Could The Gimbal Video Show an Atlas V Launch?

Mauro

Active Member
The 2° is relative to the horizon, not to the aircraft. If the aircraft tilts up, the number won't change. (That's different from the left–right angle number, which is relative to the fuselage and does change when the aircraft turns.)
I'm pretty surprised to discover this but, given my ignorance about FLIR displays, you may well be right. In that case, bye bye Atlas! Can I have a reference or some more explanations about this so I convince myself it's factual?

Edward Current

Active Member
I'm pretty surprised to discover this but, given my ignorance about FLIR displays, you may well be right. In that case, bye bye Atlas! Can I have a reference or some more explanations about this so I convince myself it's factual?
Sorry, I don't have a reference. I asked Mick about this months ago when I was doing my Gofast video, so he would know. People here who use the simulator could check their manual. It also makes sense, because the horizon establishes a reliable reference that remains constant as the aircraft changes attitude, whereas there is no such objective reference frame for left–right.

I don't think that deep-sixes the Atlas hypothesis on its own, though. If the plane is at 25,000 feet, the horizon is observed to be farther away and below the horizon that the plane sees when it's at 0 feet. One assumes that the FLIR references the latter horizon position — the one that's straight ahead when the plane is flying level, regardless of altitude — rather than the observed, altitude-dependent horizon. But I may be wrong.

Leonardo Cuellar

Active Member
That is a very specific process that involves detection in two different (and narrow) bands: 3.9 um and 11 um, and then calculating the difference between them.

At night the difference between the 3.9 and 11 micron channels detects emissivity differences rather thanabsolute temperature
It is not a single image from a single band, but a process that involves two images from two different bands, and finding a contrast when the same process is done on radiation coming from the ground.

Excellent analysis.
This is the method used to identify cloud types.
The 7 band-3,9 um is useful for identifying low-medium troposphere clouds, as they are likely to be present in the gimbal video.
This is what the GOES-West IR sensor, in band 7, observes in 24 hours:
https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/fulldisk_band.php?sat=G17&band=07&length=120&dim=0

Leonardo Cuellar

Active Member
I'm pretty surprised to discover this but, given my ignorance about FLIR displays, you may well be right. In that case, bye bye Atlas! Can I have a reference or some more explanations about this so I convince myself it's factual?
Why? At 240 nm from the jet fighter, the Atlas V at an altitude of 25,000 ft would have been intercepted by ATFLIR at an elevation of -2 °. This is thanks to the earth's curvature.

Mauro

Active Member
Why? Because I'm too lazy to dig out the references and then make the math, I just assume the worst for my favored hypothesis so I'm safe Yeah it's bad I know, but I assure you, I had plans for checking it (I also want to see if I find some primary source for the time/date the video was cast, but you know.. laziness...)

At 240 nm from the jet fighter, the Atlas V at an altitude of 25,000 ft would have been intercepted by ATFLIR at an elevation of -2 °. This is thanks to the earth's curvature.
That's the kind of calculation I was referring before! @Edward Current also said the 2 degrees being relative to the horizon does not deep-sixes the Atlas hypothesis, this is comforting. Now were I not so lazy.. maybe tomorrow

Leonardo Cuellar

Active Member
Why? Because I'm too lazy to dig out the references and then make the math, I just assume the worst for my favored hypothesis so I'm safe Yeah it's bad I know, but I assure you, I had plans for checking it (I also want to see if I find some primary source for the time/date the video was cast, but you know.. laziness...)

That's the kind of calculation I was referring before! @Edward Current also said the 2 degrees being relative to the horizon does not deep-sixes the Atlas hypothesis, this is comforting. Now were I not so lazy.. maybe tomorrow

3db

New Member
Why? At 240 nm from the jet fighter, the Atlas V at an altitude of 25,000 ft would have been intercepted by ATFLIR at an elevation of -2 °. This is thanks to the earth's curvature.
https://www.ulalaunch.com/docs/default-source/rockets/atlasvusersguide2010a.pdf?sfvrsn=f84bb59e_2 page 2-21

Assuming the rocket is at 25,000 ft puts the Atlas 5 roughly at the Max Q stage on the graph and 60 seconds into the flight. In another 60 seconds, it will be at 145,000 feet, the SRB jettison stage. Using the graph numbers, it gains 112,000ft in altitude between these two points. Lets assume that in 30 seconds, the length of the gimbal video, its gains half of that altitude, 56,000 feet. This will be the vertical leg of a right triangle.

Assuming the 240nm is straight line distance between the two objects, converting into feet, and using this as the base leg of a right right triangle arctan(56000/1458240) gives an angle of 2.20 degrees.

So we should expect the vertical angle in the footage to increase by 2 degrees if all of the above conditions are true. Since we do not see this, I dont think gimbal video shows the atlas 5 launch. However, I am making a lot of simplifications, so perhaps I missed something. For example, the rocket is moving horizontally, which I neglect here, perhaps this additional curvature is more important than I think and should not be neglected. Note that for the geometry I used, the minimum horizontal distance for less than 1 degrees of vertical change is 528nm.

FatPhil

Senior Member.
The 2° is relative to the horizon, not to the aircraft. If the aircraft tilts up, the number won't change. (That's different from the left–right angle number, which is relative to the fuselage and does change when the aircraft turns.)

This perturbs me, as it defines a double cone, not a plane. I would want a single plane defined, namely perpendicular to local down.

Mauro

Active Member
I'm trying to review some of the primary evidence we have on the MUOS-3 launch and the Gimbal video.

The date of the MUOS-3 is firmly estabilished (as already said by many in this thread): 08:40 pm ET Jan 20, 2015 (even if I found a site saying 07:40 but I guess it's a mistake).

The date of Jan 21 , 2015 rests on a single reference: The Black Vault article quoted by @jplaza in post #22 (I didn't find anything else too). In it, they report that:
In multiple statements received exclusively by The Black Vault, the Navy excited those interested in UFOs by officially admitting that the videos referred to as the ”FLIR1,” “Gimbal” and “GoFast” were, in fact, “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” or UAPs. Now, the Navy has offered up brief, but additional details about the cases, some of which, were previously unknown.
https://www.theblackvault.com/docum...ially-acknowledged-encounters-with-phenomena/
And later on they give the Jan, 21st date for both Gimbal and GoFast.

So we do indeed have some evidence the Gimbal video was really taken on the 21st (as opposed to the 20, for instance), but surely not a very strong one. There are many possible sources of errors, including ie. the Navy guys just being speaking loosely with the reporters, without the need to hypothesize an error in the ET/UTC reporting (which would be needed in case of an official Navy statement, for instance). So I think the 10:1 odds given against Atlas (see posts #59, 60) are really too much, with this evidence I'd go down to no higher than 3:1 against.

The next thing I'd like to do is to check some of the geometry, ie. try to answer the questions 'could the Atlas have been in the line of sight of an airplane flying in the zone the Gimbal was taken'? Is this compatible with the 2° degrees inclination which has been reported for the FLIR target? That is not easy for me given my total ignorance and unfamiliarity with the details of space launches and line of sights at distances where the Earth curvature is not negligible, I'll see if I can come to anything good.

Mendel

Senior Member.
The date of the MUOS-3 is firmly estabilished (as already said by many in this thread): 08:40 pm ET Jan 20, 2015
Which is 1:40 Zulu (UTC) Jan 21st.

Mauro

Active Member
Which is 1:40 Zulu (UTC) Jan 21st.
Hmm don't militaries usually use Zulu time (I really don't know in real life, just saw it in films)? Then there are no problems, the Gimbal video could have been filmed on Jan 21st (Zulu time), as the Navy told to Black Vault, and have caught the Atlas launched at 8:40 pm ET, Jan 20th.

Mendel

Senior Member.
There's some disagreement over the time of the launch even within this thread.
The date of the MUOS-3 is firmly estabilished (as already said by many in this thread): 08:40 pm ET Jan 20, 2015 (even if I found a site saying 07:40 but I guess it's a mistake).
Article:
At 8:40 p.m. ET on Jan. 20, 2015, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched the MUOS-3 military comsat into orbit from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a dazzling nighttime liftoff.

The launch was on 20 Jan, 20:04 ET (21Jan, 01:04 UTC).
Article:
The flight lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida at 8:04 p.m. EST (0104 GMT) after several delays due to range issues and upper level winds.

Article:
Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 20:04 local time (01:04 UTC on Wednesday), midway through a forty-four minute window.

I believe the last source because the launch was originally scheduled for 19:43.
Article:
This is the ascent timeline to be followed by the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in launching the Mobile User Objective System satellite No. 3 on Jan. 20 at 7:43 p.m. EST.

Mauro

Active Member
There's some disagreement over the time of the launch even within this thread.

Article:
At 8:40 p.m. ET on Jan. 20, 2015, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched the MUOS-3 military comsat into orbit from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a dazzling nighttime liftoff.

Article:
The flight lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in Florida at 8:04 p.m. EST (0104 GMT) after several delays due to range issues and upper level winds.

Article:
Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 20:04 local time (01:04 UTC on Wednesday), midway through a forty-four minute window.

I believe the last source because the launch was originally scheduled for 19:43.
Article:
This is the ascent timeline to be followed by the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in launching the Mobile User Objective System satellite No. 3 on Jan. 20 at 7:43 p.m. EST.

Yeah it's pretty incredible that it's even difficult to pin down the exact time the Atlas V was launched (I'd go for the consensus position, 8:40 pm ET: I found the 7:43 pm time reference on spaceflightnow too but, being the only one I found while all others agree on 8:40 I just discarded it as an outlier/mistake/typo..). Anyway 7:43 pm ET, 20 Jan, stills falls on 21st Jan in UTC/Zulu time (00:43 UTC, 21st Jan) so I don't see any contradiction between what we know about the Atlas launch time and what we know (from Black Vault) about the day the Gimbal was taken.

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Mendel

Senior Member.
I'd go for the consensus position, 8:40 pm ET: I found the 7:43 pm time reference on spaceflightnow too but, being the only one I found while all others agree on 8:40
No, 8:40 and 8:04 do not agree!

7:43 was the start of the "44 minute window", 8:04 is "midway through" this window, while 8:40 is outside it.

Mauro

Active Member
No, 8:40 and 8:04 do not agree!

7:43 was the start of the "44 minute window", 8:04 is "midway through" this window, while 8:40 is outside it.
Ahh yeah sorry, I mistook some 08:04 as 08:40 in the references you posted (the same may have happened for the references I consulted, I wish I had a better eyesight, sigh).

Anyway they are all times falling on UTC/Zulu Jan 21 (between 00:43 and 01:40), right?

Mauro

Active Member
While waiting for some kind soul to tell me if I'm right to think the MUOS-3 launch did in fact happen on UTC/Zulu Jan 21 2015 (see previous post), I've tried to look into the geometry matter.

Now it would be nice to know at which height the Gimbal video was taken, just we don't know it (as far as I know, no puns intended). If the aircraft was at 7700m (about 23kft) the Earth Curvature Calculator (https://www.omnicalculator.com/physics/earth-curvature) finds

With the aircraft at 3350m (~11-12kft) the distance to horizon becomes

And finally if the aircraft was at 1700m (about 5kft) the distance is

Then I went to google maps and I drew a very rough estimation of the Atlas V trajectory, using the data provided by @Tim Printy in post #41 (they were unsourced and I cannot say anything more), added a putative zone for the (unknown) position of the F-18 (which of course can be subject to any kind of stretchings and refinements) and three approximate scalebars for the three distances to the horizon as above. As usual, I apologize for my horrible graphics skills.

With all the caveats written above (and noticing I did not consider the vertical profile of the Atlas V, which surely matters, but is another beast to tackle (*), it looks to me that the F-18 could very well be able to have the Atlas V in his line of sight above the horizon. Indeed it could have looked straight into the engine nozzles (and I'd say no more than ~60°? apart). Notice also the Atlas V was surely above ground level, so the distance bars are a worst-case assumption against the Atlas: they cannot possibly get shorter than that (**), while they could well lengthen.

(*) yeah, and the 2° FLIR reading, yet one more beast, and a nasty one at that

(**) unless by hypothesizing a lower height for the aircraft, ie. 2.5kft

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Easy Muffin

Active Member
The NSF live thread has some information on the exact launch time. It was originally planned to launch at the opening of the window at 0043z but high upper level winds and some minor technical issues forced a couple of small delays. Eventual liftoff occured at 0104z.

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35158

pp. 5-8 cover the countdown, p. 9 has some small screenshots showing the ground track

Rory

Senior Member.
There are photos of the launch online, from at least three different cameras. None of the ones I've seen are set to the right timezone, but they're all around four minutes past the hour on the correct day.

jplaza

Member
@Mauro , This is the video of the launch. At some moments you can see the UTC time. Also, there are some data on heading, altitude, acceleration, distances... although only after the first rockets are ejected.

Mauro

Active Member
I thank you all! At the nasaspaceflight.com there's indeed a detailed timeline, the launch may still be uncertain due to timezones issues (see the picture below, with two different hours given) but, given the doubt was between 7:43 pm ET, 8:04 pm ET and 8:40pm ET I think we can safely conclude it was at ET time 8:04 pm Jan 20, 2015, or equivalently UTC/Zulu time 01:04 Jan 21, 2015.

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35158.140

Edit: given we are at it, can anyone tell which kind of 'miles' the (mi) in the picture below may be? So I know which number I should to use to convert them to km (comes from the same link as above).

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Easy Muffin

Active Member
They seem to have their forum time set to UTC-1 for some some reason. For example right now it's 1812z but their most recent post is from 1707z. Actually I just refreshed and there's now a new most recent post from 1711z.
The file name is most likely an auto-appended timestamp from the user's local machine. Looks like he's based in the UK (ie UTC time) so it works out correctly.

And then of course there's the linked video with the 0104z timestamp.

jplaza

Member
Edit: given we are at it, can anyone tell which kind of 'miles' the (mi) in the picture below may be? So I know which number I should to use to convert them to km (comes from the same link as above
I think its the statute mile.
1 mi = 1.609 km

Itsme

Active Member
Ahh yeah sorry, I mistook some 08:04 as 08:40 in the references you posted (the same may have happened for the references I consulted, I wish I had a better eyesight, sigh).

Anyway they are all times falling on UTC/Zulu Jan 21 (between 00:43 and 01:40), right?
Why assume a Zulu date is used for a local operation in US waters? The military can use any time zone they want (list of military time zone abbreviations here, they have a letter for every time zone) and typically only use Zulu if an operation spans multiple time zones:

In operations spanning multiple time zones, Zulu will be used to give all operating units a time zone to adjust their time to so that everyone is on the same page.
Source

For many daily references local time is used by military personnel and, if applicable by country or state, Daylight Savings time is observed. When matters extend to deployments, communications, air and ship movements or exercises that must be coordinated across one or more time zones, the military use “Zulu Time.”
Source

Mauro

Active Member
Why assume a Zulu date is used for a local operation in US waters? The military can use any time zone they want (list of military time zone abbreviations here, they have a letter for every time zone) and typically only use Zulu if an operation spans multiple time zones:
I didn't assume it, I specifically said I really did not know and asked for someone more knowleadgeable to tell. I thank you 'cause you did

This does not solves the problem of knowing if the Navy was thinking to 21st Jan as in ET or Zulu of course, it doesn't look to me a 'daily reference' where local time would be surely used and probably the exercise did not need coordination across time zones (but who knows? aeronaval exercises can be large), so the communication to Black Vault is in the gray zone in any case. Anyone else can say something about this?

Mauro

Active Member
I have taken some time to review some primary evidence and studying the geometry of a putative F-18 - Atlas V 551/MUOS-3 interaction which could have resulted in the Gimbal video. It's quite long, I'm sorry, and I divide it in three posts. In this first one I review what we know about the Atlas/MUOS-3 launch.

The Atlas 551 – MUOS-3 Launch

We can confidently assert it was launched from Cape Canaveral on UTC/Zulu time 01:04 21 January 2015 (ie. see posts #101 and #102). This time will be denoted as Tlaunch from now on.

At https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35158.140 (a link suggested by many) there are the best data I’m aware of about the actual launch, these two slides being expecially relevant because they report actual numerical data:

I tried to locate the original feed, hoping to find more slides to reconstruct the trajectory, but I could not find it.

The launch azimuth had already been suggested to be about 95° (that is to say: due East, 5 degrees South) by @Tim Printy in post #41, it’s refined at ~97.5° degrees following the two slides above (the numbers look to me to be 97.3° and 97.9°, but it’s hard to say). Not that it changes much.

The first slide can be located in time at about Tlaunch + 240s (from its caption, notice the precision is limited to about +- 1 minute). The second slide does not have a time caption, but it’s immediately followed by this post (with the same 12:09 am timestamp):

So the second slide should have been taken immediately before Tlaunch + 360s, and immediately before/after the first stage engine turned off (the solid boosters having already detached some seconds earlier). I will not consider any other slide, because when the second stage then ignites the rocket is more than 1000 miles away from Cape Canaveral, thus not relevant for Gimbal.

By converting the reported measurements in the slides from miles to km (using 1.601 as conversion factor, as suggested by @jplaza in post #103) the following two points of the trajectory can be determined (the question marks mean it’s difficult to discerne what the numbers on the screen actually are)

 Time​ Downrange (from Cape Canaveral)​ Altitude​ Speed​ ~ Tlaunch + 240s ~69.5? miles =~ 111km ~46.5? miles =~ 74.5km ~4600? miles/hour =~ 2km/s ~ Tlaunch + 360s ~178.5? miles =~ 285.5km ~74.2? miles =~ 118.8km ~7500? miles/hour =~ 3.33 km/s

Given the two points (and the azimuth) the trajectory can roughly be plotted with Google Maps as follows (the lengths of the segments are rather precise, the azimuth not so much and could be admittedly drawn better, but try do it in Google Maps):

--> follows part 2, the Gimbal video

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Mauro

Active Member
[follows from previous post]

The Gimbal video

We do not know where the plane was when the video was taken, except it was somewhere East of the Florida coast.

From the video itself many informations can be gleaned, this is one of the first frames (at ~Tvideo + 0s), with some parameters highlighted:

Speed and altitude should not be controversial, same goes for the field of view (NAR in this case: narrow) and zoom (which is an electronic zoom).

Using the horizon line we can determine the roll angle of the airplane (notice the plane is slanted the opposite direction than the horizon line, ie when the frame was taken the left wingtip was lower than the right wingtip). This should not be controversial too (unless I’m badly mistaken of course... my familiarity with aeronautics is about nihil).

The targeting pod view direction should not be controversial. It’s the angle between the POD line of sight and the longitudinal midplane of the airplane, left or right.

The targeting pod view elevation is controversial. Someone say it’s the elevation angle relative to the plane, someone else say it’s the elevation angle relative to the horizon. It seems pretty clear to me that the elevation angle is relative to the plane: were it -2° relative to the horizon we would be looking straight towards the ground and the whole field of view would be filled with clouds, while the video clearly shows an upper zone without clouds. This inconsistency disappears if the -2° are relative to the plane. See also this reference, which is not an official one but looks quite good (the reference from the DCS manual who says the angle is relative to the horizon is surely no better):

https://www.mudspike.com/chucks-guides-dcs-f-a-18c-hornet/

WHAT CAN BE RECONSTRUCTED ABOUT THE AIRPLANE FROM THE VIDEO

The altitude stays constant at 25kft, airspeed stays fairly constant at 0.58-0.59 Mach, the field of view and zoom never change. The ATFLIR elevation angle stays constant at -2° (I guess it was set to a fixed position).

At Tvideo + 0s the airplane is rolled about 21.8° (as measured on the still frame, left wingtip is lower) and the ATFLIR is pointing 52° to the left:

At the end of the video (~Tvideo + 34s) the roll angle is about 27.8° (in the same direction as before) while the ATFLIR is now pointing almost straight on (6 degrees to the right):

During the video the roll angle increases in some discrete steps, while the ATFLIR targeting direction decreases towards zero degrees. Near the end of the video there is some wiggling of both the roll angle and the ATFLIR targeting direction, until they end in the situation described in the still frame above.

I think (and my unfamiliarity with aeronautics forces me to add a big caveat) that if an airplane banks left (left wing tip lower) it will probably do it to also change direction to the left, this further depending on the setting of a lot of other aerodynamical control surfaces. So I guess the airplane can just go straight on or curve more or less steeply (with at most a few degrees/s of turn ratio) depending of what the pilot wishes. Let me know if I’m mistaken.

---> follows part 3, possible encounter geometry

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Mauro

Active Member
[follows from previous post]

What I did was to take Blender and make a ‘model’ of the viewing geometry of the (putative) F-18 – Atlas encounter. The model has a 1000:1 scale, that is to say 1 km = 1 m (in Blender measurement units).

An F-18 (about 20m long, with about 15m wingspan) would be minuscule at this scale, so it’s enlarged by a factor of 50 (this does not change anything for the overall geometry, but makes the spatial oreintation of the F-18 more readily observable and easy to work with), for an overall length of the F-18 of 1m in Blender units. Then I used a long, thin cylinder (250m long in Blender units = 250km) for the ATFLIR line of sight, which I set to an elevation of -2° (it's so small it turns out it's irrelevant). I then made a copy of the F-18, so I had two models to represent the same aircraft at Time=0s and Time=34s. Then I slanted the line of sights, 52°L for the first F-18 and 6°R for the second, and finally I raised the central point of the two airplanes (where the Blender gizmo lies in the drawing below) at an altitude of 25kft =~ 8300m = 0.83m in Blender units. This was the result (orthographic projection):

I then rolled left the two airplanes, the first one by 21.8° (T=0s) and 27.8° for the second (T=34s). At this moment all the parameters which could be deduced from the video (see previous post) have been set.

I then conjectured a semicircular left turn (consistent in direction with the banking angle) for the F-18, with a total turn of 40 degrees (slightly more than a leisurely 1°/s). This turn offsetted the second copy of the F-18 by 5 km, in respect to the first one, along both axis of the horizontal plane. For reference, at Mach 0.58, 34 seconds are about 6.8km of linear distance travelled. I did not strive for precision with the offsets because the movement of the F-18 is anyway small at the scales considered (tens of km for the rocket altitude and hundreds for the distance), the angles influence the results much more.

Then I tried to fit the line of sights of the ATFLIR to two possible points of an hypothetical rocket trajectory. There are many unknown variables involved:
• The altitude of the rocket at the start and end point (and the distance between the two points)
• The F-18 pitch angles (at start and end point)
• The relative spatial positions of the F-18 and the rocket trajectory

I arbitrarily chose 60km and 80km as the altitudes for the rocket, that is to say, about midway of the first stage burn. I could have chosen different values, lower or higher, but I had to start somewhere.

I set a pitch angle of 50 degrees for the F-18 at time zero, which is steep enough so that a point at 60km altitude may fall on the 250km-long the line-of-sight cylinders, then I moved the sphere representing the rocket at time=0, in the XY plane, until it was on the line of sight. Then I manually changed the pitch angle of the other F-18 at time 34s, so that the two lines of sight were approximatively parallel one to each other as seen from the Blender ‘Y’ direction (from the right side of the two F-18, it’s difficult to explain with words, but the reason why I did it will be clear soon). This resulted in a pitch angle of ~21.5° for the F-18 at time=34s. I then moved the second sphere (at 80km heigth) in the XY plane to bring it into the line of sight of the second F-18.

This is the result (the rockets are spheres):

The F-18 is about 200km from the rocket (the lines-of-sight cylinders are 250km long). At this scale the F-18 is shrinked to points, this is the enlargement (the F-18 at Tvideo = 0 is the one nearest the origin):

And this is another view from another angle:

The distance travelled by the rocket in 34s, measured with my model, is 47km, or about 1.38 km/s. It’s a bit slow for a rocket (the Atlas was travelling at 2km/s at 74.5km of altitude, and accelerating) but in the right ballpark. Consider that I did not fine tune any parameter, it’s just the first ‘reasonable’ combination I came up with.

THE CLOUD COVER

In the Gimbal video the ‘object’ keeps a rather constant angular separation from the cloud tops, which can be well reproduced by the model. The ‘trick’ is having set the pitch angles so the lines of sight run almost parallel in one direction:

This allows for a geometry where the F-18 is coasting, while it turns left, a higher cloud on his left, like roughly shown here (the stripes representing the clouds are set at 10km height, 1700m above the F-18, remember the F-18 should be just a point at this scale, in the model it's 50 times bigger than it should be):

And the clouds and the line of sights have a very similar angular separation, both at T=0s and T=34s:

Finding that the pitch of the F-18 at time=34s, set in order to allow a nearby cloud to be inserted to achieve the same effect seen in the video, retrives a reasonable distance between the two snapshot of the Atlas at the start and end of the video without fine tuning, as seen previously, ~200km away, is a strong indication that the model works, and that the Gimbal object was probably the MUOS-3 Atlas launch.

I would like to notice that knowing what the cloud cover was at around UTC 01:00 Jan 21, 2015, East of Florida, could be a great source of new data (I tried to find them, but I drowned in a list of obscure meteo satellite names). My model predicts a cloud higher than 25kft on the left of the F-18, around which it coasts (with a few km radius), while under the F-18 the cloud deck must be lower than 25kft (it could even be clear sky). This could be checked knowing the meteo data. In any case getting hold of the cloud cover data could help in determining the time Gimbal was filmed, the position of the F-18 and the direction the ‘object’ was seen from, given the particular configuration of clouds, airplane movements and line of sight of the ATFLIR which are seen in the video, which is independent from what the filmed object actually was..

I must also notice that I considered only the start and end points of the video, I’m sure lots could be gleaned by examining how roll angle and ATFLIR targeting direction (co)vary and this could very well give a mortal blow to my model, who knows. I can safely say it’s too much work for me.

As an additional caveat, I have no idea if the kind of manouvres and angles I suggested (which are just one point in a wide parameter space, so they're by no means inscribed in stone) are inside the possible flight envelope of an F-18 (thanks @Mendel for reminding me to add this).

Anyway, I have imported a map of Florida in Blender (from Google Maps), on which I have drawn the trajectory of Atlas (about due East from Cape Canaveral, slightly South), I have scaled it up and then roughly aligned the Atlas trajectory to the two spheres representing it in Blender. Looking from the Z-axis, this is the geometry the model reconstructs for the encounter:

The F-18 is just off the coast, slightly south of West Palm Beach, but of course changing the parameters (ie., the pitch angles, or the points where the video starts and stops, 34s apart, as marked on the rocket trajectory) would change the F-18 position, possibly significantly, I did not carry out any sensitivity analysis (note: the orange point north-east of Palm Beach is just the central point of the Florida map overlay).

I would also like to notice:

• The Atlas hypothesis easily predicts with a precision of a few minutes the exact time the Gimbal video was taken. Should we ever come to know this the Atlas hypothesis could be decisively refuted, or greatly corroborated.
• The Atlas hypothesis can predict (albeit through a lot of mathematical difficulties) an envelope of possible positions, pitch angles and headings for the F-18, so coming to know anyone of this informations could refute/corroborate the hypothesis as above.
• The Atlas hypothesis makes another (not so reliable) prediction: the GoFast video has been reported as from Jan 21 2015 too and, probably (but we don’t really know, I think), later than about 01:40. Thus Gimbal and GoFast might be a mini-UFO flap: Atlas was mistook for an UAP, and in the general UAP frenzy which followed after the pilot landed, something else was then mistook for a GoFasting UAP.
I also wish to remind the Atlas hypothesis was first proposed by @Leonardo Cuellar in post #1

PS: I assumed the Earth is flat. With the distances and altitudes involved the horizon line and Earth's curvature are irrelevant for the viewing conditions, the Atlas has a great view of the F-18 from a height of ~70km, so does the F-18 from below. Numerical values of angles and distances would instead change a little, but not much.

PPS: if someone can help me secure a grant of some million \$ from the Navy, I could write a nice report for them. No bad for some days of work I guess. Thank you.

PPPS: I'll post the Blender models tomorrow when I wake up, good night everybody.

PPPPS: I forgot to make my compliments to the F-18 pilot for his flying skills. My head was spinning even sitting at my desk chair, I barely dare to think what the real thing really is, and what it takes to be able to pilot it.

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Rory

Senior Member.
Nicely done Mauro - whether right or wrong I'm mighty impressed that you put the time and effort into such a tricky endeavour. Definitely looks like a workout for the brain!

The Atlas hypothesis easily predicts with a precision of a few minutes the exact time the Gimbal video was taken. Should we ever come to know this the Atlas hypothesis could be decisively refuted, or greatly corroborated.

Regarding this, is there anyone that could be asked? Like maybe @Mick West could simply say to one of the pilots or Luis Elizondo or somebody: "listen, I don't need too many details - but can you just tell me whether it was on January 20th, 2015, at around 8 or 9pm local time?"

Getting an accurate answer to that question would be a giant, time-saving step.

Mendel

Senior Member.
It seems pretty clear to me that the elevation angle is relative to the plane: were it -2° relative to the horizon we would be looking straight towards the ground and the whole field of view would be filled with clouds, while the video clearly shows an upper zone without clouds.
This has already been shown to be wrong twice in this discussion.

PS: I assumed the Earth is flat. With the distances and altitudes involved the horizon line and Earth's curvature are irrelevant. The Atlas has a great view of the F-18 from a height of ~70km, so does the F-18 from below.
Drop at 250km is 4km.
An alternate hypothesis is that the rocket is much farther away and nearing the horizon again on its trajectory around the planet.

With your numbers, if the Atlas is 250km away and 60 km above the jet, it's 13.5⁰ above the jet, with the -2⁰ applied, the jet would be pitched up 15.5⁰. For an aircraft flying fast in pursuit, this pitch appears to be quite high; I wouldn't be surprised if the simulator fliers reported that the aircraft should be either rather slow, or else gain altitude quickly, flying like this.

jplaza

Member
I set a pitch angle of 50 degrees for the F-18 at time zero, which is steep enough so that a point at 60km altitude may fall on the 250km-long the line-of-sight cylinder.
This resulted in a pitch angle of ~21.5° for the F-18 at time=34s.
What do you mean by pitch angle? Is it the angle the fighter's nose is pointing to in the vertical axis?

jplaza

Member
the jet would be pitched up 15.5⁰
But the altitude is not changing, so that would be in fact the angle of attack of the plane, flying horizontally but with the nose up. I don't know for 15°, but for a 50° pitch as Mauro suggest, I think the plane would stall.

Also, pitchIng up, while banking left, but not changing altitude seems pretty weird to me.

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Mauro

Active Member
This has already been shown to be wrong twice in this discussion.
And I just showed it's instead right, and wrong were who said the -2° are relative to the horizon, no matter how many times they said that (post #107 "The Gimbal video"). [Edit: and will go on saying, as I discovered later]

Drop at 250km is 4km.
An alternate hypothesis is that the rocket is much farther away and nearing the horizon again on its trajectory around the planet.
There are many different parameters possible (and thus alternate hypothesis)

Then in effect the Earth curvature is irrelevant only for the sighting conditions (the Atlas being so high up in the sky): it will have some influence on angles and distances though, granted.

With your numbers, if the Atlas is 250km away and 60 km above the jet, it's 13.5⁰ above the jet, with the -2⁰ applied, the jet would be pitched up 15.5⁰.
You also need to consider the roll angle and most importantly the 52° L declination of the ATFLIR in the Left-Right plane (with the plane banked left add 52° declination to the left and the ATFLIR points directly to the ground), that's why so much pitch is needed to bring the line of sight up (and be able to see the sky above the clouds). I did not work out numerically the geometry and angles (not that easy in 3D), but Blender does not lie.

For an aircraft flying fast in pursuit, this pitch appears to be quite high; I wouldn't be surprised if the simulator fliers reported that the aircraft should be either rather slow, or else gain altitude quickly, flying like this

True, I forgot to add I have just no idea if the manouvres I found are inside the possible flight envelope of an F-18. Maybe people more aeronautically savy than me can tell. Mach 0.58 does not seem particularly fast for an F-18 to me, but I even never saw one in my life.

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Mauro

Active Member
Yes, by pitch angle I mean the angle the nose is pointing up (in respect to the horizontal plane). The standard definition:

But the altitude is not changing, so that would be in fact the angle of attack of the plane, flying horizontally but with the nose up. I don't know for 15°, but for a 50° pitch as Mauro suggest, I think the plane would stall.
This may very well be, I have no idea (see also post #113 above) what the flight characteristics of an F-18 are. What the pitch actually controls in the model is the distance the F-18 was from the Atlas. Lower pitch angles will result in further away distances. I had set a maximum range of 250km (the length of the line of sights in the model): 40 degrees were too shallow an angle to stay inside the 250km, 50° worked (and the effective distance resulted to be about ~200km), I didn't test any other value.

Also, pitchIng up, while banking left, but not changing altitude seems pretty weird to me.
This too may very well be, but the video (indipendently from what the Gimbal actually was) suggest this is what happened (see also post #107). The speed is recorded in the video and does not change, the roll (bank) angle is shown, the pitch must be 'up', else how could the object be seen above the clouds, with the sky in the background, expecially with the airplane banked left, with the pod under the left wing pointing straigth downwards given the 52°L declination of the FLIR (and two additional -2° of elevation)? [Yes, admittedly, this is much easier to see directly in Blender] The amount of pitch, of course , cannot be recovered from the video alone (the object trajectory too is needed, and the distance from the F-18, thus post #108).

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Mauro

Active Member
[completes post #108]

Here are the Blender model files.

Uhhh... can anyone explain me how to upload a file? Then I'll edit this post. Thank you, and apologies.

Easy Muffin

Active Member
I would like to notice that knowing what the cloud cover was at around UTC 01:00 Jan 21, 2015, East of Florida, could be a great source of new data (I tried to find them, but I drowned in a list of obscure meteo satellite names). My model predicts a cloud higher than 25kft on the left of the F-18, around which it coasts (with a few km radius), while under the F-18 the cloud deck must be lower than 25kft (it could even be clear sky). This could be checked knowing the meteo data. In any case getting hold of the cloud cover data could help in determining the time Gimbal was filmed, the position of the F-18 and the direction the ‘object’ was seen from, given the particular configuration of clouds, airplane movements and line of sight of the ATFLIR which are seen in the video, which is independent from what the filmed object actually was..
GOES-13 IR from Jan 21, 2015 at 0100z from the SDS Inventory: https://inventory.ssec.wisc.edu/inventory/

The usual caveats of IR 'imagery' apply, see for example https://learningweather.psu.edu/node/23 (particularly the comparison between visible and IR halfway down the page - the big drawback with the date in question being that no visible imagery exists. Well technically speaking it does but it shows nothing but blackness).

This is the 10.7 microns (band 4, surface / cloud top temps)

I'm far from knowledgeable enough myself to deduct any conclusive cloud top heights from this. The general idea is brighter = colder temps = higher cloud tops, darker = higher temps = lower cloud tops.

I'll add band 2 as well (3.9 microns, the wavelength that @jplaza mentions the FLIR is tuned to in post #51. Weather satellites make use of this for 'low-level cloud and fog detection'.

Mauro

Active Member
GOES-13 IR from Jan 21, 2015 at 0100z from the SDS Inventory: https://inventory.ssec.wisc.edu/inventory/

The usual caveats of IR 'imagery' apply, see for example https://learningweather.psu.edu/node/23 (particularly the comparison between visible and IR halfway down the page - the big drawback with the date in question being that no visible imagery exists. Well technically speaking it does but it shows nothing but blackness). I'm far from knowledgeable enough myself to deduct any conclusive cloud top heights from this. The general idea is brighter = colder temps = higher cloud tops, darker = higher temps = lower cloud tops.

With all the usual caveats in interpreting IR images, compounded by me being the first time I do it, I notice there's a place (coincidentally very close to where my crude model places the F-18) where higher clouds border a zone with lower clouds (it may even be clear sky, I cannot say) in the right direction as my model predicted (sheer luck in getting that position with the first numbers I tried, I admit it (*)). I think I'll start stopping use the sentence "Atlas hypothesis" and start using "Atlas theory" from now on (it's also shorter, that's always good).

Sorry for the low resolution, I just copied, pasted and scaled up a little the picture kindly posted by @Easy Muffin, I have been scared by the interface of the website he linked .

This is the model for reference, from post #108:

(*) and anyway in my model the distance between Atlas @t=0 and Atlas @t=34s turns out too low, so some refining of the parameters would be needed to better fix the F-18 possible position (or even better calculate the envelope of F-18 possibles positions, but this is a good project for a young undergraduate, not for me sorry, I'm neither ). A possible alternative to 'sheer luck' is that the envelope of the F-18 possible positions is actually not that much large, I really cannot say from just one modelization and my 3D math skills are not up to the task I fear.

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Mauro

Active Member
The velocity vector indicator seems to show the aircraft is likely not pitching up or down significantly if at all.

The velocity vector is the direction the aircraft is travelling to. In my model it curves to the left, but in the ATFLIR display it's just a point fixed at the center of the screen, nothing can be said about it from the video. It never moves above or below the horizon line, but this just means the aircraft is not changing altitude, not that it's not changing pitch, the velocity vector does not need at all to lie in the same direction the aircraft nose is pointing to.

And again, if the nose was not pointing up, how does it come we see the sky above the clouds in the video? This is the situation in Blender if the aircraft nose is not pointg up (pitch angle = 0°):

That is the line of sight from an F-18, rolled 20ish degrees to the left and with the ATFLIR pointing 52° left of the aircraft (both parameters directly derived from the video). It looks towards the ground, you need to increase the pitch to be able to image the cloud tops above. And again notice: this is true whichever object the Gimbal was.

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jarlrmai

Senior Member
In the gimbal video the VV is rotated but the centre crossing Flight Path/Pitch Ladder

1. Flight Path/Pitch Ladder - The vertical flight path angle of the aircraft is indicated by velocity vector position in relation to the flight path/pitch ladder. The aircraft pitch attitude is indicated by the position of the waterline (top of the airspeed and altitude boxes) with respect to the flight path/pitch ladder. In any established flight attitude, the distance between the aircraft waterline and the velocity vector will be equal to the AoA. The aircraft roll angle is indicated by the rotation of the flight path/pitch ladder "rungs" relative to the "wings" of the velocity vector and also the bank scale. The horizon and flight path/pitch ladder lines represent the "horizon" and each 5° of angle between plus and minus 90°. Positive pitch lines are solid and are above the horizon line and negative pitch lines are dashed and are below the horizon line. For a more detailed explanation of pitch ladder behavior, see Flight Path/Pitch Ladder, below.

is not above or below the planes nose i.e. it's banking but not climbing or ascending also the altitude remains constant.

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