astronomical explanation could be fit. After having thought of the Moon, they determined that the UFO was Mars, who was then only 55 million kilometers from the earth. This was conformed by the ephemeris.

They enforced the explanation by the use of comparator for the two witnesses who give slightly overestimated values, but still correct, especially as the presence of haze had allowed the light from Mars to spread.

They thank the witnesses as well as a professional astronomer who helped them, suggesting mistakenly the Altair star.

The mother of the youngest witness had contacted the police by phone, SPICA thanks them for taking the affair seriously and SPICA concluded that all testimonials are important for a better knowledge of the UFO phenomenon.

The SPICA had published one of the pictures:

Photo.

Data:

Temporal data:

Date: August 4, 2003
Time: 04:00 a.m.
Duration: 2 hours.
First known report date: August 5, 2003
Reporting delay: 1 day.

Geographical data:

Department: Bas-Rhin
City: ?
Place: From the garden somewhere North of Strasbourg, UFO in the garden.
Latitude: 48.657
Longitude: 7.767
Uncertainty ratio: 20 km

Witnesses data:

Number of alleged witnesses: 2
Number of known witnesses: 2
Number of named witnesses: 2
Witness(es) ages: ?
Witness(es) types: Father and son.

Ufology data:

Reporting channel: Reported to the regional Press, then SPICA investigation.
Type of location: ?
Visibility conditions: Night
UFO observed: Yes
UFO arrival observed: ?
UFO departure observed: ?
Entities: No
Photographs: Yes.
Sketch(s) by witness(es): No.
Sketch(es) approved by witness(es): No.
Witness(es) feelings: Puzzled.
Witnesses interpretation: ?

Classifications:

Hynek: NL
ALSACAT: Planet Mars.

Sources:

[Ref. spa1:] SPICA UFOLOGY GROUP:

Scan.

Investigation:

A U.F.O. 56 million kilometers away.

On Tuesday August 5, a message from C. Morgenthaler informed the SPICA investigation team of an observation made somewhere north of Strasbourg. The summary description presents it as a fuzzy cloud, visible for six hours (midnight to 6:00 a.m.), heading north. The two witnesses - the younger one seems impressed with what he saw - even managed to take photos with a digital camera. It should be noted that these people were able to contact us through the Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace. Indeed, the witnesses first turned to this daily to find out if there were other observers. We warmly thank the journal cited above.

An appointment is made with the witnesses for Thursday August 7 at around 8:30 p.m. Elements are taken by C. Morgenthaler and myself. We arrive on the scene to realize that the primary description needs to be reviewed. The phenomenon was observed for two hours (from 4:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.), in a southerly direction, around the 210° angle. The photos, taken with a digital four mega pixels, are interesting despite the inevitable "shake". The two most impressive, taken at 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., are presented to us on paper by the witnesses. As they had the presence of mind to include a foreground, we situate the phenomenon respectively at 205° and 215° on the images.

The main witness describes the conditions of his observation:

"I had decided, because of the heatwave, to spend the night from Sunday to Monday (that of August 3 to 4) in the garden. Around four in the morning, I was awakened by the abnormal noise made by the swimming pool pump. This happens from time to time and it is a small technical problem. As I was waking up, I had the impression that something was coming from above the house to come to a stop in the sky, just where I saw the phenomenon. It appears in the form of a luminous ball of yellow / white color. Quite puzzled, I observe during a while before taking the first pictures and finally waking up my father. I let you imagine his reaction!"

The dad will agree to get up and observe the thing in his turn. His description differs somewhat from that of his son. This second witness saw a luminous ball, still yellow / white, but with the impression that other smaller balls were circling around. However, he is much less impressed than his son, and assumes that many other people see the same thing. Together they will take other photos, especially from the first floor of their residence. Note that this way of doing things is excellent, and we can never say enough that, faced with a phenomenon that is not identifiable at the time, taking visual or photographic landmarks is essential. It is also true that it is not always easy to have a camera close at hand. Even if this is the case, it is best to make sure there is film inside if it is a conventional camera.

Scan.

But let's get back to the investigation. Very quickly, we realize that the phenomenon is located right on the ecliptic (this imaginary line where the planets, the Sun and the Moon pass), and that the future identification is to be sought on the astronomical side. We think of a planet. For safety we ask the witness to take a photo of the Moon which has just risen, with the digital camera used during the observation. The resolution is excellent and we no longer doubt that a brilliant planet can be photographed with a camera of this quality.

However, the most obvious explanation does not immediately jump out to us. Without looking for excuses, it must be said that it is very bad to go and do an investigation having in mind the aspect of the sky seen from the side of amateur astronomers that we also are.

Habit leads to error and bad judgment.

The identification of the phenomenon is of course the planet Mars, which is in full phase of approach to honor its historic appointment with the Earth. Indeed, during the night of August 27 to 28, the beautiful red will cross the beautiful blue at only 55.758 million kilometers. The closest opposition since 73,000 years!

The consultation of the ephemeris immediately after the investigation will also provide definitive support for this explanation. The study of the diameter comparator by our two witnesses is also very telling:

Main witness - 8 or 9 for the phenomenon and 18 for the Moon.

His father - 12 for the phenomenon and 17 or 18 for the Moon.

These values, despite the overestimation, remain very correct and within the limits of what has been observed. The luminosity of the planet was also the subject of an increased diffusion at the time of the observation because of the light morning mist present.

C. Morgenthaler and I would like to thank the witnesses and their families for their very friendly welcome. Our thoughts are also with a well-known professional astronomer who offered Altair (the main star in the constellation of the Eagle) as an explanation.

His confusion is forgiven and we wish his wife a speedy recovery.

By way of conclusion, we want to send a little word to the Gendarmerie contacted by telephone by the mother of the witness for the signaling of the phenomenon, or even a statement or the beginning of an explanation. In knowledge of the well-known skepticism vis-a-vis the "UFO" phenomenon, of the number of existing hoaxes and of the contemptuous behavior of certain people vis-a-vis this matter, we thank the gendarmerie to always take the statements made by the witnesses seriously, who are like each of us human beings seeking reassurance. Research on the phenomena is advancing, scientists are beginning to ask questions. So each testimony is important and can be essential for an explanation or a better understanding of these phenomena.

Dominique Schall

Discussion:

There is no need for a discussion as the SPICA did the job.

Evaluation:

Planet Mars.

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 March 4, 2016 Creation, [spa1].
1.0 Patrick Gross March 4, 2016 First published.

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This page was last updated on March 4, 2016.