Chilean object: A U.F.O. does not mean it’s a ‘UFO’ (Update: Likely explanation obtained)

UPDATE (8-Jan-2016): The most likely explanation for this “UFO” is that it was a plane. This detailed analysis of focal length and speed of object concludes “medium-haul aircraft”. The heat signature and shape of the object does suggest conventional dual-engine aircraft. A post on Metabunk has additional details and visuals to show why this case is almost certainly a plane. The details account for why the object was not on radar or able to be contacted (farther away), the “gas release” (aerodynamic contrail) and the shape of the object as two dark blobs (reverse infrared of dual engines flying away from the observers).

This looks like a plane, flying away from the camera considerably higher than the helicopter (somewhere around 15,000 to 25,000 feet), that briefly creates an aerodynamic contrail.

The plane that seems to fit best is LA330, a two engined A320, which was reported to be climbing through 20,000 feet at that exact visual position at 14:01:39. It was actually 65 miles away, not 35-50. This explain why it was not seen on radar (the actual plane was on radar, just not where they thought it was)

Chile has been a world-UFO-hotspot in the past 5 years, and they seem to enjoy it. It strikes me that the official UFO investigation agency, the Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (CEFAA) is lacking sufficient objectivity and may be biased towards hyping the reality of UFOs as mysterious instead of considerating ALL possible explanations (such as assumptions of distance might be incorrect). Pilots, just like all other people, make mistakes in their observations. The CEFAA organization, formed in 1997, was from the beginning, a pro-UFO team. Here is a quote from a FATE magazine piece about the committee:

From the start, it was obvious that General Vega was totally convinced of the reality of UFOs and wasn’t interested in discussing whether they exist. He said he was working on “a project to collect UFO aircraft and radar cases” and he was well-acquainted with UFOlogical, aeronautical, and metaphysical subjects.

Are we seeing some motivated reasoning in the conclusions of the CEFAA? UFO mystery mongers wish to make all these “unexplained” sightings as mysterious as possible to support their belief that there are genuine anomalies that may be a hazard to society. If so, this belief will skew their evidence collection, analysis, and subsequent conclusions. The release this information to the public has been useful. Independent investigations can occur, which ultimately show that the anomalies can likely be explained. Yet, these incidents that are picked up by the media as “Real UFO over Chile” reflect poorly on the quality of work by the CEFAA and reinforce public belief and fear over UFOs as a threat.

Addition: Robert Sheaffer’s post reinforces the idea that both the CEFAA and Leslie Kean are doubtful sources to trust.

Original post (6-Jan-2016)

The buzz is hot today about footage released by the Chilean navy showing an unidentified object (U.F.O in the literal sense) in the sky recorded by military helicopter on November of 2014. The story was written by Leslie Kean who previously made much of other unidentified anomalies in Chilean airspace as part of her journalism and book.

Chilean experts have been unable to come to any conclusion about what this is. Here is the official press release. The velocity is said to be about the same as the helicopter, around 150 mph. Air traffic radar or onboard radar did not register it. No contact could be made. There was a heat signature recorded when the object apparently released a gas plume (twice) which you can see starting at the 8:15 and 9:42 marks in the video below.

Several possibilities have been posted but rejected. I’m opening up the comments for this one for you to have your say. I am unqualified to say what it could or couldn’t be but one thing I will say is this: just because we don’t yet know exactly what it is DOES NOT in any way lend credence to say that it’s an alien craft (‘UFO’ in the pop culture sense). There is a reasonable possibility it is new, still-secret technology, or (more likely) something we just haven’t thought of. I’m afraid the mystery-mongers are going nuts with this. But one video does not mean we throw up our hands and say “ALIENS!”

I’d like some evidence-based input only, please.


Additional info can also be sent to editor(at) I’ll update this post as more comes in.

  12 comments for “Chilean object: A U.F.O. does not mean it’s a ‘UFO’ (Update: Likely explanation obtained)

  1. Gary Goldberg
    January 6, 2017 at 9:02 PM

    these days an unidentified object in the sky can be a drone, in addition to past possibilities

  2. Patricio Elicer
    January 6, 2017 at 9:58 PM

    It reminds me of the Mexican UFOs of 2004, that ended up being flames from oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The article says the UFO was seen on the infrared camera, but didn’t show up on radar. It fits the idea that it could be a source of heat.

    Also, it’s interesting to note that the UFO was seen on the FLIR infrared camera on a surveillance flight from the city of San Antonio to the city of Quinteros. Precisely on this last location there’s a copper smelter refinery with a very tall chimney, called Ventanas Refinery

  3. Chip
    January 6, 2017 at 10:00 PM

    Classic UFO video with very little additional data to go on. The heat signature in infrared looks significant, but the video in visible light shows a tiny almost invisible dot with no features at all. My sense (and a sense only with so little to go by) is that it’s something very far away indeed. We have no idea of the range or sensitivity of the radar(s) which saw nothing, and no reports of people on the ground and what they did or did not see . Repeating this event with distant aircraft, birds, drones, balloons and such would certainly be helpful for ruling in or out known objects.

  4. January 6, 2017 at 10:14 PM

    The video has all the hallmarks of a classic UFO film: good resolution vid shows nothing; terrible resolution vid shows a blob; infrared vid shows something without discernible features doing something of indeterminate interest; vid operator appears to make no useful effort to approach the putative unknown to get a good crisp image.

    There does not seem to be anything of evidentiary value on the video.

    I can understand if authorities want to investigate reports of unidentified airborne objects that seem to be travelling through controlled airspace. I cannot understand why an investigation with no positive conclusions is taken by UFO proponents to have a positive conclusion for the existence of a “real unexplained phenomenon in our skies.”

    That is not a valid inference.

  5. Polimedes
    January 6, 2017 at 11:10 PM

    The silhouette from 0:44-0:52 is pretty convincing for a Chinook helicopter.

  6. January 7, 2017 at 1:35 AM

    I can’t tell any of you what it is. I can tell you one thing it isn’t. It isn’t a smokestack. If you notice the altitude indicator on the lower left side of the screen you’ll see that the object (and apparently the Chilean helicopter) are at approx 4500 ft in altitude (confirmed in the original article). I agree that it does seem a lot like a Chinook, but I’ve never known a Chinook to exhaust a long black plume of smoke while flying unless it was experiencing engine difficulty which is of course possible. Another giveaway that it is not a smokestack is the fact that the smoke contrail is not moving away from the vehicle, but instead, the vehicle is moving away from the contrail. According to the original article the Chilean officials subjected this video to extensive examination and concluded that the behaviour of the object was anomalous and deemed it a UAP (Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon). I think the primary reason for this determination is the fact that despite eyewitness and video evidence, the object in question never displayed a corresponding radar signature during the 10 minute contact/sighting. Additionally the ejecta from the object was extremely hot and (in the first release) quite dense which disqualifies a waste water ejection scenario or even engine smoke. All in all, it may not be alien in nature, but it is weird as all hell. Read the original article.

  7. bill turnbull
    January 7, 2017 at 4:43 AM

    C hip’s, Polimedes’ and Doc Knowles’ comments all smack of knowledge of military aircraft display symbology. I can say this with some certainty because I have extensive experience with military aircraft avionics.

    One thing I might add, is that there seems to be no sensor basis for the statement that the two aircraft’s speed were the same. These data would come from either radar or Laser ranging:
    Radar: It was stated that there was no aircraft radar data (likely out of range for the typical helicopter radar, if any on that aircraft, not all helicopters have radar).
    Laser: There were no indications that the pilot was Lasing the target.

    At any distance, radial velocities along Line Of Sight are very difficult to estimate.

  8. bill turnbull
    January 7, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    COUGAR AS-532 Sensors from:

    Apparently the Radar is optimized for ground search and mapping, not air-to-air (no air-to-air mode is described). Apparently there is no Laser Ranging and Detection system.

    “The helicopter is equipped with a long-range, multi-mode retractable pulse Doppler radar. A rotating antenna is carried beneath the fuselage. The radar range is 200km, with the helicopter operating at an altitude of 4,000m and a cruise speed of 180km/h.

    The radar scans a ground area of 20,000km over a depth of 200km in ten seconds, and the data is then transmitted to a ground station. For moving targets the radar provides a speed resolution of the target of 2m per second.

    The cockpit is night-vision goggle compatible. A weather radar is fitted. The helicopter communications systems are encrypted. The navigation equipment includes a Decca navigator and flight log with an SFIM model 155 autopilot, inertial navigation and global positioning system (GPS). Standard equipment includes a VHF omni-directional radio range equipment (VOR), instrument landing system (ILS), radar altimeter and a GPS.”

  9. January 7, 2017 at 9:58 AM

    The original article is the first link in this piece. It’s not all that weird; it’s made out to be more weird by dramatic mystery mongers.

  10. Midnight
    January 7, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    I’m confused. Your link to detailed analysis says that the FLIR camera used was a SAFRAN EUROFLIR 350-3, but the original Huff article links to the Wescam MX-15 FLIR system. Please, explain…

  11. January 7, 2017 at 1:41 PM

    idoubtit, really? You don’t think it’s “all that weird?” You don’t think it’s weird that an object can fly into sovereign air space, undetected by radar, visible only on infra red equipment, eject some kind of hot, dense and dark gaseous material, refuse to respond to radio calls and apparently go wherever it wants in YOUR airspace, in YOUR country and you don’t think that’s weird? Where the hell do you live that this doesn’t seem weird to you?

  12. January 7, 2017 at 2:07 PM

    Doc, your question to Sharon contains many assumptions that are unfounded.

    As other commentors have pointed out, there may be mundane reasons radar didn’t pick up an object (pointed at ground).
    You assume a gas was ejected — and somehow divine some of its properties — when it could well have been simple disturbance of the atmostphere. You can’t know either way.
    Without warrant, you assume an object capable of receiving and responding to radio calls, which leads you to improperly reason that the lack of response was a refusal to respond.

    THAT seems weird to me.

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