Maybe It Came from the Dog Star, Scientists Comment on Stephenville UFOs
UFO Maybe It Came from the Dog Star, Scientists Comment on Stephenville UFOs By SUSAN TALLANT-Special to the Star-Telegram


Truck driver Sean Kiel is the center of attention in downtown Dublin on Saturday. He took a photo of a strange object in the sky Jan. 8 on Interstate 20 near Cisco. Once the excitement dies down in Stephenville, two scientists at area universities plan to take a scholarly look at whatever lighted the sky over Erath County this month.

Michael Hibbs, associate professor of math and physics at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, and Ron DiIulio, director of astronomy lab programs for the University of North Texas in Denton, said Saturday that they will gather data and interview witnesses to try to figure out what people saw.

"This is a chance for us to put together some science as to why," Hibbs said. "This is pretty cool. No, it's way cool."

DiIulio and Hibbs agree that people saw a UFO of sorts because it is unidentified and it appeared to be flying. They are especially interested in this sighting because of the number of people who reported seeing it.

"We know they saw something," Hibbs said. "We just want to know what it is."

DiIulio said he was not surprised that no one took photos of the UFO, since it was at night, it was cold and many people, especially older ones, don't carry cameras.

"We need more data," DiIulio said. "We want either an identified object or an unidentified one, but not a misidentified flying object."

Both scientists agreed that the photograph on the front page of Friday's Star-Telegram was not of a UFO. It was one of DiIulio's MFOs.

"From what I see by looking at this photo, it's a sun dog," DiIulio said.

Hibbs agreed. "It definitely was a sun dog," Hibbs said. "That photo has nothing to do with the Stephenville incident."

A truck driver took the photo using his cellphone camera on Jan. 8 on Interstate 20 near Cisco.

A sun dog is a little-known atmospheric phenomenon caused by ice crystals hanging in the air, reflecting sunlight through high clouds, DiIulio said. Cloud movements appear to make the sun dog move, too.

"You nearly always see them 22 degrees -- or 'two fists' -- on either side of the sun," he said. It usually happens near sunset.

DiIulio said American Indians used to report sun dogs.

"It's almost like a rainbow," DiIulio said. "It's pretty neat. Some people don't see the color, just the bright light."

He and Hibbs said they want to work with witnesses by going back to where the witnesses saw the lights. DiIulio and Hibbs will also look at the descriptions from Saturday's event in Dublin. And they're not scoffing.

"This is really exciting," Hibbs said. "Who would have guessed this would happen in Stephenville, Texas?"

Stop, look, take notes Ron DiIulio, director of astronomy lab programs for the University of North Texas, offers these tips on what to do if you spot a UFO. DiIulio is also Jet Propulsion Laboratories-NASA's solar system ambassador, helping interpret science for the public.

Note immediate changes, such as if the object suddenly reverses or turns 90 degrees. Know your compass points, and note the direction you are looking.

Count how far from north the object is using "fists." Stretch out your arm and level your fist on the horizon. Bring up your other fist. Cross your first arm over the second, keeping your arms together, and count how many fists left or right of north the object is. Nine fists left of north is northwest, etc.

In a similar way, find out how high the object is. Stretch out one arm and level a fist on the horizon. Then put the other fist on top of the first fist. Continue to stack fists until they reach the object. Two fists equal 20 degrees, nine fists equal 90 degrees, etc.

E-mail questions to DiIulio at

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