Two Scientists Link 'Saucers' to Weather
By the Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA, July 30. - Two Philadelphia scientists agree that warm weather may be responsible for the latest list of flying saucer rumors.
Dr. I.M. Levitt, Director of Fels Planetarium, and Dr. Roy K. Marshall, director of education of the Philadelphia Inquirer's radio and television station, find no evidence that the saucers have ushered in a "Buck Rogers" age.
Dr. Levitt pointed out yesterday that, in warm weather, mirror-like atmospheric conditions might reflect street lights from miles away, causing the illusion of flying discs.
The "blips" reported on Civil Aeronautics Administration radar screens could be produced, Dr. Levitt said, ionized clouds, or other natural [phenomena].
Meteors, according to Dr. Marshall, as they build up a mass of ionized air, glowing at a temperature of 3,500 degrees or more, would register on radar screens.
Dr. Marshall also pointed out the professional and amateur astronomers, although they spot dozens of meteors nightly, have never reported seeing a flying saucer.
The following is an Evening Star article from Wednesday, August 6th 1952 titled "'Saucers Produced by Army Engineers in Huge Test Tube, May Reveal Secret of 'Objects' in the Sky Picked Up by Radar"
'Saucers' Produced by Army Engineers in Huge Test Tube, May Reveal Secret of 'Objects' in the Sky Picked Up by Radar
Researchers Stages Demonstration at Belvoir Laboratory.
By W. H. Shippen
Army Engineers are making their own "flying saucers" at Fort Belvoir, Va., and are launching them with a wave of the hand.
The man-made "saucers" occasionally fly in the formation. More-over, they are believed to have substance enough to show up on the screen of a radar designed to track them.
Such a radar (far from one powerful enough to bounce its beams against the moon) would need only to scan a segment of space within an 18-inch vacuum bell jar less than three feet tall.
Two Forces Reproduced.
Inside the tiny working-model of the stratosphere are reproduced two forces - very low air pressure, which is balanced against static electricity in a way to give off light. Experimenters in the Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Belvoir believe these two are the primary factors responsible for saucer sightings by competent observers.
Physicist Noel W. Scott, who is an amateur astronomer, was working with the vacuum bell on some mirror-coating experiments when he noticed the behavior of the lights. To him they appeared to be flying saucers in miniature.
Recent sightings by radar at National Airport and by trained airmen prompted Mr. Scott to do some research on the side.
Yesterday Lt. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, chief of Army engineers, and Maj. Gen. Stanley L. Scott, commander of Fort Belvoir, and several members of their staffs witnessed a demonstration at the laboratory.
Mr. Scott produced a near vacuum within the bell jar, roughly corresponding to pressure believed to exist at an altitude of 200 miles above the earth. Very thin air within the bell was ionized through exposure to static electricity fed into a metal circle at the base of the bell.
Air Produces Light.
When minute quantities of air were let into the glass container, a bubble-shaped glow of orange light began to rise to the center of the base. The light expanded into the shape of a small electric globe. Here it remained poised, or could be induced to detach itself from the base, or float off against the glass wall.
When the light floated free, a faint purplish glow developed at its base, as if the object was propelled or sustained in position by a jet exhaust. To some observers, it resembled a glowing orange balloon emitting a purplish gas or flame; to others, a new model for a space ship.
The motion of the objects developing within the bell could be controlled to some extent from the outside. The lights tended to follow a small electric magnet drawn along the glass, or even the wave of a man's hand. This occurred when the man's body contained enough static electricity to influence the lights.
At times, small orange lights about the size of marbles rolled across the base and made minute flashes on the glass. Mr. Scott said these lights sometimes float in formation he believes they are drawn into positions and into the same motion by ionized layers or minute "cloud" masses within the jar.
The experimenters say their methods of producing the phenomena may be new, but the principles involved have been known for years to students and physicists. For instance, "Physics of the Air." by Humphrey, stated the basic facts in the 1920 edition, Mr. Scott explained.
New interpretations put on well known but relatively rare, freak of nature are probably the result it was said, of recent advances in science so astonishing that the public is ready to believe almost anything.
The development of jet and rocket propulsion supersonic flight, radar and even atomic energy offer popular explanations for sightings of strange objects in the air.
Weather Plays a Part.
Mr. Scott pointed out the ordinary observer must known the approximate size of an object before he can make a good guess at the distance. An estimate of speed is likewise worthless without some idea of distance.
A visible interplay of static electricity, related to sheet lighting or St. Elmo's fire, may occur, in Mr. Scott's opinion, anywhere between 50 and 200 miles above the earth.
Large or small masses of ionized air may be involved. Weather conditions on the surface and in the stratosphere would play a part.
Too, there is the possibility that the temperature inversion (in which a layer of hot air may lie between relatively cold masses) could act as a mirror or otherwise distort objects seen from the ground.
Versative in Movement.
The speed of such light could be almost too swift for the eye to follow, or the lights might appear wholly stationary. They could flash on or off, or reverse directions.
Moreover, ionized cloud might be affected by other objects approaching near enough to receive or discharge electrical energy between them.
A high-flying jet, for example, could very well extinguish the light its pilot was seeking to track down, or affect its motion through the sky.
The way the lights "took off" at the wave of a hand toward the bell jar points up the possibility, Mr. Scott said.
Similar Theory Offered By Dartmouth Professor
The New York Times published last Sunday a letter from James A. Browning, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Dartmouth College, suggesting that ball-lighting was the "[culprit]" in the saucer mystery.
Mr. Browning noted the passage of a cold-front into the Washington area about the time that radar screens here picked up mystery objects some 10 days ago. He wrote the Times:
"...it appears quite probable that ball-[lightning] is composed of highly ionized gases. The free electrons in this 'ball' create an extremely energetic electric field within a small space. Also, if the suction and rarefaction are true, a severe density gradient of the atmosphere must also be present. Either of those two characteristics could be detected on a radar screen."
Sources(s): https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1952-08-06/ed-1/seq-1/ (Page 1) https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1952-08-06/ed-1/seq-5/ (Page 5 Continued)