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UPDATED: September 28, 2010 NO. 40 OCTOBER 7, 2010
Tracking UFOs

Recently, reports of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) have been occurring frequently in China. On July 7 this year, more than 20 flights were postponed at Xiaoshan International Airport in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, because of a sighting. Whenever such reported sightings occur, Wang Sichao, a research fellow at the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, is much busier than usual. In addition to studying the sightings, Wang, who started work on UFOs nearly 40 years ago, has to check and reply to mail about UFOs from all across China. Lately, Wang predicted "great events" concerning UFOs were going to come out in China in the next two years. In an interview with Beijing Review, he shared his views and stories with reporter Tang Yuankai. Edited excerpts follow:

Beijing Review: Why did you make such a prediction? What's your basis?
Wang Sichao: First, I'd like to say something about the conception of "great events about UFOs." It does not mean large numbers of UFOs but refers to events of credible facts backed by observation. But these facts cannot yet be explained by existing scientific knowledge or natural phenomena. Through 39 years' investigation and research, I found that in years ending with the numbers 1, 2 or 7—such as 1971, 1981, 1991, 1982, 1992, 2002, 1977, 1987, 2007—great UFO events would happen. So, I think 2011 and 2012 will be another two active years.

In recent years, what kinds of UFO phenomena have happened in China? In which areas of China? Was there ever anything like the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Many kinds of UFOs have appeared in China in recent years, in appearances such as bolide, light spot, spiral, fan, bright star, flying rod, ball lightning and V-shaped. UFO events occurred more often in the north of the Yangtze River. But there were exceptions. For instance, a V-shaped UFO appeared over Nanjing on January 10, 2006.

During the last century, there was also something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind in China. But it was similar to what happened in other countries and lacked reliable evidence.

In your opinion, why, for decades, has there been no significant progress in UFO studies domestically and overseas?

UFOs are a worldwide mystery of over a century. In 2007, Nick Pope, former head of the British Government's UFO Project, said over the last 60 years, the British Ministry of Defense had been working on the mystery all the time, but no answer could be found. Governments and military departments of the United States and France have also had difficulty progressing in UFO exploration.

Why, for 60 years, was there no progress in UFO studies? The reason is that a UFO only appears randomly and often disappears rapidly in a few minutes. By the time large professional telescopes are started up, it has already disappeared. So, we can only rely on information from occasional sightings or encounters by observers. For decades, domestic and international practice has shown it is difficult for military departments alone to study UFOs.

Like ghosts in the air, UFOs are mysterious and varied. There have been discussions and controversies for decades about the existence of UFOs. Some scholars assert a UFO is an optical illusion, while others think UFOs do exist as objects. So, exploring UFO phenomena is really an interesting matter.

What stage is China at in the study of UFOs? Is there any cooperation with international colleagues?

China is already walking in the forefront of international UFO research and exploration. At present, with plenty of credible, verifiable observation reports, China has entered a quantitative analysis stage of study. We also carried out academic exchanges with colleagues all over the world.

How do you conduct UFO research and what tools and methods do you employ? Can you tell us something about your research achievements?

In order to overcome the difficulties in UFO study, I introduced quantitative analysis methods into the field. In the last 39 years, based on my work at the PMO and my personal observation experiences, I have made quantitative analysis of some of the great UFO events by employing spherical astronomy and physics.

In the past decades, a large number of experienced astronomy amateurs have appeared in China. They are scattered throughout the country, and form an efficient observation network. Once a UFO event occurs, the PMO where I have been working will receive huge amounts of observational data from amateurs.

As for me, with years of field observation experience and six years of study in astrophysics at Peking University, I can figure out flying height, direction, and speed and the position of substellar point (the point on the earth at which the star is in the zenith at a specified time) by employing spherical astronomy methods based on several high quality sighting reports about a UFO event from different locations with sufficient distance, and analyze the mechanism of the event by physical methods.

Since 1971, I have been engaged in conducting in-depth investigations and quantitative and semi-quantitative scientific analysis to at least 20 spiral, fan and light-like UFO events. I found many strange flying objects appeared at a speed much lower than first cosmic velocity in the space between 130 km to 1,500 km from the Earth's surface. Some even flew at a speed as low as 0.29 km a second, 4 percent of the first cosmic velocity at the flying height, and flew at the height of around 1,460 km for 25 minutes. The facts show those UFOs may possess anti-gravity ability, or they would have fallen to the Earth.

I classified the more than 100 typical UFO events that occurred in the last 39 years into 10 or so types. I paid more attention to UFO events observed at the same time but from more than two different locations. I found seven types of these events could be explained through existing natural phenomena and knowledge, including objects that look like bolides, light spots, bright constellations, flying point clusters, bright stars, or flying sticks. Eight types still cannot be explained from existing knowledge, including spiral-, fan-, spindle-, ball-, or V-shaped objects, or those that look like balls of lightning, strange vehicles or flying saucers, of which spiral-, fan-, light ball- or flying saucer-shaped objects may be related to extraterrestrial craft.

What do you think we should do to further the exploration for UFOs?

Designing and manufacturing a new type of special telescope is very necessary. As a UFO is only met by chance and disappears rapidly, a special telescope with a small aperture may be better for observations. More such telescopes should be made and installed in different observation stations, so as to form an observation network. Once a UFO appears, immediate and networked observations would be carried out, thereby achieving a leap in observation accuracy, depth and quality. At the same time, more accurate quantitative analysis should be employed on the basis of observation.

For human beings, what is the significance of UFO studies?

First, we hope to explore extraterrestrial civilizations. If we find solid evidence about alien spacecraft visiting the Earth through further observation and analysis, it would be as significant as Columbus Christopher's discovering the New World. Second, we need to explore unknown natural phenomenon and laws. Third, it would be of great significance to national defense and economic development. Fourth, finding out the truth about UFOs would also be helpful for dispelling the public's superstitions and misconceptions.

At present, scientists do not have any concrete evidence about aliens. But many scientists believe aliens exist. Does this mean the question is not whether there are aliens, but when they will contact us?

Yes. Astronomers all over the world are now intensifying their efforts to explore extraterrestrial life and civilization. As long as we have open minds about scientific exploration of the unknown and employ multiple methods, the contact between humans and extraterrestrial life will hopefully come this century.

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