Published: 7:19 AM 11/18/2013
By IAN KIRKWOOD
LAST week was UFO week in the Newcastle Herald: three articles prompted by photos and videos sent in by readers, then my colleague Joanne McCarthy rounded out the week with a lighter look at an issue that absorbed some but others dismissed as un-newsworthy.
I don't know what Belmont man Richard Hardy was looking at two Friday nights ago when he captured a couple of images of something in the sky above him on an iPhone.
But I do know that the photos intrigued me - especially when I blew one up on my computer screen and saw what looked like a single dot in the original photo break into the clearly discernible "boomerang" or wide "V" of lights that ran in Tuesday's paper.
And while the reaction to the three articles I wrote ran the gamut from complete acceptance to complete rejection - as I expected - the sheer scale of the online commentary shows it's an issue that large numbers of readers are interested in and passionate about.
The problem with single photographs like that - or like the video of the moving blue light that Tom Buxton, also of Belmont, shot at the end of October - is that they fail to convey the intensity of the experience at the time.
Tom's video showed a strongly glowing blue light staying still and then travelling against the skyline below it - but as critics said the photo and the video could have been of anything.
Others, however, were clearly moved by the images and a surprising number of readers then left details of their own sightings on the Herald's website and Facebook page.
Others have sent me more photos, which I am investigating before publishing.
A Queensland UFO group spokesperson I quoted last week was given short shrift by some readers for linking a growing scientific acceptance of the potential for other life in the universe with UFOs themselves and I have to say that for me, the sheer scale of the universe, and the time it would take to traverse the linear distance between even close stars, is the biggest obstacle in accepting UFOs.
But then again, if the bulk of UFO lore is correct, the sorts of problems that we perceive have already been solved by our alien visitors, which does not seem impossible to me, if you stop and consider the progress that we humans have made in the past 100 years alone.
Some readers may remember I wrote in August of the four UFOs I have seen over the decades, but as one of those came after a phone call alert to the Herald, I can only assume we were tipped off by humans.
Sure enough, something appeared where we had been told to look, over Williamtown RAAF base, and it (or to be more precise, they) did do the classic UFO "thing" of hanging stationary in the sky before taking off at high speed.
Maybe it would be better if we dropped the tag UFO and replaced it with the increasingly popular UAS, standing for "unidentified aerial sighting", which is a more accurate way of defining such a phenomenon.
Of course, the links in popular lore between UFOs and the military complex have always been there, and the internet is awash with claims of conspiracy after conspiracy involving aliens and almost everything, including the deaths of JFK and Marilyn Monroe - the former because he wanted to co-operate with the Russians on UFOs and the latter because Kennedy told her the truth about the Roswell crash of 1947.
As laughable as it may seem, government interest in UFOs remains, regardless of what is said publicly.
If you don't believe me, have a look at some of the stuff that WikiLeaks has trawled up.
I haven't found any smoking guns yet, but government agencies and the private security firm Stratfor, which has close ties to the US government, certainly keep an eye on what's being reported on the subject.
And they wouldn't do that if they weren't real, would they...