Venus-Jupiter Said Cause
Of 2-24 Italian UFO Flap
From Edoardo Russo <
From UFO UpDates-Toronto <
Note - The following is Edoardo Russo's response to the 2-24-99 posting by
Mr. Baiata regarding the large number of sightings in Italy on the 24th...
From: Maurizio Baiata <
To: <
Subject: Major UFO Flap in Italy
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 1999 16:42:39 +0100
I'm submitting below information regarding the wave of UFO sightings occurring on the evening of 23 February in Italy.
(Edoardo Russo) More properly than a "wave" it should rather be called a "flap", since it was a sudden flood of nearly contemporary sightings, as opposed to a large number of different reports on a wider time span.
As a matter of fact, thousands of people all over half the Italian peninsula (as northwest as Aosta, as northeast as Gorizia, as west as Sassari, as southwest as Viterbo, as southeast as Pescara), watched astonished two bright lights hovering low in the western sky, between 6.30 p.m. and roughly 8 p.m.
The lights were close to each other (less than one moon diameter), the one at the left brighter and higher than the other one. They were far more luminous than any star or planet, and were described by some witnesses as "like halogen lamps" or "like a car parked in the sky with two headlines on".
Many witnesses remained more than an hour watching them, and several had the time to take photographs and/or to videotape the lights. A lot of witnesses called newspapers, the police, airports, radio/TV stations, astronomical observatories and - of course - ufologists, since a lot of people simply thought it was just that: a UFO.
We at CISU (Centro Italiano Studi Ufologici) got hundreds of calls: journalists, police on patrol, pilots in flight, Carabinieri on duty at airports just wanted us to tell them what it was.
The sky phenomenon was indeed long-expected and forecast, I'd rather say it was waited for with a strong expectation by... astronomers (both professional and amateur), just because of its spectacularity: planets Venus and Jupiter in conjuction, at a maximum magnitude.
Fearing precisely an undue "UFO fever", the CISU had issued a first release on February 13 on the mailing list UFOITALIA and a further alert was issued on the Internet that same morning, at 6.44 a.m., twelve hours before the flap began.
But neither ufologists nor astronomers had forecast that the bright luminosity was to be unexpectedly multiplied by the strong wind that had cleaned the atmosphere and, somewhere, caused refraction effects which made the sky show a very unusual and worrying sight for those who were not already aware of it.
That same effect of a sort of "atmospheric lens" had already caused thousands of IFO sightings on New Year first hours of 1979, when Carabinieri and the Police cars even chased Venus (and Jupiter) all over Italy and took pictures of it/them in the sky.
The Venus-Jupiter couple is also not new to ufology, since it caused quite a few reports during the great UFO wave of December 1978. On February 17, 1975, that same kind of Venus/Jupiter conjunction caused a UFO flap over a large area in Northern Italy.
(Maurizio Baiata) The objects were UFOs, not Venus and Jupiter
Well, you know, every single UFO sighting has to be evaluated on itself. There may well be single reports on that evening, which were not due to THAT astronomical phenomenon, but the greatest part of those sightings WERE surely Venus and Jupiter.
You have to allow for some error margins both in quantitative and in qualitative details, but if you take the task and go out interviewing each witness and checking azimuts and zenits, you'll get quite a consistent pattern, as for every similar flap: a Gauss-like distribution around a central (most probably true) value, with a decreasing numer of cases as each value increasingly differs from it (Gauss queue). It's quite an instructive exercise for somebody claiming to do "the leading italian magazine of UFO research and investigation".
Anyway, there's a thumb rule you may apply to this case, as well as to any report you (more probably: someone else) might suspect to be due to stars/planets/moon:
1) check on any astronomy almanac (yet better: use any astronomy software) that Venus and Jupiter were indeed close to each other and prominent in the western sky between 6.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on February 23, 1999, from the proper latitudes/longitudes;
2) verify with the witnesses the exact direction the lights were;
3) ask them whether they did notice BOTH the two planets (they could have hardly missed 'em) AND the UFOs, OR only noticed the two UFOs; in the first case, you'll have the "null hypothesis" ('twas but the planets) falsified; in the second one, well... you'd have to call for such complex supplementary assumptions as deliberately mischievious aliens putting their spaceships right in front of the two planets as seen from exactly the witnesses...
Another indication in the same sense should be the fact that astronomers all over Italy were there skywatching and saw the lights, and photographed them, and are positive that they were just that, i.e. two of the most prominent planets. Of course, you might also cry "cover-up" by that ugly thing - you know - "official science", but I won't believe that you'd dare to suggest all those hundreds amateur astronomers are all part of the conspiracy, would you? Well, if you happen to glance over astronomy newsgroups, you'll hear them having fun and joking at those UFO buffs who cried "UFO", and blaming "ufologists" (expecially some "leading UFO magazine") for not caring to teach readers how to tell wheat from stuff. As far as the CISU is concerned, we did our homework, but the same cannot be said of others who - not unexpectedly - keep on complaining against those bad "IFOlogists only busy at studying weather balloons" (guess who?).
Ah, I won't even mention the fact that several (serious-minded) ufologists also had the (easy) chance to witness the eerie sight on Tuesday evening and had no trouble at confirming it was Jupiter and Venus, though VERY awfully bright. Nor will I add that those two planets had been perfectly visible on the previous evenings, as have been on the (two) following ones, depending only upon cloud coverage for you (or me) to be able to see them (as I did, in fact).
(MB) Among the sightings reported to "Notiziario UFO", primarily contradicting the statement is Mr. Filippo Bigazzi's, from San Giovanni Valdarno, who noticed and videoed, in the presence of his relatives, two stationary lights which intermittently appeared and disappeared.
(ER) It escapes to me why that description would contradict the identification: surely not the intermittence, I hope (I will not bore you with meteorological info, but would urge you to go out and do some ordinary sky watching, in that case).
(MB) Meanwhile at 7.20 PM in Ravenna, Mr. Stefano Matteucci, observed by telescope a three lights formation, with atop a darker square shaped object. Another video was shot in Venice by Mr. Federico Provoleri who caught a bright moving object.
(ER) What has it all to do with those two, motionless lights in the western sky?
It reminds me of that time that when I wrote an article in "Notiziario UFO" (yes, the mag you are now editor of, but it was 20 years ago) and revealed that Venus was the cause for a celebrated UFO sighting in Naples, on December 18, 1978: a local ufologist tried to contradict me by claiming that a ship in the bay had been hit by something underwater, that morning! What could I say in answer?
(MB) The UFO flap of 23 February takes its place within a context of a sudden intense series of sightings all over Italy,
(ER) That may have helped to set the stage for a UFO "reference structure" even for such a seemingly un-ufological sight as two planets.
It's not been the first time. It won't be the last.
But it's a real shame that people calling themselves ufologists still cannot learn from a 50-years-long history and admit when a planet is not a UFO. Aren't there enough high strangeness reports, that you have to ride one-hour-long sightings of some motionless light in the sky? Ufology is much more a serious matter than that.
Best regards
Edoardo Russo Centro Italiano Studi Ufologici CISU, Casella postale 82, 10100 Torino - tel 011-3290279 - fax 011-545033 e-mail: