Exp�rimentations futures sur les Phénomènes observationnels anormaux

Robert M. L. Baker: The Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, vol. 15, n� 1, pp. 44 - 45, janvier 1968

The requirement for additional experiments in the area of anomalistic phenomena is given, based upon the paucity of "hard data"; relevant data collected by astronomers, meteoriticists, and meteorologists, which would be either overlooked or not detected; and the possible "filtering" and/or "editing" out of pertinent data by our various space surveillance systems prior to its evaluation. An experiment involving two cameras slaved to a detection radar is outlined broadly and it is concluded that such a system should be constructed for use in meteoritic, meteorological, astronautical, psychological, and "UFO" study programs.

The majority of our astronomical equipment (e.g., conventional photographic telescopes, Baker-Nunn cameras, meteor cameras, Markowitz dual-rate Moon Cameras, etc.) are special-purpose by their very nature and would probably not detect the anomalous luminous phenomenon reported by the casual observer if it were indeed present. Their photographic speed, field of view, etc. put definite limits on their capability to collect data on objects other than those for which they have been specially designed. Even if such data WCPP collected, the recognition of their uniqueness or anomalous character by an experimenter is improbable. Examples abound in celestial mechanics of minor planets being detected on old astronomical plates that had been measured for other purposes and then abandoned. Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto from rather old astronomical plates in storage is a well-known example. The space surveillance systems are almost programmed to overlook anomalous data. Any hard-data arising from an object or manifestation that did not move on a nearly two-body orbit, had a low radar cross-section, or followed an erratic path would most probably be filtered out of the system by various data-editing, or data-weighting procedures [1], which are inherent in most of our sophisticated space surveillance systems.

A representative space surveillance radar may have a beam width of 1/6� for detection and require accurate orbital information good to 0.01� for fine tracking. Needless to say, such radars often miss even well-known spacecraft and would be completely inadequate for "locking-on" to a hypothetical "UFO." To be sure, advanced radar systems are being developed for our missile defense systems, such as the ALTAR (ARPA Long-range Tracking and Instrumentation Radar), TRADEX (Target Resolution and Discrimination Experiments) and the phased array RESER (Re-entry System Evaluation Radar) system. Although they extend the field of view, they still are developed to filter out anomalous signals. As Cheettam [2] points out, "Power and aperture will be programmed after a learning measurement cycle to conserve and efficiently distribute available energy when and where (reentry) targets are estimated to exist."

Not only are conventional sensors almost insensitive to anomalous data, but observations published by trained scientists, that could be hard-data records of anomalistic phenomena, are often too quickly categorized and then forgotten. The observation by Mohr [3] in a letter to Science in 1966 gave an account of a "most unusual fly" and described a very remarkable and almost bizarre event that might or might not have been ball lightning. The Tunguska event of 1908 may well have been a impacting comet [4] and is usually studied in the context of meteoritics [5], Similarly, the Canadian fireball procession of 9 February 1913 could have been an ephemeral natural satellite of the Earth [6] or it could have been something more involved. In most such cases, and as in also the situation in published UFO studies [7], [8], [10], information-rich hard-data of high quality are rather hard to come by. It therefore suggests itself that a special experimental program is in order. The scientific method usually dictates experiments in the face of anomalous data and, at the moment, there seems to be sufficient unexplained anomalous hard-and-soft data to warrant an experimental program. Several experiments suggest themselves and might include geological studies, searches for scraps of material evidence, psychiatric-medical studies of witnesses, or radar/optical arrays.

In broad outline, one recommended experiment would involve a large aperture tracing radar that would slave two cinetheodolite-type optical trackers if and when an anomalous object appeared. The radar "lock-on" and tracking-data-analysis program would be especially designed to avoid satellites and, if possible, common meteors and airplanes, but would, for example, detect comet or macrometeorite entry, ball lightning, and any erratic or anomalous object within its range (a range that would probably be limited to 500 km or less). Thus, the system might at least provide accurate positional information that would provide useful meteoritic data and meteorological data in the absence of more bizarre phenomena. The cameras (preferably using Schmidt-type, Maskutov, or Baker catadioptric type optics and, perhaps, computer-enhanced digitalized pictorial data [11]) would be on a 5 to 10 km base line (the "lock-on" program for the active skin-tracking radar might follow the modified Leuschner differential-correction system suggested on pp. 114 and 115 of reference [1] and the system would need to be reliable enough to operate unattended for weeks at a time. As shown by studies of meteorite and comet flux, such as Hartmann's [12], Shoemaker and Lowery [13], McCrosky [14], and Lamar's [5], a waiting period of a year or so is necessary in order to have significant probability of detecting and tracking such natural extraterrestrial objects.

The question of the proper geographical location of the experimental site would almost be as important as the specification of the radar/optical and computer/communications complex itself. The meteoriticist would probably prefer an area with good atmospheric seeing and of low population density such as the "... Tucson area..." [15]. The geologist would prefer a location near dry lakes [16] in order to facilitate the possible recovery of meteoritic or other material, or timely study of manifestations of cometary impact or sub-end-point meteoritic debris [17]. The psychiatrist would be concerned with the psychiatric-medical credence levels of eye witness (soft data) associated with any hard data that might be obtained by the experimental array [18] as well as the general psychological analysis of the "... tendency all over the world to believe in saucers and to want them real, ..." [19]. Thus, he would tend to prefer a site in a moderate population density area. The physicist interested in ball lightning might wish for a site in which atmospheric electrical disturbances were frequent. As Singer noted [20], "The specific properties of ball lightning, which present particular difficulty in experimental duplication, are formations of the sphere in air (at near-atmospheric pressure and at a distance from the source of energy) and its extensive motion. It is evident that additional clarification of both theoretical and experimental aspects of this phenomenon is needed." Often marsh gas exhibits bizarre observational data and a location near a marsh might be useful in the examination of such phenomena. Clearly, an overall reconcilement of these diverse and interdisciplinary requirements must be accomplished during the site (or, perhaps, sites) selection process.

In summary, then, four points are to be made:

  1. That we have not now nor have we been able in the past to achieve a complete or even partially complete surveillance of space in the vicinity of the Earth, which would betray the presence of any anomalistic phenomena.
  2. That so-called hard data on anomalistic observational phenomena do, in fact, exist; but that they are of poor quality due to the equipment employed in obtaining them.
  3. That it follows from the scientific method that an experiment or experiments be devised to define better the anomalistic data.
  4. That, in order to justify such an experiment or experiments, it is not necessary to presuppose the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life operating in the environs of the Earth or to make very dubious speculations [9], [10] either concerning "their" advanced scientific and engineering capabilities or "their" psychological motivations and behavioral patterns.


The Senior Scientist of System Sciences Corporation,
a subdivision of Computer Sciences Corporation,
650 N. Sepulveda Boulevard,
El Segundo, California, 90245 and the
Department of Engineering, UCLA
November 21, 1967


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  2. Cheetam, R. P., J. Astronaut. Sci., XIV, No. 5, (1967).
  3. Mohr, F. B., Science, 151, pp. 634-636, (1966).
  4. Fessenkov, V. U., Physics and Astronomy of the Moon (Academic Press, New York, 1962), page 108.
  5. Lamar, U. L., and Baker, Robert M. L., Jr., "Possible Residual Effects of Tunguska-type Explosions on Desert Pavements." Presented at the 28th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Odessa, Texas, October 21-24, 1965.
  6. Baker, Robert M. L., Jr., Science, 128, 1211 (1958).
  7. Baker, Robert M.L., Jr., "Observational Evidence of Anomalistic Phenomena," J. Astronaut. Sci., XV, No. 1, January-February, 1968.
  8. Baker, Robert M. L., Jr. and Makemson, M. W., An introduction to Astrodynamics, Second Edition, (Academic Press, New York, 1967), pp. 325-333.
  9. Markowitz, William, Science, 157. pp. 1274-1279 (1967).
  10. Rosa, R. J., Powers, W. T., Vallee, J. F., Gross, T. R. P., Steffey, P. C., Garcia, R. A., et Cohen, G., Science, Vol. 158, No. 3806 pp. 1265-1266 (1967).
  11. Nathan, Robert, "Digital Video-Data Handling," JPL Technical Report No. 32-877, 1966.
  12. Hartmann, W. K., Nininger Meteorite Award Paper, Publication No. 3, by the Center for Meteorite Studies, Arizona State University, May, 1966.
  13. Shoemaker, E. N. and Lowery, C. J., "Airwaves associated with large fireballs and the frequency distribution of energy at large meteoroids." Presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Washington D. C., November 3-5, 1966.
  14. McCrosky, R. E., "Orbits of Photographic Meteors," Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory Special Report No. 252, October, 1967, page iv.
  15. Hartmann, W. K., (letter dated September 23, 1967).
  16. Neal, J. T., Office of Aerospace Research Report, AF CRL-65-266, April, 1965.
  17. Lamar, D., (in conversation on October 6, 1967).
  18. Walker, Dr. Sydney, III (in conversation on October 15, 1967) and Psychiatric Signs and Symptoms Due to Medical Problems (Charles C Thomas Publisher, Springfield, Illinois, 1967).
  19. Jung, C. G., Flying Saucers, translated by R. F. C. Hull (Routledge and Kegan Paul, Long, 1959), page x.
  20. Singer, S., in Problems of Atmospheric and Space Electricity, edited by S. C. Coroniti (Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1963), page 463.