When I arrived at Caltech for postdoctoral research, I was tagged for an “extra” assignment. Someone found out about my years of sky-watching as an amateur astronomer—a level of practical experience unusual among professional astronomers—and appointed me to handle UFO reports. Through stargazing I learned that the vast majority of the objects people report as UFOs are actually IFOs, “Identifiable Flying Objects,” natural or manmade.
As a Christian, I learned something else in the course of fulfilling this assignment, something that became important to me in my efforts to help people move toward faith in Jesus Christ. I came to see that even supposed UFO sightings can become serious spiritual stumbling blocks. They lodge in people’s minds and nag at them, often stirring fears and wild imaginings about “what’s really out there.”
People who’ve seen UFOs tend to become more susceptible to bizarre fantasies about alien life or to so-called New Age religions and philosophies. They develop serious doubts about whether or not the Bible tells the whole story—if they ever gave it any credence in the first place. Some even come to doubt their own sanity and withdraw from relationships in which their “secret” strange observation may leak out.
That’s one reason I wish schools would include more physics and astronomy in their curriculum. Students might gain a better grasp of what’s realistic and unrealistic in terms of space travel. They would learn how to identify both the atmospheric phenomena and the celestial objects often misidentified as UFOs—noctilucent clouds, sun dogs, fireballs, Venus, the Pleiades, meteor showers, and the northern lights, for example.
If you join us on RTB’s Alaska Cruise next summer, you’ll have an excellent chance to see at least two of these amazing visual spectacles: the Perseid meteor shower and the aurora borealis (northern lights). The Perseids peak in the wee hours of August 12, with dozens of meteors per hour. The aurora shows up most dramatically at or near solar maximum, the closer to 60° north latitude the better.
Familiarity with these things helped me—and can help you—ask the right questions to enable a person to distinguish between an IFO and the rare residual UFOs (real, nonphysical phenomena associated with occult activity). You can learn more about both in Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men and The RUFO Hypothesis (DVD).