Thursday, 26 June 2008

UFO Sightings Over Barnet? Not From Where I'm Standing, Says Donald E Lyven

Recently the Ministry of Defence released once secret records of Unidentified Flying Object sightings over the UK with our local newspapers concentrating on several sightings seen over the Borough of Barnet. Imagine my surprise when I was rung by a journalist during May and asked: ‘of all the people I know, you are the obvious choice to comment on UFO sightings…’ Now that either makes me well informed on such matters, or a complete and utter nutter. However, as someone who has lived in the Borough of Barnet since it’s formation in the sixties, and with interests in Aviation, Astronomy and Ornithology, I can honestly say, that in over 40 years of looking skyward with eyes, binoculars, telescope and cameras, I have never seen anything I couldn’t explain.

I have heard various reports over the years, about mysterious moving light formations at night, in the sky; but as we in Barnet are under the flights paths into Heathrow, Northolt, Elstree, Luton and Stanstead, this is only to be expected. Aircraft landing lights are powerful and can be seen for tens of miles. For instance, the main runway at Stanstead points in the direction of the Borough, and so, despite being nearly 30 miles away, aircraft lined up on approach to the Essex airport, appear almost stationary low above the north-eastern horizon as they slowly descend into the airport, giving the impression of a hovering bright light that disappears into the gloom of the thickening atmosphere.

Additionally, the north London aircraft stacks for Heathrow in Hertfordshire and Essex, provide a constant stream of moving and altering patterns of light shapes at night, as up to half a dozen aircraft circle at different heights before starting their approach vectors. This causes an ever-changing pattern of squares and triangles to the casual viewer, unaware of the incidental aerial ballet being choreographed by air traffic controllers and pilots.

Balloons are another source of observational conundrums. Often I’ve seen strange shapes wandering curiously across the sky, only to view in binoculars a clutch of several balloons let loose from shops, or children; and once, a collection of expensive shinny animal shapes, that had escaped from its no-doubt angry balloon seller! But these local daytime sightings are nothing to do with a proper nighttime sighting of a lighted object moving about the heavens, something I’ve always wanted to see….

Space: once the final frontier, yet most of us now use 'space' in our everyday lives, whether relying on Sat-Nav in the car (or used menacingly to track the van I drive), watching Sky television, or making an international phone call with that irritating delay. All these marvels are due to the myriad of satellites Earthlings have launched during the past 50 years. Look out after dusk or before dawn up into a clear sky, and you should see several slow moving pinpoints of light passing steadily between the stars, denoting the passage of a satellite as the sun reflects off its metal surface. Some, like the International Space Station are extremely bright, and its predicted orbits overhead can be found on the NASA website, and watched as it steadily passes brilliantly above.

As regards alien life visiting Earth, the distances and maths involved simply don’t add up. While I’m sure life has evolved on many suitable planets across the universe, consider this: we’ve had life on Earth for billions of years - but as simple bacteria; then for millions of years as creature life forms; but only during the last few thousand years, have humans mastered technology to the point we have today, and yet we still couldn’t send people beyond our few closest planetary neighbours if we had to. And nor will we.

For too much of Earth’s scientific knowledge and finance has been swallowed up in either war or the vain pursuit of happiness, and the modern industrial base we in the rich world enjoy now, will go into steady decline as populations increase while the oil runs out – (that’s why it’s currently going up in price). As food becomes scarce, and global warming causes sea levels to rise rendering the world’s coastal cities, ports, oil refineries and nuclear power stations useless - our modern ‘world-market’ economy will collapse like a pack of cards. Only poor subsistence farming communities who have little to lose will be able to survive. In the future, what use is a 4x4 in London with no fuel available to run it, nothing in the shops to buy, and no electricity? Rioters and gangs will take whatever they want from whoever has it, and society as we know it will not exist. Starvation and disease will wipe out entire populations of countries whose economies were based on the cheap availability of oil as its power source. Our oil based economies are doomed.

Had our planet evolved correctly, we would be using renewable energy sources – wind, solar and tidal, while we still had the use of cheap oil to fund their development. Instead we have squandered it, polluted our soil, air and sea, and not shared the planet’s wealth and resources, preventing knowledge and technology globally that would have eventually got humans into deep space – but now it’s too late. As the few rich countries get richer, the vast majority of the planet’s nations will suffer terminal decline until the whole world is affected.

There is every reason to think all intelligent life forms on planets have only a limited window in their evolution of a few hundred years in which to contact other worlds; for like on Earth, their industrial age, pollution and lack of natural resources will end up destroying them. The odds of two intelligent civilisations on separate but close enough planetary systems, evolving to a point where their technology periods coincide and being able to contact each other in the same time frame, are phenomenal. This is the reason I believe we have not been contacted by aliens and hence no genuine UFO sightings.

It is telling that nearly all classic ‘alien encounters’ are by lone individuals usually in the middle of nowhere. Wouldn’t a space ship making the effort of a thousand light-year mission land somewhere more public to make the trip worthwhile? It is also remarkable that nearly all images of aliens with their distinctive head shape, harp straight back to the 1950s Roswell incident in New Mexico; where shaven chimpanzees in silver insulating suits were discovered in the wreckage of a converted German V2 rocket that crashed near the desert town. Little did those who initially discovered the crash site realise how the legacy of that incident would have on sci-fi and popular culture for generations to follow.

Over Finchley one Sunday I once saw the proverbial weather balloon! These were released several times a day from Bracknell to collect data on wind direction, speed, air temperature and pressure, and the one I saw was a small white dot high in the sky with a box of data collecting instruments slung underneath, travelling northeast away from Bracknell’s direction. The only other sights I’ve seen over the borough are various aircraft - all identifiable - fascinating cloud shapes, spectacular lightning, and birds of all sorts. The most interesting was a high flight of swans at around two-thirty in the morning, their distinctive white shapes visible from reflective street lighting as their broad V formation rippled silently and eerily across a black velvet sky sparkling with stars. Truly breathtaking; but totally explainable.

From The Greenacre Times (June 2008)