There have been an awful lot of things falling from the skies this last month from Chinese spy balloons to Unidentified Flying Objects to falling asteroids and comets. So what are we to make of all this? What is going on in the heavens that has us 21st century people so baffled and befuddled?
Well, we’re all familiar enough with science, science fiction literature and sci-fi in movies and TV. I’m sure we can figure this all out.
The Roswell Incident
Weather balloons have had a long history in confluence with the UFO phenomenon since their inception. The infamous “Roswell Incident” was originally fobbed off as merely a weather balloon before physicist Stanton Friedman began pushing the idea that the weather balloon story was just a lot of hot air and that an actual flying saucer piloted by aliens had, in fact, crashed in the New Mexico desert.
Did he actually believe that? As a physicist he should have known better, but I suspect that lecturing about the crashed saucer proved a lot more lucrative than his physics career did. But that’s just me. Please don’t let me shoot down your belief in the flying saucers, just like the US Air Force shot down the Chinese spy balloon.
What is going on?
Now, of course, we’re seeing balloons everywhere, which is surprising to a lot of people. Suddenly there’s balloons (or, as they have been termed, UFO’s) and we’re shooting them down as fast as we can scramble fighter jets. What is going on?
Well, it shouldn’t be that surprising. Once you know to look for something, you inevitably find more of it. You find one spider in your house you know there has to be more and before you know it you’re hunting arachnids with a swatter and a can of Raid.
But sightings of balloons in the sky is not even a new phenomenon.
Mystery Airships or Phantom airships, were regularly sighted in the skies over the western United States and spreading eastwards during late 1896 and early 1897. These airship sightings were the pre-curser to the Flying Saucer sightings in the latter half of the twentieth century.
According to researcher Jerome Clark, airship sightings were reported worldwide. Typical airship reports involved night time sightings of unidentified lights, but more detailed accounts reported ships comparable to a dirigible. Some reports mentioned encounters with the airship’s crewmen and pilots. They were usually described as human-looking, although sometimes the crew claimed to be from Mars.
Contemporary American newspapers of the “yellow journalism” era were more likely to print manufactured stories and hoaxes than are modern news sources, and editors of the late 1800s often would have expected the reader to understand that such stories were false. Most journalists of the period did not seem to take the airship reports very seriously, as after the major 1896–97 wave concluded, the subject quickly fell from public consciousness.
The Green Comet
The other remarkable event witnessed in the sky has been the appearance of the C/2022 E3 (ZTF) comet. The bright green comet discovered less than a year ago has traveled billions of miles from its believed origins at the edge of our solar system and is in the process of making its only recorded appearance visible from Earth.
The comet was first seen in March 2022 as it made its way through Jupiter’s orbit. According to NASA, it’s a long-period comet believed to come from the Oort Cloud, the most distant region of Earth’s solar system that’s “like a big, thick-walled bubble made of icy pieces of space debris” that can get even bigger than mountains. The inner edge of this region is thought to be between 2,000 and 5,000 astronomical units (AUs) from the sun — between 186 billion and 465 billion miles.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Hey! That sounds kind of familiar!”
That’s because it is. H. G. Wells wrote In the Days of the Comet in 1906. In that novel humanity is “exalted” when a strange green comet comet causes “the nitrogen of the air, the old azote,” to “change out of itself” and become “a respirable gas, differing indeed from oxygen, but helping and sustaining its action, a bath of strength and healing for nerve and brain.”
The result: “The great Change has come for evermore, happiness and beauty are our atmosphere, there is peace on earth and good will to all men.”
Sadly, comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) came and went and humanity is no more exalted or any happier than when it first showed up. Oh, well. It was only science fiction after all.
A one meter asteroid, designated Sar2667, lit up the night sky over the English Channel on February 13th as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean, giving a spectacular light show to the South of England.
It was also one of only a handful of times an asteroid was detected by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) imminent impactor alert system, before entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The ESA said its detection was “a sign of the rapid advancements in global asteroid detection capabilities”
But is it a sign of something more dire? Do all these portents in the sky add up to some new global calamity that will cause us much consternation and cause us to rend our clothes and gnash our teeth and refresh our twitter feeds every few seconds?
Probably not. Sadly, the extraterrestrials will not be coming to exact revenge on humanity for popping their balloons. Humanity will not come together and sing Kumbaya because of the influence of the green comet. Monstrous Kaiju will not wade ashore and climb the white cliffs of dover, wreaking destruction on Old Blighty.
After all, this is the real world and not science fiction. None of those things are likely to happen.
But it would certainly make for a more interesting world if it did, wouldn’t it?
Let me know what you think.
Source: Auto Draft