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Canadian connection for the Kecksburg UFO

The Kecksburg Crash is the “New Roswell”, according to a recent spate of sensational television documentaries.

But instead of looking for evidence of the unidentified flying object in the woods of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, UFO buffs might have better luck exploring the vineyards and tomato fields of southwestern Ontario.

That’s where astronomers last saw the flying saucer—or whatever that flaming object was, streaking across the sky.

The incident, which has suddenly become a hot topic, actually took place four decades ago — on December 9, 1965. Just before 5 p.m. that day a ball of fire was seen in the sky by thousands of people in the United States and Ontario around the southern Great Lakes. Sonic booms were heard in the Detroit-Windsor area. That much is well documented.

The legend of the Kecksburg Crash then continues with the fireball smacking down in the woods near that small town. According to a 2003 television documentary, “The New Roswell: Kecksburg Exposed” (recently run repeatedly on the Space channel in the United States and the Discovery channel in Canada), would-be investigators following reports of the crash said they could not get near the site because the military had quickly sealed it off. Speculation was that they were hiding the evidence of an extraterrestrial spacecraft having crashed.

Stories soon arose of a “pulsing blue light” having been spotted in the woods. Some witnesses were said to have seen the crashed vehicle itself, sometimes described as a copper-coloured saucer up to 12 feet in diameter and bearing unreadable hieroglyphics. The military reportedly hauled a mysterious object out of the area on a flatbed truck.

The Pennsylvania state police however put out a press release saying they had investigated the woods and found nothing. No mention of any military involvement. The reported truck was hauling equipment used in the futile search.

Astronomers soon identified the object seen in the sky as a meteorite. From the data available, including many photos of the smoking fireball, they determined in great detail its orbit through our solar system and its trajectory after entering our atmosphere.

Oddly it came nowhere near Kecksburg, according to their calculations.

A paper published by astronomers Von Del Chamberlain and David J. Krause of Michigan State University in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 1967 said the object disappeared “at a point over land some 15 miles south-east of Windsor” — that is, in Canada north of Lake Erie, over 160 kilometres from Kecksburg.

Nor was Kecksburg the only mistakenly claimed landing site. Reports came in of crashes all over Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ontario, and even further afield. However, no debris has yet been produced from any of these locations.

A possible explanation for the contradictory reports is that it is very difficult to tell how far away an object is in the sky. Against a plain backdrop, there is no way to tell by vision alone whether a fireball is dozens of kilometres off or just behind that tree in the neighbour’s backyard. Scientists can establish exactly where it was only by triangulating from multiple reports made from great distances apart.

The “mystery” of the fireball of 1965 was seemingly put to rest for scientists then.

But good stories seldom die due to a simple lack of factual support. This one was resuscitated 25 years later when NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries television series broadcast a half-hour segment on the alleged crash — and made sure to keep the mystery “unsolved” by leaving out most of the astronomers’ solution.

The Kecksburg legend has grown since then, with apparently new witnesses coming forward decades after the incident with new anecdotes of unusual occurrences in Kecksburg on that night in 1965. A replica of the supposed spacecraft, resembling a large acorn, was erected in the town, perhaps in hopes of emulating Roswell’s success in popularizing itself as a tourist destination. (A number of Kecksburg residents have also gone on record as disowning such attempts, calling the whole thing a hoax.)

Now the latest Kecksburg documentary has raised interest to a fever pitch among UFOlogists again.

All of which has frustrated astronomers and other skeptics who say the “mystery” was solved long ago.

In Canada.

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