Sphere, Acorn, Metallic Blimp - Three iPhone Photos From an F-18 via Mystery Wire

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
2021-04-07_11-56-49.jpg
Article:
Investigators with the Pentagon’s UAP Task Force have requested that airmen try to document their encounters.

On March 4th, 2019, one of them did.

An F-18 weapons systems officer (WSO) seated behind the pilot used his iPhone to capture images of three different objects he encountered in the same airspace.

At 3:02 p.m. he photographed an odd shaped object. Another photo, taken close to the same time, was first posted to twitter on May 11, 2020, then again on social media 6 months later.

Other photos taken on the same day; March 4th, 2019 have never been made public until now. Mystery Wire has taken the step of watermarking these photographs in this article. We will, at a later date, release the photographs without watermarks.


On of these photos, the "Acorn" is discussed here: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/balloon-like-ufo-photo-from-the-debrief.11481/

Of the other two, the "Sphere" (also labeled a "Jellyfish") looks to me like an out-of-focus highlight (bokeh). The close mirror being in focus is a strong clue.
2021-04-06_22-06-32.jpg
The metallic blimp is difficult to interpret due to low resolution. Possibly some kind of balloon.

2021-04-06_22-07-12.jpg


Article:
The Task Force reports noted that the objects were able to remain stationary in high winds, with no movement, beyond the capability of known balloons or drones.


For me this one line makes the whole story seem ridiculous. Stationary relative to what? And how was this measured. High altitude air movement is not very turbulent, so balloons would apprea still.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Of the other two, the "Sphere" (also labeled a "Jellyfish") looks to me like an out-of-focus highlight. hard to say.
2021-04-06_22-06-32.jpg

An attempt at replication (need daylight), the white dot on the right is a flashlight covered in foil with a pin hole - so a point light source
2021-04-06_22-42-59.jpg

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Some more - the dark inner ring seems like a distinctive feature.
2021-04-06_22-46-23.jpg

2021-04-06_22-45-38.jpg2021-04-06_22-44-31.jpg

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Some taken outside, iPhoneX.

This one was pretty cool, almost iridescent.
2021-07-14_14-12-43.jpg2021-07-14_14-13-28.jpg
 
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div

New Member
sphere is probably also a balloon, something like this:

OBI2SJ6P4BDURAZ2M7GJGNAECQ.jpg
or simpler type:

1.jpeg


as for blimp, somebody pointed out that it looks like plane shaped balloon

QGQYGAVJ-36inch-super-large-air-passenger-plane-shape-aluminum-balloons-Birthday-Party-Decorat...jpg
 
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jarlrmai

Senior Member

gtoffo

Active Member
At this point the most probable hypothesis are:
- the U.S. miliary has lost situational awareness due to bureoucracy/secrecy and is misidentifying party balloons (unlikely but possible)
- some foreign power is spying on the U.S. armed forces (with some new tech?) (most probable)
- other?

The Navy should have all the data to make a positive identification.... the fact they haven't (or they say they haven't) is very strange.
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
The whole thing is very odd to me it feels like there is no investigation past the initial release and speculation. It seems very likely that these images are of party balloons. But the Navy does not seem interested in making public any further investigations, and whoever is releasing statements that go along with them always just seems to happen to make a statement positively denying they are the thing that most look like in this case with some nonsense that doesn't make any sense when you give it some thought, but with the seeming authority of the military behind it. They read like some of the UFO pictures you see on Reddit sometime where they post a something that looks like landing lights then make a series of claims about what they definitely aren't.

It's like here's some photos of things we don't know what they are, they look like balloons but they aren't because of <insert specious reasoning here> and now we will never speak of them again.

I think we need to know about the process of how these things are written and released at this point it feels a bit like someone needed some interns to work on the UAP programme and hired some UFO believers that release the stuff they find with just enough doubt to stir things up.
 

Max Phalange

Active Member
This "acorn" photo is taken slightly before the notorious "Batman balloon" pic published last year.



Maybe this puts some constraints on the size, using Mick's "zipby" simulation? Hopefully they'll publish the original with the EXIF data eventually, which will give the time delta between the two photos.
 
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LorentzHall

Member

gtoffo

Active Member
This "acorn" photo is taken slightly before the notorious "Batman balloon" pic published last year.



Maybe this puts some constraints on the size, using Mick's "zipby" simulation? Hopefully they'll publish the original with the EXIF data eventually, which will give the time delta between the two photos.

Wow great animation! If we get timestamps that would be enormous...

We could then calculate a lot based on a few assumptions like the probable speed of the aircraft. Mick's simulation might also help if we try to match it.

Given two pictures were taking we can exclude a "chance" encounter/pic. This was an intercept and they were trying to photograph the object purposefully. So they knew it's position (radar?) and the object was probably relatively "stationary" given the fast approach (the environment doesn't change so this can not be taken more than a few seconds apart max (probably fraction of a sec).

The bank angle of the F-18 also suggests they were trying to get closer to it. And the pilot's head tilt suggests he was also looking at the object.

My first reaction is this a medium (car) sized object at a normal distance for an intercept (as close as you can get without endangering the aircraft) so 100s of meters at least probably closer to 1km.
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
If we had all the JPEGS with EXIF (double bonus if GPS is embedded, however I wouldn't be surprised if it is not) we might get some very approximate scale info, but any speculation on size at this point is baseless.
 

abyssal dission

New Member
Is it possible we're seeing pilots playing a game where they photograph balloons and other completely ordinary things in an attempt to see who can make the biggest headline? These sure do look like photos of balloons or points of light..
 

RTM

New Member
These announcements are starting to sound like Q’s any day now stuff. Also none of them look acorny. Isn’t there a historical case of a supposed crashed UFO that was bell/acorn shaped? wonder if they are trying to invoke cases from older lore.
 

DavidB66

Active Member
This "acorn" photo is taken slightly before the notorious "Batman balloon" pic...
Just to be clear, have the Navy officially codenamed this 'Acorn'? That is the claim in the 'Mystery Wire' video, but I wanted to check. When I first saw this mentioned I assumed it was something new, but it is evidently just the Batman balloon filmed a moment earlier. I've seen some oddly shaped acorns, but never one like the Batman balloon. If they wanted a neutral-sounding term, they could have chosen the earlier description as 'Shield'.
 

Alphadunk

Active Member
The provenance of the photos isn't clear from the article. Did Knapp receive them directly from the Navy? If so, are they the product of a FOIA? Where are the accompanying documents? Did he receive them from Bigelow?
 

Ravi

Active Member
Hmm, I cannot see the site (mystery wire), as I am from this blasted Europe. So I also cannot see the actual "acorn" or other new pictures. What a world. I feel like there is this party, but I am not invited. ;)
 

JMartJr

Active Member
Is it possible we're seeing pilots playing a game where they photograph balloons and other completely ordinary things in an attempt to see who can make the biggest headline? These sure do look like photos of balloons or points of light..
I wondered about that, or possibly, with pressure from some in Congres to be more open about UFO/UAP sightings, they are keeping their money supply happy by taking and releasing more balloon pics.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
Tried improving on the gif by stabilising the cockpit and fading between frames to "animate it". The timing is around 1 second.

ezgif-2-fd8bf1a6a54b.gif

What I notice:
- the pilot is tracking the object with his head.
- the aircraft is turning right towards the object due to its angle of bank which is increasing (pilot is turning into the object to get as close as possible).
- given the angle of bank and the little movement of the horizon I think the timing between the shots is probably around 1 second. I've played with the GIF a little bit and I think given the movement of the head and the horizon the timing is about right. I would guess it's probably +/-500ms compared to the gif. The neck of the pilot would snap if that much movement happened faster than this. and the horizon would move more if the timing was longer.

F-18C/D minimum stall speed (at full after burner) is 135 knots. And typical cruise speed is around 580 knots (most efficient speed) (see: http://krepelka.com/fsweb/learningcenter/aircraft/flightnotesboeingfa18hornet.htm#:~:text=Typical cruise speed is 580,(6,000 to 9,000 meters).
I think for an intercept they would be trying to fly at a comfortable slow speed so I would assume around 300-400knots.

At 350knots in 1 second the F-18 would move 180 meters.

With this data plus the angle between the bow of the aircraft and the object we can approximate it's distance and size.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Showing the difference in focus. The mirror (looks a bit like an iPhone) on the right is strongly out of focus in the "Acorn" (Batman) photo. But it's in focus
2021-04-07_11-56-49.jpg
 

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Rocky

Member
These announcements are starting to sound like Q’s any day now stuff. Also none of them look acorny. Isn’t there a historical case of a supposed crashed UFO that was bell/acorn shaped? wonder if they are trying to invoke cases from older lore.
Kecksburg UFO incident occurred on December 9, 1965, at Kecksburg, Pennsylvania.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The version of the images they put up now have limited EXIF data, exposure setting for the "acorn" pic, and exposure date/time for the other two. So we have:

  • 14:44:11 Sphere (Bokeh)
  • 15:02:30.143 Acorn-A (Acorn)
  • 15:02:30.517 Acorn-B (Batman)
  • 15:16:28 Metallic Blimp
So around 16 minutes between each incident. I wonder if this was them flying back to take a look, maybe doing circuits.

The fractional part of the Acorn-A and B comes from the "Sub-seconds time" field, which appears to be in 1/1000s. So this means the time between the two Acorn images is 0.374 seconds. Consistent with rapid tapping of the shutter button
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
Not being US based not sure if I can grab the EXIF versions from the site, do we know the exact iPhone model? We can work out fov/sensor size/pixel dimensions and the get an approximate distance with an assumption that it is a batman balloon etc.

Also I assume there was no attempt to take ATFLIR images of these objects? Too small to track, no RADAR assist for the ATFLIR? No ATFLIR fitted?
 

gtoffo

Active Member
The version of the images they put up now have limited EXIF data, exposure setting for the "acorn" pic, and exposure date/time for the other two. So we have:

  • 14:44:11 Sphere (Bokeh)
  • 15:02:30.143 Acorn-A (Acorn)
  • 15:02:30.517 Acorn-B (Batman)
  • 15:16:28 Metallic Blimp
So around 16 minutes between each incident. I wonder if this was them flying back to take a look, maybe doing circuits.

The fractional part of the Acorn-A and B comes from the "Sub-seconds time" field, which appears to be in 1/1000s. So this means the time between the two Acorn images is 0.374 seconds. Consistent with rapid tapping of the shutter button
0.375 is at the edge of my guesstimation then. Things happen fast in a cockpit :)

@135 knots (stall speed with full after burner) that's 26 meters travelled
@350 knots that's 67 meters travelled
@580 knots (typical F-18 high altitude cruise speed) that's 111 meters travelled
@1000 knots (kinda max speed for level flight) that's 190 meters travelled

If we now take the change in angle by the object we should have everything we need to approximate size and distance a the various speeds.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
Not being US based not sure if I can grab the EXIF versions from the site, do we know the exact iPhone model? We can work out fov/sensor size/pixel dimensions and the get an approximate distance with an assumption that it is a batman balloon etc.

Also I assume there was no attempt to take ATFLIR images of these objects? Too small to track, no RADAR assist for the ATFLIR? No ATFLIR fitted?
Considering they found it in the first place I would assume some sensor picked it up first. Probably radar. Not all fighters have ATFLIR on board. But they probably have more data that we just don't have.

Most balloons are pretty much invisible to radar or very faintly reflective depending on the exact material and if anything made of metal is hanging from it like a sensor or a reflector.

Unless they literally almost smashed against it randomly and turned back to have a second look.

P.s. it's an iPhone 8 so that gives you all the fov/sensor size/pixel dimensions you need for size and distance.
 

jarlrmai

Senior Member
Considering they found it in the first place I would assume some sensor picked it up first. Probably radar. Not all fighters have ATFLIR on board. But they probably have more data that we just don't have.

Most balloons are pretty much invisible to radar or very faintly reflective depending on the exact material and if anything made of metal is hanging from it like a sensor or a reflector.

Unless they literally almost smashed against it randomly and turned back to have a second look.

P.s. it's an iPhone 8 so that gives you all the fov/sensor size/pixel dimensions you need for size and distance.

They probably just saw it as they flew past a shiny object would stick out against the blue sky.

I need the images as raw as I can get as well.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
0.375 is at the edge of my guesstimation then. Things happen fast in a cockpit :)

@135 knots (stall speed with full after burner) that's 26 meters travelled
@350 knots that's 67 meters travelled
@580 knots (typical F-18 high altitude cruise speed) that's 111 meters travelled
@1000 knots (kinda max speed for level flight) that's 190 meters travelled

If we now take the change in angle by the object we should have everything we need to approximate size and distance a the various speeds.
Extreme approximation of the calculations here...

Using FOV of 53° for the camera (not sure it's the right one tried finding an exact value but I failed...in any case this is such an approximation that I think it shouldn't introduce such a big error).
I calculated number of horizontal pixels between an approximate centerline for the aircraft and the object and I see: 10,15° in the first one and 15,06° in the second one.

Using the most probable speeds above and assuming the object is stationary we have two triangles:
Screen Shot 2021-04-08 at 13.45.04.pngScreen Shot 2021-04-08 at 13.45.24.png

This would indicate a range between 203 and 336 meters in the second image. The faster the F-18 the longer the range.

I see 30 pixels of width in the second image so at that range using the same approach I would estimate:
@203 meters: 1.40 meters wide
@336 meters: 2.31 meters wide

Obviously several factors are not being taken into account and this is a big approximation (and FOV could be very wrong. Anyone know the exact FOV for iPhone 8?) but the result is pretty close to an expected intercept range and the size of something not impossible to find in the sky.

Conclusion: the batman mylar ballon seems to be sold in 45x70cm formats. I argued in the past this size was almost impossible to spot and intercept in the air with an F-18. I think the calculations above (if correct...big IF... please double check) show the object should be 3X-5X as wide and we can therefore exclude a party balloon candidate.
 
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flarkey

Active Member
Conclusion: the batman mylar ballon seems to be sold in 45x70cm formats. I argued in the past this size was almost impossible to spot and intercept in the air with an F-18. I think the calculations above (if correct...big IF... please double check) show the object should be 3X-5X as wide and we can therefore exclude a party balloon candidate.
Ive seen the Batman balloon listed as being 33in = 86cm, but exactly what dimension this relates to is unknown, (link)

It would be interesting to do the calculations the other way around, ie, if we know the size of the Batman balloon, can we calculate the speed of the aircraft using the photos and metadata, and is it within the flight envelope of the F/A-18E...?
 
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DavidB66

Active Member
Gtoffo:

If you are correct about the size of the object (which I think depends crucially on the field of view), we can also rule out a manned alien spacecraft, unless the aliens are really tiny. Perhaps 'manned' is the wrong word. Should it be 'alienated'??
 

DavidB66

Active Member
I tried my own primitive method of calculating the size of the object, given an estimated distance of 300m and a guess at the camera field of view. If the fov is 30 degrees (which assumes it is moderately zoomed, taking into account the blurring of nearby objects), the width of the fov at a distance of 300m is (2 x 300m x tan 15 degrees) = about 160 meters. I estimated the width of the object by adjusting the image (at #27 above) on my 14-inch laptop screen until the object was 1 mm wide, then measuring the width of the entire image at just over 200 mm, giving a ratio of 1:200. (This assumes that the image is not cropped.) On these assumptions the object is about 160/200 meters, or about 0.8 meters wide. That would be consistent with the dimensions of the Batman balloon. But I have probably made some naive or careless error.
 

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