News Stories

Life On Mars?
By European Space Agency
If life is commonplace, as some scientists expect, should it not have arisen on the nearby planet least different from the Earth, namely Mars?

Traces of torrents tell of a time, in the distant past, when surface water was more abundant than now. ESA’s Mars Express (2003) will find out what became of the water. If it exists underground, life may survive there.

The Beagle 2 lander from Mars Express will look for methane -- a sign of persistent life. If former life on Mars is now extinct, micro-fossils should remain. To prove that it never existed would be difficult.

UFOs brought to earth with a bump
By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent  ---- Thursday 3 April 1997

IT is official. UFOs do not exist, aliens have never visited Earth and all flying saucer sightings are now referred by the military to private organisations, the American Defence Department said yesterday.

The announcement was prompted by the suicide of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult in California who killed themselves because they believed that their souls would be transported to eternal life on a spaceship following the Hale-Bopp comet. "We cannot substantiate the existence of UFOs and we are not harbouring remains of UFOs," said Ken Bacon, department spokesman.

Convinced that there was no extra-terrestrial threat, the Pentagon has long since stopped recording of UFO sightings, Mr Bacon said. But enormous public interest in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life has been fuelled by television programmes such as The X-Files and hundreds of Internet sites addressing the topic.

Of 12,618 reported UFO sightings investigated by the US Air Force between 1947 and 1969, none "represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of our scientific knowledge," Mr Bacon said.

No UFO reported, investigated or evaluated posed a threat to America and there was no evidence that the UFOs were extra-terrestrial vehicles, he added. Most sightings of supposed UFOs could be explained either by weather conditions, such as lightning or unusual cloud formations, or by aircraft movements, he said.

Scientists call for inquiry on UFOs
By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent ---- Tuesday 30 June 1998

UNEXPLAINED and "compelling physical evidence" that accompanied several supposed UFO sightings deserves scientific investigation, according to an international panel of scientists.

The first independent scientific review for 30 years, published yesterday, said a study of unresolved events, such as burns to witnesses, and unexplained radar detection of flying objects, might help to debunk some claims of UFO sightings. The panel of nine American, British, French and German scientists emphasised that the claimed sightings provide no evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence nor any violation of natural laws. It said: "It might be valuable to evaluate carefully UFO reports to extract information about phenomena unknown to science."

Peter Sturrock, professor of space science at Stanford University, who is head of the study, said scientists should overcome the "giggle factor" that normally accompanies a study of UFOs. He hoped that they would "read the report and become curious . . . The challenge is to do good science on this." The unexplained phenomena encompass the usual controversial claims, such as strange lights in the sky, malfunctioning cars and aircraft, radiation evidence, damage to vegetation and the ground, radar traces and burns to witnesses.

"If there is an interest in trying to get serious answers to the UFO problem, it would be sensible for scientists to focus on the physical evidence as opposed to witness testimony," Prof Sturrock said. Several phenomena once dismissed as folk tales, such as falling stars and types of lightning, had now been explained, he said.

Mystery of airliner's near miss with 'UFO'
By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent -----Friday 13 June 1997

AIR investigators are baffled by an apparent near-miss between an Aer Lingus jet and an unidentified flying object.

The BAe 146, bound for Stansted from Dublin, took evasive action after both pilots saw what they described as a red aircraft with blue and white stripes heading towards them as they flew over Hertfordshire. The jet passed 100ft above the interloper two seconds later.

The crew reported the incident to air traffic control and suggested that what they had seen might have been a military aircraft, such as a Red Arrows Hawk. But inquiries, involving searches of radar recordings and radio transcripts, failed to find another aircraft.

Investigators established that no Red Arrows aircraft flew that day, and checks on all military or civil Hawks revealed that the last one to be airborne had landed four hours earlier. Inquiries into the whereabouts of Gnat aircraft, which are similar to Hawks, also revealed no flights.

The possibility that an unregistered ex-military aircraft had taken off from a private airstrip was ruled out as "inconceivable" because radar in the area would make detection a certainty.

The Civil Aviation Authority group set up to examine the incident said yesterday that there was no doubt that the pilots "saw something and agreed in some detail in their descriptions".

Group members speculated that the object could have been a model aircraft, an advertising balloon, or even plastic sheeting. But the lack of radar evidence "meant that members could feel reasonably certain that what had been seen was not an aeroplane". Similarly, the degree of risk to the jet from the incident, which occurred last June, was "impossible to assess".

Aer Lingus said its pilots had reported the event because they were trained to do so. The airline predicted that the incident was "likely to remain a mystery".

Soccer chief who saw UFO is under the moon
By Nigel Bunyan  ----Tuesday 19 November 1996

A MILLIONAIRE soccer club chairman threatened to resign yesterday after being "publicly humiliated" over his bizarre account of a UFO sighting.

For 20 years Michael Knighton, 45, who owns 90 per cent of Carlisle United, thought he had kept the lid on the most astonishing event of his life. True, he and his wife, Rosemary, had watched an apparently alien craft perform a range of "impossible" aero-gymnastics as they set off from their Yorkshire home one afternoon in 1976.

And, also true, as the glowing UFO disappeared into the stratosphere, he believed he had received a telepathic message urging him: "Don't be afraid, Michael." But, as a businessman, he realised how he might be treated if the press ever got hold of the story. Unfortunately for Mr Knighton, he hinted at his close encounter while at a meeting of the Aetherius Society, an organisation dedicated to studying metaphysics.

A local reporter questioned him in more detail and a front-page report duly appeared in the West Cumbrian News and Star under the headline, "Knighton: Aliens Spoke To Me."

Mr Knighton was not so much glowing as incandescent. Despite the newspaper's assertion that he was sufficiently co-operative to draw a sketch of the craft in the reporter's notebook, he maintains that the disclosure was made during an off-the-record conversation.

"I feel deeply betrayed," he said. "This was a very private story and I made it perfectly clear to the reporter that it was not for publication. The damage has been done now and so I've decided to resign at the end of the season. I have a nine-year-old son and it's not fair for him to be ridiculed."

He still cannot explain his "wonderful" UFO experience. "It was quite extraordinary," he said. "This object fell out of the sky, starting off as a tiny dot like a shooting star but it was unbelievable. It changed from an inverted V to a huge metallic disc the size of half a football pitch. We watched it perform the most unbelievable aero-acrobatics in silence."

Mr Knighton and his wife watched the display for 30 minutes, watching with "two men walking their dog". Although they later read reports of a similar sighting, they decided against informing the authorities. My wife was quite overawed by what we saw and she would not like to experience it again. I was totally enthralled."

The News and Star has now followed its "Aliens speak" story with a campaign to persuade Mr Knighton to stay. In a front-page article, Keith Sutton, the editor, tendered an "unreserved" apology. He said: "Just because Michael Knighton has seen a UFO doesn't disqualify him from being a football club chairman."

Last night Mr Knighton said he would reconsider his decision. "Perhaps it has been an overreaction on my part, which is a bad sign. I don't get uptight about things but I did feel betrayed," he said. Mr Knighton hinted that he might stay as chairman but appoint a new chief executive.

Wanted: close encounters of Forth kind
By Telegraph Correspondent ---- Wednesday 5 January 2000

A JAPANESE television company is to film the sky above two Scottish hills for six months non-stop in an attempt to record a UFO.

Berwick Law and Traprain Law, two extinct volcanoes which rise dramatically from the flat land on the south bank of the Firth of Forth, have gained a reputation among UFO enthusiasts recently for strange visitations. A film crew hired by a Japanese TV company plans to set up cameras on the roof of the Templar Lodge Hotel in the nearby town of Gullane, in the spring. The cameras will be trained on both hills and their footage will be broadcast on the internet.

Stephen Prior, head of marketing at the Templar Lodge, said: "Some Japanese golfers on holiday here saw something strange up there, and word of this seems to have got back to Japan. There is a long Celtic tradition of fairies on the hills - traditionally, you wouldn't take your baby up there for fear of it being turned into a changeling."

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