Monday, July 21, 2014

Coincidence in Barbados

Yep, this one really is about Barbados. ... admit it, you always wanted to know something about Barbados.

It's October of 1980 and Allen Hynek is sitting at his desk at the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston trying to figure out the Universe. His peaceful reveries are broken by the arrival of the mail. One envelope bears a nice-looking stamp from Barbados --- doubtless some Center employee will swipe that for their stamp collection he thinks.

The letter is from a fellow astronomer, Philip A. Stahl, who resides in the division of Barbados called St. Michael [in the south central of the island.] His small observatory makes him a focus point for what is called The Barbados Astronomical Society. He has a major puzzlement that he wants Allen to solve.

Stahl had received a report that he thought remarkable enough to publish in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. On December 7th, 1978, a pair of adult witnesses had observed, on a well-overcast evening [no stars or Moon visible], a "large green luminous object." The thing was a very bright "ordinary" green [i.e. not lime green like the famous US Southwest Green Fireballs of 1949.] It appeared from behind one cloud bank, brightly illuminating all the clouds around it, Its size and hard-defined circularity made it just as if the Moon had turned green and was moving horizontally through the clouds. It disappeared behind another cloud bank, not to be seen again.

Well, how foolish, eh? The lady and her adult son were obviously seriously mistaken. The object surely WAS the Moon, and something about the atmosphere must have made it look green.

Nope. This lady was a founding member of the Barbados Astronomical Society, and she knew EXACTLY where the Moon would have been if you could have seen it that night. Whatever she saw, she and her Engineer son were sure that it was no Moon nor anything else they could think of.

Stahl was equally puzzled. His observatory was out observing that night and saw no Green Fireball. If there had been one, they too should have seen it. No reports anywhere in the island reached him. This was a locally limited phenomenon. Unless it was some kind of UFO, the only remaining hypothesis was a form of kugelblitz [ball lightning]. Kugelblitz usually isn't reported as brilliantly green, and especially isn't usually claimed to be that big [this would have had to be quite large to be going in and out of cloud banks looking like the apparent size of the Moon at the horizon.]

Stahl, in his paper, shook his head and punted. He said that kugelblitz was the favored hypothesis [he couldn't say "UFO" now could he?] and the distance must have been seriously misjudged --- though how excellent astronomical observers get going in and out of cloud banks wrong is "awkward".

So, the Universe punished him.

In late September 1980, he received another report.

On the 27th of September, 1980, a Queens College school teacher was picnicking on the veranda of her home. The sky was dark and overcast. That overcast blotted out the Moon and stars. [there were a few stars visible in the line of sight.] As she was staring in the direction of an old windmill on the southern end of the property, a spherical object "like a bright green headlight" descended from great height and disappeared beneath the trees standing to the windmill's left.

Ah! Another fireball no doubt. But there's a bit of a problem. She estimated the apparent size as equivalent to a 9 to 10" diameter ball held at arm's length --- try it, it's huge. It's particularly huge when you add in that the trees it disappeared behind were 100-150 meters away. At a minimum the thing would have to be wider than two+ ordinary houses. ... one heck of a fireball or a ball lightning.

So, Hynek, what's the answer?

Allen did what he always did when the going got tough....

He went to lunch.

Clearly there is one leading hypothesis...

The Moon is angry and is throwing pieces at us.

I have good Out Proctor evidence: I've seen Green Cheese --- obviously the explanation.

Peace, friends.

p.s. Marjorie Johnson's Faerie book is starting out to be very interesting reading.


  1. This is a very entertaining post which I just discovered. But here's a little added insight you may be interested in: the paper had been revised at the referee's behest and he found the "UFO" alternative to be "not useful" or "credible" ab initio. He did allow it to be considered amongst a selection of hypotheses, however. But the paper would not have seen the light of day period, had the UFO as an "alien artifact" been the final conclusion.

    Not wishing to have all the effort go to naught, I of course found for the kugelblitz hypothesis at the time. But understand I did actually suspect it to be a genuine UFO - though not necessarily a "space ship" from another world.

    1. Readers, we are honored to have the central figure in one of these posts correspond with us ... many thanks to you kind sir. .... and absolutely yes, your addition has been very interesting.