Case File Status: Unidentified
The following case was submitted to The Black Vault / TBV Investigations on August 1, 2018. It was shot by an amateur astronomer / photographer taking a video of the moon. The video was submitted for analysis, and due to the nature of the video, it was assigned to multiple investigators for multiple perspectives.
Lead Case Investigator: Monica Salazar
Additional Analysis done by: Jim Kerr, Michael Glenn, Paul Wright and Joey Miller
The following was the original testimony, as submitted by the witness. It was sent to John Greenewald, Jr. of The Black Vault through a mutual friend, and the identifying name has been removed. The witness is not a “UFO enthusiast” nor a “UFO Hunter” but captured the video by chance. It has been edited slightly for clarity.
“Hello I am a friend of ___________ and I want to report a sighting.
It was the day after the Red Moon (or Blood Moon) and the weather was clear. To record the passage of the Moon I used the follow equipment:
-Sky-Watcher Maksutov SkyMax 127/1500 OTA
-T2 ring-Pentax HD DA AF 1.4x rear converter-Pentax K-70
Thank you for your attention, best regards.
The following high resolution video was submitted for analysis.
Original / Uncut Video
Cropped to Highlight “Anomalies”
by Monica Salazar, TBV Investigations
The video was recorded on July 29th, 2018, at 1.08 AM.
In the beginning of the video you can see a zoomed in image of the moon. The clear details of the moon show that it was obviously a high powered camera with an adequate zoom lens. As mentioned by the witness, the specs of the camera are as follows:
-Sky-Watcher Maksutov SkyMax 127/1500 OTA
-Pentax HD DA AF 1.4x rear converter
(ALL meta data is listed below, for reference)
You can clearly see all the craters and detailed lining of the moon showing a good camera focus. At about 2:52 (of the “original” video) you can see a dark object cross in front of the moon. Taking the zoom into consideration, it appears that the anomaly is flying at a high altitude. If these were bugs, birds or bats flying much lower to the ground, most likely they would be out of focus and not appear in the video, or if they do, be largely out of focus given the focal length of the lens in conjunction with the clarity of the moon. Objects nearer to the lens would largely be invisible or drastically out of focus.
The height is very hard to determine, since there are no reference objects in the frame, other than the moon. We know the moon is 252,088 miles away from Earth, but to properly give some kind of calculation, another “reference object” needs to be in the frame to compare. Since there is none, it is highly speculative to try and pinpoint an exact altitude.
Later in the video at about 3:10 a greater wave of objects pass through the same view. I was able to count at least 38 objects in total. The objects seem to travel at a relatively fast speed. Judging by the speed the earth is rotating (1600km/hr) and the way the moon moves across the screen I would have to say the anomalies are traveling faster than any commercial jet plane (about 740-930 kph or 500 knots) in my best estimation.
This case was reviewed by other investigators and their opinions vary on what the objects might be. However, everyone, including myself, is in agreement that there is no evidence in the raw video that it has been tampered with, manipulated or is a CGI hoax.
Additional analyses are as follows:
Jim Kerr, TBV Investigations
“I am not only an amateur astronomer but a ufologist as well. Since approx 2011, I have followed and researched videos and photos of unidentified objects traversing the moon. There are many good examples on the internet, but there are also those that are migrating flocks of birds. In all the footage I have analyzed, I have never seen the large number of objects as depicted in TBV case # 257854.
On 08-08-2018 I downloaded the video from case # 257854 to Sony Vegas video editing software. In this edited version, I shortened the length of the video. There is no sound in this edited version as I didn’t want to voice my opinions in the video. There are repeating clips with several different video effects along with cropped footage in an attempt to identify these objects. I sent the video to John Greenewald for distribution to the assigned investigators.
Keep in mind; this footage is not in sharp focus which is no fault of the camera or operator. Due to the earth atmosphere, video footage and objects will appear to slightly shift, morphing, pulsate and slightly go in and out of focus. With that said, the objects also appear slightly out of focus appearing to change shape slightly and morph in size. Is this because these objects were close to the lunar surface or outside earth’s atmosphere at an unknown distance from the moon? That, of course, is a possibility but let’s talk about the flight characteristics of these objects. Some of the objects are traveling faster and slower than others. Also, some change course slightly coming closer to one another.
In my opinion, these objects are a flock of migratory birds, but of course, I could be wrong. From what I have observed even with these objects being slightly out of focus, they behave like migratory birds. My recommendation to investigators is, research the geographical location of this sighting for migratory bird activity along with their flight characteristics.”
The bird theory is addressed in detail below.
Michael Glenn, TBV Investigations
“I used Adobe Premier to check out the video as well. The objects definitely exist in the image based on simple analysis using inverted imaging, and the way they warp the edges of the moon image when they leave the lighted areas. Slow moving compared to bugs, bats, or satellites. A plane would have definition, wings etc. in their silhouette. Birds would be moving about as fast as the bats, perhaps a bit slower. I think this is upper atmosphere based on the slowness of some of them, and the lack of formation that birds might have. They also sway in an odd way, negotiating for space with each other in intelligent ways.”
Joseph Miller, TBV Investigations
A welcomed new addition to the TBV Investigations team is Joseph Miller. Joseph learned about this case file, and decided to sit down and put together a mathematical formula to either lend credence to some of the “possible explanations” below or rather debunk them. Below, you will find his calculation to roughly estimate a size and a speed of potential objects. Of course, these are not set in stone, but do begin to mathematically tackle whether or not these are simply birds, or something much more complex.
Since they fly in front of the moon, we can estimate the angular size of the objects and find a relationship between size and distance. It pretty conclusively rules out birds, in my opinion.
I put the image on a big screen and measured the ratio of the apparent sizes, getting that the moon is between 340 and 220 times bigger.
Using whatever multiple (340 or 220 or whatever) you think is reasonable, plug in for m, and the actual length of the object, s, (in whatever units such as feet). Then,
s*m*(60/31)*(180/pi) = distance in those units.
It’s a rearrangement of the same small-angle approximation for sin(x) (I convert x to radians).
The distance is the straight-line distance to the object. Since the moon in Rome on that date is 30 degrees above the horizon (60 degrees from overhead), we need to do
distance*sin(30 degrees) = distance*1/2 = elevation.
If those were high-altitude Griffon vultures with a wingspan of well over 5 feet and I use the mid-point for m of 280, I compute that the birds would have to be 156,000 ft away, or about 78,000 ft above ground. The maximum height a bird has been recorded flying at is only 37,000 feet. As far as I know, no bird of any wingspan flies correspondingly high enough to account for the observation.
In addition, all these relationships will scale linearly, so if seagulls are 2.5 ft, just take half of the altitude and speed of the griffon vulture, because griffons are 5 ft. So that would calculate to >36 mph and 18,000 ft up, thus ruling this out.
The following also allow us to find corresponding minimum speeds, which we can use as another independent check of the bird theory. Use
where t is the time it takes for the objects to cross half the moon. With s = 5 ft, m = 280, and timing t = 6.5 seconds, the birds must be traveling at >107 fps or >72 mph. That’s also much too fast for migrating birds.
MINIMUM DISTANCE AND SIZE
In my judgment we can also rule out very small insects at close distances, which fly at lower altitudes and could easily fit the observed angular size, by the following argument.
Opposite ends of an optical instrument’s main mirror/lens would have unoccluded lines of sight to an in-focus distant object for any intervening small object closer than some distance. This can be solved for by again using the small-angle approximation where a is the aperture of the telescope and m remains the multiple of the relative size of the moon and the object:
a/d = (pi/180)*(31/60)*(1/m)
Using the aperture of 4 inches, and m = 280 again, I find that any objects closer than 125,000 inches, or about 10,000 feet away would be impermissible. Using the first formula that relates size and distance, this means that the object must be larger than 1/3 ft in diameter.
I followed Mr. Kerr’s advice and I was able to find flocks of one kind of bird that does migrate in the area of Rome which are the Starlings, however their pattern of flight does not seem to mirror that of the video. If you look at starlings’ migration pattern they actually form a giant cloud in the sky and they travel in the hundreds, not in just a few like depicted in the video.
This photograph shows what starlings look like, as they migrate over the moon. Starlings fly in a much more dense concentration of birds, and therefore, look nothing like the anomalies above.
Official Caption: Starlings migrating from northern Europe fly in the sky of Rome with the moon in the background on Nov. 3, 2014. About one-million starlings migrate in Rome during autumn and winter time and draw beautiful patterns in the sky before spending the nights in the trees by the Tiber river, creating chaos in the neighborhood with their droppings. (AFP Photo/Gabriel Bouys)
Example of a full moon, with birds on how they appear. This example shows much less of a zoom/focal length of the lens, but offers a reference point to compare what birds would look like. Zoom in to get the details on the lunar surface like the video above, these birds would most likely be out of focus and not appear as sharp as the anomalies do above. Official caption: The moon provides the perfect backdrop for watching birds migrate at night. Observers with spotting scopes and small telescopes can watch the show anytime the moon is at or near full. Photo illustration: Bob King
Another migratory bird of the region is the Honey Buzzard. Here is a video of a migration of the Honey Buzzard, also not even close to resembling the anomaly movements, density, number of “birds” etc.
The movement of the objects seem to not mimic the flight of birds when comparing to other videos of bird migrations, not only those above, but other videos found online. There are also very few birds that can get tens of thousand of feet into the air. Given the detail on the moon and the size within the frame, if these were birds, they would have to be at a very high altitude to move that slow within the video. If they were fairly low to the ground, even for migratory birds, they would likely be seen going very fast through the video, and caught on very few frames of video. These appear to be very high, but the exact altitude can not be determined. In addition, birds migrate in much larger numbers, and even if only a small “group” of the larger migratory group was capture in front of the moon, the density of the birds do not match migratory patterns by most birds referenced for the region.
I would assume that the anomalies shown on the video are most likely not birds of any kind, at least, any birds that I could find. Any additional feedback from Italian/European bird experts is welcomed.
Based on the evidence, a flock of birds seems unlikely at this time.
Bats Flying In Front of Moon
You can see with this video, when objects (in this case bats) are much lower to the camera, they go through the frame very quickly. One example above is at 0:46 of the video, and it is very quick as the bat flies by. Another occurs at approximately 1:32.
Based on the evidence, bats flying across the frame seems unlikely.
Satellites Flying By
This is probably the closest match to the anomalies caught above. However, there are key differences. First, the anomalies above seemingly do not move in a straight line, and seem to even interact with each other. Satellites will traverse across a camera’s field of view in a straight or slightly curved line, but do not change speed or adjust course. In addition, investigator Jim Kerr assisted me in checking Stellarium to see if there were any satellites in the area that were possibly captured by the witness’ camera, and there were not. When I asked him to verify what was in the sky, he said:
“A search of Stellarium (equatorial view) showed nothing unusual with the moon from a view point in Rome, Italy on July 29, 2018 @ 1:08am. No satellites or asteroids were noted crossing the moon at that time.”
Below, you will find Stellarium screen shots for Rome Italy, July 29, 2018 @ 1:08am.
Balloons Caught on Video
There is a possibility that the objects could be balloons, but it is fairly unlikely. Given the assumed high altitude, for so many “toy” balloons (standard helium filled party balloons) to be released from the surface of Earth from a party or major event, and for them to reach such heights and maintain a relative “formation” by sticking together, is too coincidental. In addition, there is a case where a larger “Google Balloon” was captured by an amateur astronomer while photographing the moon. Although it is hard to discern the movement from the photograph, you can see that it does not appear to be a similar type object. In addition, weather balloon or “Google Balloons” never are launched together in such a quantity, so I think a type of weather balloon (or Google Balloon) is safely ruled out.
Amateur astronomer Luis Verdiales, from Puerto Rico, spotted the ‘small black disc’ flying across the face of the moon during a rare celestial event when the planets aligned together – and aviation experts managed to work out it was one of Google’s balloons.
To make it slightly more complicated, the site Metabunk.org, after lengthy discussion going back and forth between balloons and birds, settled on balloons. Metabunk user “deirdre” posted the following video, attempting to show similarities between the “flickering” in the above “UFO Video” as compared to this low resolution “balloon video.”
What is a bit misleading, is the “flickering” compared in the “balloon video” is a very low resolution compared to the “UFO video” which exists in high definition. To compare characteristics from such a low resolution video to one in high definition, is not conclusive in the slightest. In fact, it is a stretch to compare the two given not only the resolution differences of the videos themselves, but the focal length of the lens, the type of camera used (which in the “balloon video” is unknown), etc. To conclusively say this is “proof” is a far stretch, given the fact that this “flickering” is also shown as a characteristic of multiple satellite videos found on YouTube and above in this case file. If the flickering (or as the Metabunk user said appeared to be a “flapping”) is a characteristic in balloon videos, satellite videos, this UFO video etc., then we can not conclusively identify the UFOs as balloons. That is disregarding other evidence that exists.
As posted on Metabunk, the final ‘formula’ to calculate and “prove” the balloon theory was contributed by Robert Scheaffer. He stated:
“See if this sounds right: based upon my own measurements of the dark objects on my screen, and assuming that the diameter of the lunar disc is 30′, then each of the objects is approx 9″ of arc. This is .156′, or .0026 deg, whose tangent is 4.53 E-5. Assuming an object size of 200mm (a typical balloon), its distance from the camera would then be about 4.4 km. Since the moon was at 29 deg altitude, whose sin is .48, the altitude of the objects above the ground would be about 2.13 km.”
Although no one responded to this post after it was posted (it has now been more than a month and this remains the last post as of the writing of this update), Mr. Scheaffer felt this was a solid conclusion. With no other Metabunk user responses, it appears this is the theory they settled on.
TBV Investigations’ consultant Joseph Miller responded to the claim:
“That math is fine. He assumed a small balloon (<8”) and measured a slightly larger angular size than me. Couple thoughts:
Balloons should expand at high altitudes, so these balloons must have been even smaller when released. Also I calculate < 3.5 grams per balloon to be buoyant at that height. So they’d have to be pretty light (small party balloons rather than underinflated large balloons?) Are these common?
The 2.1 km altitude makes a small ~65 meter cluster of not-very-buoyant balloons seem unlikely. This is only ~3% of separation in the direction of movement relative to their height. Were thousands of balloons released and we happened to see a small random clump? Air pressure gradients funneled these balloons into a narrow corridor?
If he instead considers larger balloons/distances this theory has slightly more trouble. The likelihood that a cluster of objects impacted by random forces would remain within a few % of each other is lower the bigger the scale is.
Definitely possible, but IMHO needs some explanations/examples before I buy any particular theory.”
Based on the evidence, balloons seem unlikely.
Many of us all considered a hoax, but there is no sign or evidence of any digital manipulation. TBV Investigations’ Paul Wright also looked at the video, and sees exact characteristics when he views the moon through his high powered lens, including the “hazing” effect around it. He extracted the “meta data” of the video, and everything matches what the witness reported, in regards to the technical specs of the camera. It also appears to be the raw file, and not edited.
I do not believe this is some kind of bird migration, and although there are similarities to satellites crossing the sky, Stellarium does rule out such an explanation. Balloons are also highly unlikely and we find no evidence of a hoax or digital manipulation. Therefore, I rule out all plausible explanations at this time, with no other reasonable explanation to explore.
For now, I would close this case and I will classify it as Unidentified, however, I am always open to feedback or other angles to explore.
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