ALBANY, NY — The scientific research nonprofit UAPx is like a 21st-century A-Team composed of two highly regarded astrophysicists and a computational astrophysicist, two Navy veterans who are radar experts, a mechanical engineer and a former Air Force pilot who can MacGyver a vehicle into a mobile lab. They research a controversial but critical field of UAPs — or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.
The UAPx team relies on donations and grants to buy infrared cameras, audio sensors, and some bleeding-edge technology. MIT colleagues created and gifted a radiation detector that is like a powerful Geiger counter adapted to their research needs.
Last summer, they had an amazing stroke of luck. A documentary film producer funded a full week of research for UAPx in Laguna Beach and nearby Catalina Island, a hotspot for UAP sightings. It's where the famous UAP shaped like a gigantic TicTac was filmed and tracked on radar by Navy pilots from the USS Princeton pilots in 2004.
Just this month, The War Zone published U.S. Navy reports the publication obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about a 2019 encounter near Catalina Island when a Navy destroyer was swarmed by UFOs. The USS Paul Hamilton encountered several "Unmanned Aircraft System/Non-Traditional Aviation Technology," the term the U.S. Department of Homeland Security prefers to UFOs. The objects glowed red or white — although one remained dark. They came within 200 yards of the destroyer and drenched its bridge in light a few times.
Apparently, the area is a hotbed. In one week, the UAPx team captured several extraordinary and dramatic UAPs.
"We use the term UAP instead of the term UFO because UFO has a sci-fi stigma," University at Albany astrophysicist and former NASA research scientist Kevin Knuth told Raw Story, with a brief sigh. "There are academics who consider it a taboo field of study."
The data and video UAPx collected seems likely to command respect, especially given the reputations of Knuth and his teammates. It will take years to analyze completely all that UAPx collected in one week.
How they caught UFOs in action
A Hollywood celebrity and astronomy buff loaned the team a luxurious Laguna Beach villa perched on a mountainside overlooking the ocean. They set up infrared cameras, sound sensors, an oscilloscope to measure electric signals and radiation detectors on the flat roof. The team had eight thermal cameras that can measure a UAP's outer temperature -20 F to -80 F. They also used long-wavelength infrared cameras like those on U.S. fighter jets. They set up more equipment across the water on a Catalina Island rooftop. An OSIRIS vehicle loaded with similar equipment was ready to follow any UAPs detected from the ground.
On July 14 at 4 a.m. an elliptical hole appeared in the cloud cover above and expanded to one-quarter of a mile. Meanwhile, the instruments recorded a huge spike in radiation at 43.37 MeV. (The average was 2 MeV). Inside the egg-shaped hole, 53 white UAPs glowed, each between 35 to 50 feet wide. Then the hole closed with such abnormal swiftness, Knuth calculated that clouds would be moving 750 mph.
The team checked with NASA and NOAA who had no record of solar flares or gamma ray anomalies that could cause such phenomena. No aircraft were flying in the area at that time. The documentary director, Caroline Cory, was so dazzled by the phenomenon's appearance, she named the film "A Tear in the Sky."
Beloved "Star Trek" icon William Shatner appears in the film to chat with Cory. She tells him the tear in the sky might be a "wormhole," a phenomenon mathematically predicted by Albert Einstein and his Princeton colleague back in the 1930s. They called the entity an "Einstein Rosen Bridge". Theoretically, it's a shortcut through time and space. Enter one end and emerge in a different world.
But no one knows what a wormhole will look like. No one has ever seen one. The UAPx scientists gave Cory's enthusiastic assessment a tactful reality check.
"It's an unidentified unclassified phenomenon; we don't know what it is," University at Albany physics professor Matthew Szydagis told Raw Story. "It could take years of tests and study before we know what it is, or what the other phenomena are that we filmed."
That's the norm for scientists investigating UAPs. When astronomers first detected a black hole in the Milky Way in 1964, they weren't sure what they were looking at. No one had yet seen a black hole. What they could see was a mysterious way gas was sucked away from a blue, supergiant star. It wasn't until 1971 that the phenomenon was identified as a black hole through independent work by several researchers.
Another night, the Laguna equipment documented two UAPs. Szydagis said they were flying too high to be planes, even international flights, and too low to be satellites. The objects were very cold.
"Cold is significant because there should be a heat signature from whatever propulsion system the object has," Szydagis explained.
In the documentary, Cory describes an additional UAP documented that week; a pink, luminous object that flies across the sky, makes a quick U-turn then flies out of frame. There is a spike in radiation when the object appears.
Another event as dramatic as the tear in the sky was captured that week when dozens of TicTac-shaped UAPs rained from the sky falling from 28,000 feet from the air to sea level. Each UAP was around 4 feet to 69 feet wide and fell at 5,000 mph to 84,000 mph.
There were no sonic booms, no air disturbances. Knuth says that in the video, splashes are visible when the objects hit water.
Even if UAPs have nothing to do with alien life, they could be exciting phenomena worth studying because they may help unlock secrets of how the universe works. For example, Szydagis says that the tear in the sky could be: a distant supernova. It may reflect the impact of a black hole. It may be an atmospheric event so rare, it's still a mystery to scientists.
Want to help study celestial phenomena?
Szydagis is an expert on dark matter WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). He and Knuth are in demand for research projects across the globe. And they have university classes to teach, students to guide. They were recruited to UAPx by the two Navy vets who founded it, both of whom were serving on the USS Princeton and eyewitnesses to the 2004 TicTac UAP. Knuth and Szydagis make time for UAPx because they believe UAPs are a crucial field of study. They are painfully aware other academics disagree.
Ironically, the scientific research that ignites public interest and pop cultural passion is often dissed by academics who are embarrassed by all that pop enthusiasm. Those exuberant UFO enthusiasts, the self-proclaimed alien abductees, Roswell conspiracy theorists, TV series and movie blockbusters that make annoying mistakes about evolution, warp travel and wormholes dismay and exhaust some scientists.
Knuth and Szydagis see that pop cultural engagement as a boon to a field of study. They wish there was a famous, popular scientist like TV star astronomer Carl Sagan (who championed UAP research) to be a liaison between the public and scientists. The astrophysicist who comes closest to Sagan's popularity is Neil deGrasse Tyson "and he pooh-poohs UAPs," Szydagis said.
Tyson complains frequently that UAP evidence is limited to grainy videos. It would be more accurate to say that's the only publicly accessible evidence. Congress wasn't able until 2020 to get the Department of Defense to declassify materials on UAPs and issue a report.
The UAPx team's dream is to maintain equipment permanently at UAP hotspots including Laguna Beach, Uintah County in Utah, and Northwestern Puerto Rico's shoreline. The UAPx scientists asked a U.S. military base on Puerto Rico if its scientists would like to team up on research.
"The military's answer was, no, everything the military researches about UAPs is classified. Go away," Szydagis said.
UAPx teammates Gary Voorhis and Kevin Day were on the USS Princeton when the TicTac was documented. Voorhis remembers the next day, a team arrived on the ship to carry away the radar equipment Voorhis used to monitor the UAP. Day believes being cited as a witness to the famous UAP undermined his career. The military did not encourage either of them to share their experiences with civilian scientists.
UAPx vows to take the opposite, transparent approach, sharing all its data and video with other scientists and the public. And it welcomes volunteers.
Two retired engineers volunteered to pore through the Laguna video frame by frame. It can be tedious. But one engineer spotted an additional UAP. The discovery is the reward. A volunteer may even be credited and have a phenomenon named after him or her.
NASA proudly showcases its citizen-scientist volunteers who combed through thousands of Hubble telescope images. A Dutch schoolteacher and another band of volunteers spotted what looked like a swirl of green peas floating in space that turned out to be green, round galaxies one-tenth the size of the Milky Way.
AI didn't spot them. Human analysis was needed.
UAPx also welcomes volunteer software coders, hardware wizards, and mechanics. It has a $10,000 GoFundMe for the team's beloved OSIRIS (Off-road Scientific Investigation & Response Informatics System.) vehicle. Volunteer Jeremy McGowan had transformed an SUV into a mobile lab that can collect data on UAPs as it follows their path from the road. Right now, it needs a complete overhaul.
Meanwhile, the Laguna/ Catalina data must be triple-checked, tested, and examined to make sure the phenomena aren't equipment glitches or other snafus. The team embraces the Carl Sagan Standard: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."
But Carl Sagan also said, "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."