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  1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Aguadilla Wedding Balloons.

    Note From Mick The following post is a series of excerpts from a report prepared by Rubén Lianza, Commodore (ret), Argentine Air Force, who is the the Head of the Argentine Air Force Committee for Aerospace Phenomena Research. He asked me to share it here.


    On the night of April 25, 2013 at about 09:22 PM (local time), a Bombardier DHC 8 airplane operated by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection equipped with an Infrared camera, captured and followed a very peculiar flying object which yielded a fluctuating infrared signature over Rafael Hernández airport, Aguadilla (Puerto Rico). The object at times seemed to disappear (which was interpreted by some ufologists as “splashing into the ocean”) and also split into two pieces (1).

    The Aguadilla UFO video has been uploaded to many websites. Here is one

    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6s5RwqnnLM
    [Mod note: link in the PDF report is broken, replacing with a similar link]

    ...
    While attending a course on IPACO photo/video analysis software under Dr. Eng. François Louange, I was shown by my instructor a copy of the Infrared video of the Aguadilla UFO. Even though it initially seemed rather difficult to interpret (since I had never seen it before), after viewing it a few times and gathering enough evidence, I could come up with the explanation of what (I would later realize) for many UFO researchers was a true example of “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

    Making theories to fit the facts

    One thing that really helped me a lot to quickly interpret this alleged UFO as a wind-driven object was my former military pilot experience, having shot several airborne videos during hundreds of hours of test flights. But to avoid imposing here any “argument from authority” and to make this work completely scientific, I still had to demonstrate that the conditions for this object to be wind-driven must be met.

    So… no matter how familiar a wind-driven object would look to me, I started to work assuming this is a theory (not an obvious fact) so I would not contaminate my analysis with preconceived assumptions, thus following Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character (Sherlock Holmes) who quoted: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead theories to suit facts”.

    ...
    Question 2: Is it one object… or two? The timeframe of the video that shows the object splitting into two was crucial to determine its true nature. Far from being the result of a single image “duplicated” by atmospheric diffraction, as Bob Bixler suggested: “Some or all of the 9 factors above could lead to image shimmering and signal variability, mirages (double mirages) and signal loss” (3) or even the most bizarre explanation about an extraordinary flying object duplicating itself, the two objects do not show reciprocating (mirror) images, as some kinds of mirages usually do. They are identical in shape and size and also bear exactly the same Infrared signature. The upper “lobes” show hotter (darker) spots as much as at the bottom areas (where lantern´s fires are usually located).

    Under close inspection, it can be easily seen that each one of them is unmistakably manufactured in the shape of a heart.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-44-58.

    Their truncated bottoms owe their shape to the circular openings for the air intake right below the candles.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-45-18.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-45-27.

    Question 3: In case they were two lanterns, is it normal that sometimes they fly in pairs? The answer is YES. Applying Ockham´s razor principle, by approaching this UFO case starting from simpler to more complicated theories, and considering the humans´ social behavior before thinking about any non-human flying object theory, I believe this case might have been easily solved a long time ago, just if we bore in mind that heart-shaped hot air balloons are, in fact, released tied in pairs during some earthlings´ wedding parties.

    Indeed… there exist companies which sell pairs of lanterns in the shape of hearts paraphrasing the song “Love is in the air” (George Young and Harry Vanda, 1978) and offering the balloons tied up holding a banner with the names of the just married.

    upload_2017-7-26_14-45-52.

    ...
    Next, I looked for the weather report for that day at Puerto Rico´s Rafael Hernández airport (www.wunderground.com). According to the historical weather records, that night the wind was blowing from the East North-East quadrant.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-46-32.

    ...
    Question 4: Where did they come from? Many resorts in Puerto Rico offer their facilities for wedding parties. Among the most known is the Mansion Hacienda Villa Bonita, less than 10 km South East of the airport (www.mansionvillabonita.com/bodas):
    ...
    There are also many Beach Resorts where wedding parties take place. One of them located on the beach near Villa Montana shows in the Internet pictures of people releasing (you guessed) wedding lanterns (https://ar.pinterest.com/pin/350788258448744602/):
    upload_2017-7-26_14-47-23.

    The Villa Montana Beach is located right to the East North-East of the Aguadilla airport, exactly the direction the wind was blowing from the night of April 25, 2013! In the map below we can see the area where the alleged UFO was captured in video and the relative position of Villa Montana Beach Resort.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-47-39.

    ...
    Even though the complete IPACO report can be read on Annex A, we can here anticipate the conclusion that for a UFO size of about 3 feet (1 m.) of transverse height and width, the camera-UFO distance was calculated in 3.9 NM (7,223 m.).

    In the graphics below, I have superimposed frame 01:24:44 most relevant data, on a Google Earth (satellite) 3D view. This may help readers have a complete spatial perception of the distances, angles and especially about the fact that the UFO was, indeed, flying over land, although the frame showed only water in the background. All data were converted into the metric system for accuracy. Dimensions of the FOV have been exaggerated for readability.
    upload_2017-7-26_14-48-49.

    CONCLUSIONS:

    Summarizing all the reports written on this strange UFO case, in addition to my recent IR image interpretation plus having identified a wedding lantern release scenario in perfect coincidence with the prevailing winds the night of April 25, 2013, I can conclude with a decent margin of certainty that a simple explanation does exist for the flying objects captured by the Wescam Infrared camera over the Rafael Hernández airport.

    The alleged UFO was a simple pair of wind-driven hot air lanterns in the shape of hearts, tied together, very likely released during a wedding party, from a beach near Villa Montana Resort (or any place upwind from the Airport).



    Link to Original Report:
    http://www.ipaco.fr/EN_IFO_B_heart_130425.pdf
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
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  2. skephu

    skephu Senior Member

    Youtube link is broken.
     
  3. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    Attached Files:

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  4. Lance Moody

    Lance Moody New Member

    Hi Nick, As you know Our Facebook group built a 3D model of the scene and found that a small object floating at wind speed (like a balloon or lantern) PERECTLY matches the video. Additionally, we found many errors in the SCU report and came to the same basic conclusion that several other folks came to (Bixler, Lianza, et al) We detailed our findings for the SCU but they seem to avoid discussion, preferring to preach to the converted instead.

    Here is our model:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/g1d3b73g5qf8d42/Simulation September 2016.mp4?dl=0

    And here is how it was built:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/qd3niwkwf6hqdrr/How the Simulation was Made.mp4?dl=0
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
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  5. Jose Perez

    Jose Perez New Member

    1. Chinese lanterns do not go up and down, they just go up and when the wicks run out they fall off. 2. They emit incandescent light so they would look brighter in the infrared. 3 .. They do not circle around an airport. 4. They would have been seen by many people and would represent danger in a restricted area. 5. It is very rare that they can be moored 2 (although it may be, there must have been many more dragged by the wind in the same direction because they supposedly were comming from a weding clebration. I bet the researchers have never come to Puerto Rico. I'm one of the original investigators of this case. I'dont beleive ie a UFO but it is certainly NOT CHINESSE LANTERNS. My personal oppinion is that they are just a couple of seagulls flying at unison.
     
  6. Lance Moody

    Lance Moody New Member

    Jose Perez...none of your objections run counter to what is seen in the video:

    1. The various lighter than air hypotheses do not assume up and down (although there is around a 20m drop over time in our 3D model).
    2. Yes, the object shows as hottest in the frame (we are not sure that it is a chinese lantern but your objection does not contradict one.
    3. No one says (other than the SCU) that there was anything other than a mostly linear path in the direction of the wind.
    4. The company that launches these is nearby and the wind was correct for the night. Maybe they usually don't float into the airport's space. Maybe that is why the crew was interested in it.
    5. By moored, do you mean 2 tied together? We don't know the answer to this. Our group (PRRR) doesn't really buy the heart shaped lantern or the idea that there were two (but there could have been).
     
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  7. Curt Collins

    Curt Collins New Member

    I'm not sold on Lianza's tethered Chinese lantern explanation. It seems designed to answer why two objects seem to appear at times,but I'm satisfied that is just due to resolution problems from the IR imaging, the same shortcomings that makes the object seem to vanish at times over land an then over water near the end.

    Lianza agrees that it's a small object moving with the wind, so that's getting closer to the truth than a UAP defying the laws of physics as the SCU reported.

    The SCU, however, has issued a rebuttal to Lianza's report. While they seem less adamant about the extraordinary claims, they are clinging to the belief that the object passes behind trees and splits into two UAPs. SCU: Rubén Lianza Sky Lantern Hypotheses Rebuttal
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2017
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  8. Lance Moody

    Lance Moody New Member

    Really the biggest issue, unwisely glossed over by the SCU, is that ALL of their information on this case is second hand testimony. They have an unnamed person (whom they know) feeding them the supposed facts as they come from the supposed pilot (a unnamed person whom they DO NOT know).

    To compound their error and starkly demonstrate their biases, the SCU presents the claims of persons unknown on various internet sites as somehow supportive of their second hand testimony. Amazingly it seems to not be apparent to the SCU that those anonymous posters could easily be the same person as their source.

    The SCU assumes and presents all of this poor quality "testimony" as unquestioned fact.

    The truth is that this case should have been a non-starter from the beginning if those promoting it had any sense of how evidence works.

    Our (PRRR) digging found good evidence for who the second hand source may be (or perhaps the son of the second hand source) and found his YouTube page which features Chinese Lanterns labeled as UFOs!
     
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  9. Curt Collins

    Curt Collins New Member

    Mick, this should be dead, but the promoters of this, the SCU's Robert Powell in particular, continues to claim the "UAP" passes behind trees, briefly submerges into the ocean, and splits into two objects near the end. All these alleged actions seem to be shortcomings of the camera tracking it. Do you know an infrared camera expert that could comment on what's seen in the video?
     
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  10. Ruben Lianza

    Ruben Lianza New Member

    Dear Friends: I have finished my counter-rebuttal to Powell's reaction and it will be in about 7 to 10 days published in a blog from V-J Ballester Olmos (Spain) in English and Spanish. I was really sorry to have to write such a "surgical" reply to Powell's apparently "surgical" rebuttal, but my friend Vicente Juan Ballester Olmos asked me to write a comment on SCU reaction to my Aguadila UFO Case Resolution Report.
    Since you all deserve it, here I am passing you some excerpts in advance:

    The major flaw I see not only in Powell´s rebuttal but also in the initial SCU report, is that from the beginning to the end it is strongly influenced by a couple of wrong assumptions (most probably due to a regrettable optical misinterpretation) about the object´s ability to dive into the ocean and reproduce into two. In this sense I would strongly recommend to the international UFO research community to exercise extreme caution when looking at an IR video, since not all of its frames (if you are lucky, maybe just a few ones) can be interpreted the same way you would interpret an optical video. A good example of infrared imagery’s misinterpretation was the one suffered by CEFAA from Chile: after two years of allegedly “thorough professional study” an IR video was released on its web as a true UFO craft, when it actually was a commercial airplane within the Terminal Control Area of Santiago de Chile.

    The Chilean UFO was first explained by the IPACO team as a medium haul twin jet airliner (http://www.ipaco.fr/ReportChileanNavyCEFAA.pdf) and later as the most probable cause being Iberia 6830 (https://www.metabunk.org/explained-chilean-navy-ufo-video-aerodynamic-contrails-flight-ib6830.t8306/)

    Paradoxically, in order to refute my two-lantern hypothesis, Powell shows a link to another infrared video, showing two foil balloons tied together recorded by Chris Isbert (Black Hot LWIR [8-12μm] FLIR M-SERIES):

    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl2EQhNB-So


    upload_2017-8-20_10-40-16.

    Frankly, I see almost no difference between Isbert´s video images (top) and the Aguadilla images (bottom), especially where one of the balloons can be seen appearing behind the other in an almost 3D perception on both videos.

    Isbert´s valuable video also shows that, on infrared imagery, two or more objects can sometimes appear just as a single one (remember that infrared signatures only exceptionally can show the exact shape of the entire object). The same applies to both infrared videos:

    upload_2017-8-20_10-41-29.


    But most important of all, Chris Isbert´s video teaches all of us two important facts:

    1) Two Chinese lanterns can, in fact, be released tied together

    2) No matter how short or long the thread is, its gentle pull down (weight and air drag) is more than enough to bring both balloons together most of the time. It is a simple physical principle!

    If someone is having any doubt about the second point above, please go ahead and try it yourself. It works with any kind of lifting pair of objects, either hot air or helium balloons.

    upload_2017-8-20_10-42-8.

    In his rebuttal, Powell (SCU) seems to completely ignore this simple physical principle. The unfortunate proof of this becomes apparent when he writes: “The second issue with a Chinese lantern relates to a question of why didn’t the IR camera pick up the separation of the lanterns earlier in the three minute video. With two distinct heat sources separated by a minimum of three feet (the width of a lantern) the MX-15 system would have detected the two heat sources for a majority of the video”. Actually the laws of physics are telling us exactly the opposite: the balloons will stick together as a rule, and will became separate, only as an exception.

    Putting theories before the facts: Back to SCU’s major misinterpretation of the object(s) ditching into the ocean, I have no doubt in my mind that it was triggered as a direct outcome of his early misinterpretation of the object(s) flying behind trees. SCU clearly put theories before the facts subordinating mathematical calculations to a simple and wrong assumption: “…we calculated (UFO) speed only at points in the video when the object either moved behind another object… or at the times when the object entered the water”. However, in any scientific work, measurements must be made based on physical parameters or at least on facts, not on theories. By completely assuming that the object passed behind trees (simply not proven) shows us a noteworthy example of putting theory before facts!

    Needless to say, a more reasonable way to accurately measure the object should be when it is showing its perfect shape and full size and NOT its degraded shape and minimum size. The latter would be applicable only to an optical video, when the object is enlarged by blurring, in which case a frame with a smaller object would indicate better focusing. But just as I warned above, never judge every frame in an IR image with the same applied logic as with an optical one.

    In its initial report, SCU committed the fatal mistake of generalizing the idea that the object faded as a direct result of being masked by foreground trees and then translated that to a water masking. In their rebuttal they wrote: “…the only arguments as to why the disappearance of the object is an illusion have revolved around ‘could be’ and ‘could have’”. It is evident that Powell et al did not study all the clues before jumping into their ill-fated conclusion. As you can notice in the following frame, the object´s image fades away within the IR sensor´s view even when NOT having any trees in front of it:

    upload_2017-8-20_10-31-48.

    To realize how hasty a conclusion SCU made about the object fading due to flying behind trees, I’d urge the readers to review the Aguadilla video from frames 5990 through 6060 so you can judge by yourselves. I bet you will NOT find any trees in front of the object in those frames. The UFO is disappearing due to something else. This should be proof enough to reconsider a completely reexamination of all the frames showing signature degradation before and after the above mentioned ones.

    The first lesson this “disappearance-without-trees” teaches us, is this: if the object fades with no trees in front of it, then it could simply indicate that the UFO never flew behind trees during the entire length of the video!

    This rare “disappearance” also teaches us a second important lesson for future IR imagery analysis. When for any reason the Aguadilla UFO IR signature fades, it wouldn´t disappear completely to the eye of the camera, but it rather gets “ghostly” dim and white. The same thing happens as from frame 6888 where the entire frame is filled up with background water. The only difference is that in the case of the frames showing only water behind, the ghostly white spot was already zoomed in, which, in turn, made it appear blurred, larger and with a shade of grey almost matching that of the background water.

    This optical effect (and nothing else) is what confused Powell et al, who, by the way, never explained how in the world a Thermal IR imager could continue tracking this object underwater, showing exactly the same IR “ghostly” trace as it yielded when it was supposedly “behind” the trees.

    Thinking reversal by simple comparison: As stated above, I have no doubt that the idea of a diving UFO was a direct outcome of assuming that the pre-diving “ghostly” image was due to masking by foreground trees. But, as it was proved above, there are several frames where the “ghostly” image shows up even without trees on the foreground. Here I pasted side by side a couple of key frames showing no substantial difference between both “ghostly” traces of the UFO either on land or on the water. Can you now tell why it gets more confusing in the second frame? You guessed, some particularly spotty areas in the background water show an almost identical hue to that of the ghost signature than in the first case (background land). The additional problem on the second picture (right) is that now the whole frame has been zoomed-in and the ghost signature appears twice as large, more blurred and with less contrast against an already confusing background, even though both have an almost identical level of signal degradation.

    upload_2017-8-20_10-35-58.

    As if all this weren´t enough, for well-established physical reasons current Thermal IR technology is simply not able to track objects under water. This was made very clear even by SCU on page 28 of its report: “Infrared radiation is easily blocked by water and about one millimeter of water absorbs virtually all of the IR generated by the object.” I couldn´t agree more with that and I am very happy the SCU team mentioned it, because in my paper I mentioned the possibility of the airplane skimming the belly of the cloud deck as a very realistic cause of the temporary fading of the UFO! But then… in order to justify something as incredible as the UFO becoming “ghostly” because it is now diving into the ocean, the SCU was forced to move towards a bizarre “explanation”, by adding: “When a solid object moves underwater… some of the water it displaces moves towards the surface which then manifests as a moving hump along the surface. Northrop Grumman is aware of this phenomenon as one possible method to detect submarines.”

    For what we´ve learned from the two side-by-side pictures above, if in some different parts of the IR video (with completely different backgrounds) two or more frames show identical ghost signals, then it is far more logical to attribute the origin of the degradation to a common cause. In fact, SCU used the “physical mask” single cause argument (trees in the first case and water in the second). By reason, in frames not too distant in time, identical masking effects should be expected to be subject to similar causation. But in this case, water and trees are erroneously considered an identical cause because with identical ghost images on completely different backgrounds, anyone could come up with the pointed questions: where is the “moving hump” of water in the picture where the ghost image is flying over a clearing in the forest? Or, why is the water masking identical to that of the trees? Or even more damaging: why is the water masking identical to that which is attenuating the object´s image, when it flies with NO trees in the foreground?

    About this particular detail Geoff Quick (IPACO) pointed out: “In the report in question a basic ignorance of IR imagery is manifest. I have never seen an IR target tracked underwater, for good scientific reasons”.

    Believe me, I am not only sorry to have to dig into this “surgical” exposé of the SCU rebuttal but also I feel sincerely sorry that people really knowledgeable in their field of technical competence, as Mr. Powell and his colleagues surely are, spent (as they stated in the original SCU report) more than 1000 hours and a year and a half, to conclude that the Aguadilla object was a single extraordinary UFO craft with the ability to fade behind non-existent trees, dive into the ocean, take off back to the air from below the waves and reproduce itself (by ultra-fast cell mitosis perhaps?), when a far more prosaic explanation exists for them: two heart-shaped wedding lanterns carried by the wind and temporarily masked from the airplane flying at an altitude resulting in skimming the belly of the cloud base.

    Such a long time analyzing this case might have resulted simply because to the unnecessary lengthy methodology used by SCU. In its rebuttal, SCU emphasizes more than once that “…the only way to do a proper analysis is by looking at the angular sizes of the object throughout the three minute video.” With such a statement, they seem to completely ignore the fact that for accurate measurements, not necessarily each and every frame is suitable. An IR image may only yield just a few frames positively interpretable (like the ones used by the IPACO team for angular size calculations, in my own report). Smartly choosing the proper frames to exploit different features is a principle that I have learned after years of flight test data processing which involved video and high speed film interpretation. Even in the best optical videos some frames come out motion blurred, out-of-focus blurred and some of them even show a combination of both (which is often the case for many UFO pictures). In an infrared video the non-exploitable frames are far more abundant than even on the case of the worst imaginable optical video! So what is the practical meaning of measuring angular sizes in all the frames? Surely SCU would have done a much better job by spending some extra time looking for suspect frames where the theory of the IR signature fading due to foreground trees would show some weakness (even though if those frames were, in turn, not quite suitable for proper angular size measurements). Choosing this or that suitable frame for this or that purpose of exploitation is just a matter of good judgment and common sense!

    It does not surprise to me that Powell et al, after writing a 159 page report, including 12 Appendices and more than 140 illustrations (some of them with colorful 3D views), still could not come out with a clear-cut type of explanation. I would suggest to the people of SCU to rethink their data exploitation method and even their writing philosophy, currently seemingly based on a philosophy of "the more pages, the better report." Data overabundance and a long investigation time must never be thought out as an automatic synonym of quality. The proof of what I am saying is that after 1000 hours looking at the Aguadilla video, SCU completely missed what frames 5990 through 6060 are showing: a fading UFO flying over open fields, which completely disproves the ill-considered statement about the UFO´s IR signature degrading due to being blocked by foreground trees.

    This is my last input on this IFO event. Not only in my view but also, most importantly, in those of my peer reviewers, this case has been solved beyond any reasonable doubt. Now it is the mainframe scientific audience who has to assess what is an acceptable theory of those proposed: two heart-shaped wedding lanterns carried by the wind and temporarily disappearing to the IR eyes of the camera due to an airplane´s altitude skimming the belly of the clouds (Lianza) or an unidentified flying object with the ability to fade behind non-existent trees, dive into the ocean, take off back to the air from below the waves and duplicate itself (Powell et al).


    upload_2017-8-20_10-45-26.


    As I mentioned above, the complete Counter-document will be released in about 7 to 10 days, but at least I hope these excerpts have been proof enough to give you a clear cut opinion on how hasty a conclusion that of Powell et all was.

    Cheers.

    ruben
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017 at 8:57 AM
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  11. Christophe Isbert

    Christophe Isbert New Member

    Hi Ruben,

    I made those IR videos in order to have something to compare with since I am working on a few IR videos & cases.

    I think that your comparison with heart-shaped lanterns involves pareidolia and digital artifacts. If these were heart-shaped lanterns, it would be visible most of the time in this video, specially when filmed at the closest range. This is not the case at all and pretty much the opposite because this shape is visible towards the end of the video, when the aircraft is much further away.

    My videos show quiet the opposite of the Aguadilla video. They show that with a "cheap" IR system (compared to the MX-15) when two balloons are tied together, they are visible in most frames. In the Aguadilla video, one heat source is visible in the vast majority of frames. It's the exact opposite.

    On top of that, the foil balloons I used had a very small rope between them (very small gap between them, see photo below), in the Aguadilla footage when we see the split, the gap is much larger, this would mean that we would clearly see two heat sources most of the time and not the other way around. This is visible on many YT videos (non IR).

    I will do more testings with chinese lanterns this fall to see if they (heart-shaped and regular ones) can fly correctly with similar wind conditions.

    The good news is that I am now in touch with IR thermal imagery experts from Thales Aerospace, so I am still investigating this case.

    Cheers,
    Chris
     

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