Explained: Exmouth UFO Flying Saucer - Sunlit Contrail and Motion Blur

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
20161231113408-yamv1.jpg

http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co....photographer/story-30020380-detail/story.html
New Pictureufo.jpg
This does look curiously saucer shaped, but then compare it to the second photo from the story, in particular look first at the width of the trail near the tip
15747853_10211450083226277_5238877113584815395_n.jpg

First of course this photo looks exactly like hundreds of photos of a jet contrail lit by the sun, however the fact that the trail comes to a point here but not in the first photo indicates that the camera moved during the exposure, spreading the trail sideways. This is not particularly apparent with a contrail as they tend to be blurry-looking objects anyway. But with the plane, the reflection of the sun off bright parts of it creates highlights, and the motion of those highlights has created the shape of the "saucer".

20161231104229-ar090.jpg

Here's a good example of a contrail and a plane with a sunlight reflection, by @A380


And here's a very simple simulation of motion blur showing how the highlights can make a shape. This is just me taking a photo of the above photo on my laptop from across the room with a slight jostle of the camera as I press the shutter button
20161231110918-pv1xs.jpg

Here's another shot, much more obviously motion blur, just to demonstrate how different camera motions can create different shapes.
20161231111259-tq799.jpg

Motion blur is a common source of odd shapes in photos - most commonly from a small light in a dark scene. The thing to look for is the same shape repeated in the scene. Here's another shot where a small light behind the laptop is also motion blurred.
20161231112239-9rfde.jpg

You can also see the shape repeated here in the streaks of the contrail. This also shows up in the UFO photo. Look at the shape of the "UFO" streak (like a long comma on its side) and then compare that to the streaks in the trail.
 
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Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
The object appeared at around 1pm and remained in the sky until around 4.30pm.
That doesn't sound very plausible for an aircraft. But then it also doesn't tie in with the photographs, which clearly show illumination consistent with being close to sunset or sunrise (actually probably when the sun is just below the horizon).

Sunset in Exeter on Dec 28 was at 4.16pm, so the photos would probably have been taken just before 4.30. Once the plane was no longer lit up by the sun it would seem to "disappear".

I think the reports of it being seen at 1pm must be incorrect.
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
I think the reports of it being seen at 1pm must be incorrect.
I suspect 1pm being a typo. It probably meant to be 4pm. Otherwise it begs the question: why seeing "UFO" for 3.5 hours the photographer ended up with just three lousy photos?

MON741 sunlit trail could have been seen near the setting Sun from about 4:10 PM. By 4:30 it would fly into the Earth shadow, moving toward the incoming plane. Moreover, the plane have started descent by then and could have stopped contrailing altogether.
Screen Shot 2017-01-01 at 14.24.00.png
Also, MON741, coming from the sunset, would be able to reflect Sun toward the observer for a long time. Its track angled in the same direction and its trail would be sunlit in the same way as in the OP photos.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
"It was lit up like a white light at first then changed colour to a dark shade before it vanished. But it was stationary for a few hours before it moved." - http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co....photographer/story-30020708-detail/story.html
Pics or it didn't happen.

Clearly what we see in these two photos is a short contrail in low sunlight. Maybe they saw something else hours earlier, then came back and saw this. Being a short contrail it would seem to vanish after it left the contrail-friendly air mass. It could also seem to be relatively slow moving when >100 miles away.
 

Raccoon

Member
Another thing, how did he put up the tripod so fast while that plane was flying overhead. Did he paused time itself while setting up, because I have a tripod myself and it takes around 40 seconds to put it up!
 

Willie Kay

Member
I am one of the admins on the Fortean Times Appreciation Group on Facebook. I have spoken with the photographer directly and asked him and the other witness to join the group to put their side of the story (which they have done). Feel free to join the discussion. It’s a closed group, however, I can easily approve your membership after you click ‘join the group’. I hopefully will see some of you there.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/7269177244/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/7269177244/permalink/10153972960317245/
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
Another thing, how did he put up the tripod so fast while that plane was flying overhead. Did he paused time itself while setting up, because I have a tripod myself and it takes around 40 seconds to put it up!
The plane is nowhere near overhead. It is many miles away, so it won't appear to move all that much in the sky over the course of, say, a minute.

(See my avatar pic for a similar "UFO"!)
 

Willie Kay

Member
I have spoken directly to the photographer who took the images. He has supplied me with two original jpegs from the camera for me to have a look at. I do not have permission to upload them on to here, however, I did screen grab the Metadata from one of the main files he sent me. I am a professional photographer and offered to verify to our group that the images have not been tampered with. I can confirm that is the case. Attached is the screen grab from the file Metadata. Note the date created is wrong, as the photographers camera has been set to the wrong date. However, the time is correct.

 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I am one of the admins on the Fortean Times Appreciation Group on Facebook. I have spoken with the photographer directly and asked him and the other witness to join the group to put their side of the story (which they have done). Feel free to join the discussion. It’s a closed group, however, I can easily approve your membership after you click ‘join the group’. I hopefully will see some of you there.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/7269177244/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/7269177244/permalink/10153972960317245/
Sorry, I'd approved Willie Kay's first post but was on the road all day. Should have explained. While it's a bit unusual, it seems reasonable to work together on this, as there's already some investigation going on in the Fortean Times Appreciation group on FB, particularly with tracking down the photographer.

Ideally though, posts should be self-contained without needing to click on a link. Links are for references.

From comment on the FB thread, Tyron noticed a bright light (like a star) at 2.30PM, then did not see anything again until 4:15 when it seems like they first saw the object in the photos (which I'm 99.999% sure is a plane leaving a contrail) shortly after 4:30 he took 13 pics in three minutes, of which the above are the last two.
 
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Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
I have spoken directly to the photographer who took the images. He has supplied me with two original jpegs from the camera for me to have a look at. I do not have permission to upload them on to here, however, I did screen grab the Metadata from one of the main files he sent me. I am a professional photographer and offered to verify to our group that the images have not been tampered with. I can confirm that is the case. Attached is the screen grab from the file Metadata. Note the date created is wrong, as the photographers camera has been set to the wrong date. However, the time is correct.

On the Fortean Times group I'm sure the photographer's friend stated that the time was about 4.25pm? That would also fit with the lighting in the photo, being about nine minutes after sunset. The time in the metadata appears to be off by one hour.
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
Daylight savings?

The clock in my car currently reads an hour fast because I was too lazy to change it.
Yes, that is clearly the most likely explanation (the camera being set to British Summer Time rather than GMT). But it contradicts the above claim by @Willie Kay that "the time is correct".

I think it's clear that the photos were taken close to sunset, which was 4.16pm on the day in question.
 

Willie Kay

Member
Basically the guy who took the pictures knows very little about cameras and the technical side of taking pictures. The images are currently being analysed by a ‘pro photo analyst’, his words not mine. He couldn’t give me the guys name and I respected that.
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
I have spoken directly to the photographer who took the images. He has supplied me with two original jpegs from the camera for me to have a look at. I do not have permission to upload them on to here, however, I did screen grab the Metadata from one of the main files he sent me. I am a professional photographer and offered to verify to our group that the images have not been tampered with. I can confirm that is the case. Attached is the screen grab from the file Metadata. Note the date created is wrong, as the photographers camera has been set to the wrong date. However, the time is correct.

I have looked into the camera manual.
Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 12.06.46.png
The photo was taken at the maximum optical zoom with the focal length corresponding 576 mm in the 35 mm equivalent. The image size (3072x1728, or 5 MP) is smaller than the maximum size (14 MP) for this camera and corresponds to the M 16:9 option.
However, the aspect of the OP photo is different (approximately 3:2), suggesting that this image was cropped. Is there a full-size original image available (to your group)?
 

Willie Kay

Member
I must admit that did point out that these two photos, from the original link. were in fact the same (from the geometry of the trail).
They are the same images. The photographer attempted to reveal some detail in the object by importing the photo into a basic editing program. However, we need to bare in mind that he has no real knowledge on how these things work. His attempt to darken the sky to black made no real difference to the object.
 

Willie Kay

Member
In this case, could you tell us how much the OP image was cropped (horizontally) compare to the original?
I couldn’t say as I think those images have been lifted from an online news site and they have probably cropped them. You would need to ask the OP. All I know is that the images that I was sent came directly from the camera and were all shot on the M 16:9 option.
 

Willie Kay

Member
For what it’s worth, here is a cropped in section of the object from the original file I was sent (I’ve enlarged it). The image shows signs of blurring/movement as a result of the slowish shutter speed of 1/105sec and signs of camera shake. Basically it’s not a great picture, however, the guy is not a photographer. In the hands of a pro using high end equipment the images would have been much sharper and better exposed. They are what they are.

 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
I couldn’t say as I think those images have been lifted from an online news site and they have probably cropped them. You would need to ask the OP. All I know is that the images that I was sent came directly from the camera and were all shot on the M 16:9 option.
Above, in #14, you said:
It was the Metadata from this image...
Can you compare this image with the one you got from the photographer and tell us how much it cropped horizontally? An approximate value will suffice.
 
I couldn’t say as I think those images have been lifted from an online news site and they have probably cropped them. You would need to ask the OP. All I know is that the images that I was sent came directly from the camera and were all shot on the M 16:9 option.
I would not waste your time on a guy who sees Venus at midday, and a contrail after sunset on the same day. Clear days may be rare, but not that rare..
 

Trailspotter

Senior Member.
I suppose I could, as I have the original camera file. Why do you want to know?
To see if the width of the trail is consistent with the width of the A320 trail. I am working out my hypothesis of this object being Monarch Airlines flight 741, an approximate location of which at the time of the photo is known.
 

Willie Kay

Member
To see if the width of the trail is consistent with the width of the A320 trail. I am working out my hypothesis of this object being Monarch Airlines flight 741, an approximate location of which at the time of the photo is known.
I don’t have permission to upload the original file, however, I can overlay the two images and let you know roughly how much has been cropped off the online file.
 

Willie Kay

Member
The original file size is 108.37cm Wide (3072) x 60.96cm High (1728) @ 72ppi. The OP’s image has had about 18.45cm of sky cropped from the left side of the image. Does that help you?
 

Willie Kay

Member
Here is a quick screen grab of the OP’s image overlayed onto the original file. The lighter section to the left is the section that has been cropped from the original file. The black frame is just my laptop screen.

 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
@Willie Kay, on the Fortean group, you stated at first that the images had been rotated, and the object was actually flying horizontally, not diagonally. But Mark Emmins says "The images are exactly how they were taken.. I am just saying it gives the impression that it's taking off not flying horizontally". Can you confirm that the orientation shown above is the original?
 

Willie Kay

Member
@Willie Kay, on the Fortean group, you stated at first that the images had been rotated, and the object was actually flying horizontally, not diagonally. But Mark Emmins says "The images are exactly how they were taken.. I am just saying it gives the impression that it's taking off not flying horizontally". Can you confirm that the orientation shown above is the original?
The images have NOT been rotated. There was some confusion between myself and Mark. What he meant was that the object was flying horizontally. He reckoned the way the images had been presented might lead people to believe that the object was flying upwards, which it wasn’t.
 
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