Phoenix Lights (sometimes referred to as the
"lights over Phoenix") were a series of widely
sighted optical phenomena
flying objects) that occurred in the skies over the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada, and the
of Sonora on March 13, 1997.
of the lights occurred February 6
, and was filmed by the local Fox News TV
A similar incident occurred April 21
. This incident was later revealed to be
prank–flares attached to helium balloons.
varying descriptions were seen by thousands of people between 19:30
and 22:30 MST, in a
space of about 300 miles, from the Nevada line,
through Phoenix, to the edge
There were two distinct events involved in the incident: a
triangular formation of lights seen to pass over the state, and a
series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The United States Air Force (USAF)
identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft which were on
training exercises at the Barry Goldwater
Range in southwest Arizona.
Witnesses claim to
have observed a huge carpenter's
, containing lights or
possibly light-emitting engines. Fife
, the governor
the time, was one witness to this incident.
18:55 PST (6:55 PM PST), (19:55 MST [7:55 PM MST]), a man reported
seeing a V-shaped object above Henderson, Nevada.
said it was about the "size of a (Boeing
", sounded like "rushing wind", and
had six lights on its leading edge. The lights reportedly traversed
northwest to the southeast.
unidentified former police officer from Paulden, Arizona is claimed
to have been the next person to report a sighting after leaving his
house at about 20:15 MST (8:15 PM MST).
As he was driving
north, he reputedly saw a cluster of reddish or orange lights in
the sky, comprising four lights together and a fifth light trailing
them. Each of the individual lights in the formation appeared to
the witness to consist of two separate point sources of orange
light. He returned home and through binoculars watched the lights
until they disappeared south over the horizon.
Prescott and Prescott Valley
were also reportedly seen in the areas of Prescott and Prescott Valley.
At approximately 20:17 MST
, callers began reporting the
object was definitely solid because it blocked out much of the
starry sky as it passed over.
John Kaiser was standing outside with his wife and sons in Prescott
Valley, when they noticed a cluster of lights to the west-northwest
of their position. The lights formed a triangular pattern, but all
of them appeared to be red, except the light at the nose of the
object, which was distinctly white. The object, or objects, which
had been observed for approximately 2-3 minutes with binoculars,
then passed directly overhead the observers, they were seen to
"bank to the right", and they then disappeared in the night sky to
the southeast of Prescott Valley. The altitude could not be
determined, however it was fairly low and made no sound
The National UFO Reporting
received the following report from the Prescott
town of Dewey, 10 miles
south of Prescott,
Arizona, six people saw a large cluster of lights while
driving northbound on Highway 69.
The five adults and a
youth stopped their car to observe the lights which were directly
overhead when they exited the car. The lights appeared to hover for
several minutes. The caller, who was an experienced flyer, said
that the object was so large that he could clench his fist and hold
it at arm's length and still not completely cover the light. He
estimated the object to be not over 1,000 feet above the ground and
that it was moving at a considerably slower pace than an aircraft
would fly. Calls to the UFO centre were also received
Valley, Tempe, and
First sighting from Phoenix
and his wife Bobbi, his son Hal and his grandson Damien Turnidge
first saw the lights of the craft when they were above Prescott
Valley about 65 miles away from them.
At first they
appeared to them as five separate and clearly distinct lights in an
arc shape like they were on top of a balloon, but they soon
realized the lights were moving towards them. Over the next ten or
so minutes they continued coming closer and the distance between
the lights increased and they took on the shape of an upside down
V. Eventually when a couple of miles away the witnesses could make
out a shape that looked like a carpenter's square
with the five lights
set into it, with one at the front and two on each side. Soon this
"craft" was coming right down the street where they lived about 100
to 150 feet above them, traveling so slowly it appeared to hover
and not making a sound. It then passed over their heads and went on
through a V opening in the peaks of the mountain range towards
Mountain and beyond
toward the direction of Phoenix
Sky Harbor International Airport.
Arriving in Phoenix
When the triangular formation entered the Phoenix area, Mitch
Stanley, an amateur astronomer, observed the lights using a
with a TELEVUE 32mm Plössl
, which produces 43x magnification. After observing the
lights, he told his mother, who was present at the time, that the
lights were aircraft.
Even though former Phoenix Councilwomen and Vice Mayor, Frances
Emma Barwood, received over 700 reports of mile wide V or boomerang
shaped craft and orbs, Mitch Stanley's report was the only one
publicized in the Arizona print media.
In addition to the triangular formation, a separate phenomenon
occurred in the Phoenix area. A series of lights appeared, one by
one, and then were extinguished one by one. At this point many
widely publicized videos and photographs were taken.
Bill Greiner, a cement driver hauling a load down a mountain north
of Phoenix, described the second group of lights: "I'll never be
the same. Before this, if anybody had told me they saw a UFO, I
would've said, 'Yeah, and I believe in the tooth fairy'. Now I've
got a whole new view. I may be just a dumb truck driver, but I've
seen something that don't belong here". Greiner stated that the
lights hovered over the area for in excess of 2 hours.
came from a young man in the Kingman area who stopped his car at a payphone to report
the incident. "[The] young man, en route to Los
Angeles, called from a phone booth to report having seen a
large and bizarre cluster of lights moving slowly in the northern
In March 2007, former Arizona Governor Fife Symington III
said that he had
witnessed one of the "crafts of unknown origin" during the 1997
event, but noted that he did not go public with the information.
Shortly after the lights, Symington held a press conference
, stating that "they found
who was responsible". He proceeded to make light of the situation
by bringing his aide on stage dressed in an alien costume.
(Dateline, NBC).In an interview with The Daily Courier in Prescott,
Arizona, Symington said, "I'm a pilot and I know just about
every machine that flies.
It was bigger than anything that
I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it,
responsible people. I don't know why people would ridicule it".
Symington had earlier said, "It was enormous and inexplicable. Who
knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too.
It was dramatic. And it couldn't have been flares because it was
too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant
also noted that he requested information from the commander of
Force Base, the general of the National Guard, and the head of
the Department of Public
But none of the officials he contacted had an
answer for what had happened, and were also "perplexed". Later, he
responded to an Air Force "explanation" that the lights were
: "As a pilot and a former
Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not
resemble any man made object I'd ever seen. And it was certainly
not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in
Frances Barwood, the 1997 Phoenix city councilwoman who launched an
investigation into the event, said that of the over 700 witnesses
she interviewed, "The government never interviewed even one".
Videotapes, still photos
Imagery of the Phoenix Lights falls into two categories: images of
the triangular formation seen prior to 10 pm in Prescott and Dewey,
and images of the 10 pm Phoenix event. All known images were
produced using a variety of commercially available camcorders
There are no known images taken by equipment designed for
scientific analysis, nor are there any known images taken using
high powered optics or night vision
During the Phoenix event, numerous still photographs and videotapes
were made, distinctly showing a series of lights appearing at a
regular interval, remaining illuminated for several moments and
then going out. These images have been repeatedly aired by
documentary TV channels such as the Discovery Channel
and the History Channel
as part of their UFO
The most frequently seen sequence shows what appears to be an arc
of lights appearing one by one, then going out one by one. UFO
advocates claim that these images show that the lights were some
form of "running light" or other aircraft illumination along the
leading edge of a large craft (estimated to be as large as a mile
in diameter) hovering over the city of Phoenix. Other similar
sequences reportedly taken over a half hour period show differing
numbers of lights in a V or arrowhead array. Thousands of witnesses
throughout Arizona also reported a silent, mile wide V or boomerang
shaped craft with varying numbers of huge orbs. A significant
number of witnesses reported that the craft was silently gliding
directly overhead at low altitude. The first-hand witnesses
consistently reported that the lights appeared as "canisters of
swimming light", while the underbelly of the craft was undulating
"like looking through water". However, skeptics claim that the
video is evidence that mountains not visible at night partially
obstructed views from certain angles, thereby bolstering the claim
that the lights were more distant than UFO advocates claim.
UFO advocate Jim Dilettoso claimed to have performed "spectral analysis
" of photographs and
video imagery that proved the lights could not have been produced
by a man-made source. Dilettoso claimed to have used software
called "Image Pro Plus" (exact version unknown) to determine the
amount of red, green and blue in the various photographic and video
images and construct histograms of the data, which were then
compared to several photographs known to be of flares. Several
sources have pointed out, however, that it is impossible to
determine the spectral signature of a light source based solely on
photographic or video imagery, as film and electronics inherently
alter the spectral signature of a light source by shifting hue in
the visible spectrum, and experts in spectroscopy have dismissed
his claims as being scientifically invalid. Normal photographic
equipment also eliminates light outside the visible spectrum (e.g.,
) that would be necessary for a
complete spectral analysis. The maker of "Image Pro Plus", Media
Cybernetic, has stated that its software is incapable of performing
Cognitech, an independent video laboratory, superimposed video
imagery taken of the Phoenix Lights onto video imagery it shot
during daytime from the same location. In the composite image, the
lights are seen to extinguish at the moment they reach the Estrella mountain range
, which is visible in
the daytime, but invisible in the footage shot at night.
broadcast by local Fox Broadcasting
affiliate KSAZ-TV claimed to have performed a similar test that
showed the lights were in front of the mountain range and suggested
that the Cognitech data might have been altered.
Scowen, visiting professor of Astronomy at Arizona
State University, performed a third analysis using daytime imagery
overlaid with video shot of the lights and his findings were
consistent with Cognitech.
The Phoenix New Times
reported the television station had simply overlaid two video
tracks on a video editing machine without using a computer to match
the zoom and scale of the two images.
In comparison, there are few known images of the Prescott/Dewey
lights. KSAZ reported that an individual named Richard Curtis took
a detailed video that purportedly showed the outline of a space
craft, but that the video had been lost. The only other known video
is of poor quality and shows a group of lights with no craft
Explanations and skepticism
There is some controversy as to how best classify the reports on
the night in question. Some are of the opinion that the differing
nature of the eyewitness reports indicates that several
unidentified objects were in the area, each of which was its own
separate 'event.' This is largely dismissed by skeptics as an
over-extrapolation from standard deviation common in necessarily
subjective eye-witness accounts. The media and most skeptical
investigators have largely preferred to split the sightings into
two distinct classes - a first and second event - for which two
separate explanations are offered:
The first event -- the "v," which appeared over northern Arizona
and gradually traveled south over nearly the entire length of the
state, eventually passing south of Tucson -- was the allegedly
"wedge-shaped" object reported by then-Governor Symington and many
others. This event started at about 8:15 over the Prescott area,
and was seen south of Tucson by about 8:45.
The second event was the set of nine lights falling behind the
Sierra Estrella, a mountain ridge to the southwest of Phoenix, at
around 10pm. This was also observed by numerous people who may have
thought they were seeing the same lights as those reported
Proponents of two separate events propose that the first event
still has no provable explanation, but that some evidence exists
that the lights were in fact airplanes. According to an article by
reporter Janet Gonzales that appeared in the Phoenix New Times
, videotape of the v
shape shows the lights moving as separate entities, not as a single
object; a phenomenon known as illusory
can cause the human eye to see unconnected lines or
dots as forming a single shape. Ortega also spoke with amateur
astronomer Mitch Stanley, who was outside that night using a
yielded a view 60 times the magnification of the human eye.
According to Stanley, the lights were quite clearly individual
airplanes; a companion who was with him recalled asking Stanley at
the time what the lights were, and he said, "Planes". However, no
pilots have yet been found who admit to flying such a formation
that night, and many witnesses continue to insist that they
actually saw the entire object blocking the stars.
The second event has been more thoroughly covered by the media, due
in part to the military's backing of the explanation. The USAF explained
the second event as slow falling, long burning flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog aircraft on a training exercise
over Luke Air
An investigation by Luke AFB itself also
came to this conclusion and declared the case solved.
Air National Guard pilot, Lt. Col. Ed Jones, responding to a March
2007 media query, confirmed that he had flown one of the aircraft
in the formation that dropped flares on the night in question. The
squadron to which he belonged was in fact in Arizona on a training
exercise at the time, according to the Maryland Air National Guard.
A history of the Maryland Air National Guard published in 2000
previously asserted that the squadron, the 104th Fighter Squadron,
was responsible for the incident. The first reports that members of
the Maryland Air National Guard were responsible for the incident
were published in The Arizona Republic newspaper in July
Military flares such as these can be seen from hundreds of miles
with correct environmental conditions.
Later comparisons with known military flare
drops were reported on local television stations, showing
similarities between the known military flare drops and the Phoenix
An analysis of the luminosity of LUU-2B/B
illumination flares, the type which would have been in use by A-10
aircraft at the time, determined that the luminosity of such flares
at a range of approximately 50–70 miles would fall well within the
range of the lights viewed from Phoenix. However, this was not
brought forward until July of 1997, and the flares were reportedly
dropped before the sightings took place.
The "Stealth Blimp" theory
"giant V shaped object" description also matches the description
made by witnesses describing a similar object seen in Lebanon,
Illinois, Guernsey, United
Kingdom, and Stephenville, Texas.
In the case of the Stephenville sighting,
there is radar data from the FAA
and National Weather Service
correlate to these eyewitness accounts. It is believed this object
is a "Stealth Blimp", which Lockheed
proposed building as far back as 1982.
On April 21, 2008, lights were again reported over Phoenix by local
residents. These lights appeared to change from square to
triangular formation over time.
resident of Deer
Valley in North
Phoenix, Tony Toporek videotaped those
He was talking to neighbors around 8 p.m. when the
lights appeared. Toporek stated, "Four brilliant red lights first
formed a vertical or diagonal line, next a U-shape, then as I
retrieved my camera and began to roll tape, the lights spread apart
and made a diamond or cross shape, similar to the 'Southern
Another resident reported that shortly after the lights appeared,
three jets were seen heading west in the direction of the lights.
official from Luke Air
Force Base denied any United States Air Force activity in
Media coverage of the reappearance of the lights was significant,
with photos and videos appearing on local and national newspapers,
television news broadcasts, and web sites including the following:
On April 22, 2008, a resident of Phoenix told a newspaper that the
lights were nothing more than his neighbor releasing helium
balloons with flares attached. This was confirmed by a police
helicopter. The following day a Phoenix resident who declined to be
identified in news reports stated he had attached flares to helium
balloons and released them from his back yard.
- The Phoenix Lights...We Are Not Alone Documentary,
Lynne D. Kitei, M.D., Executive Producer, in collaboration with
Steve Lantz Productions. Based on the book, "The Phoenix Lights...A
Skeptic's Discovery That We Are Not Alone" and featuring Astronaut
Dr. Edgar Mitchell, former Governor Fife
Symington, former Vice Mayor, investigators, military, pilots
and witnesses. Has won over a dozen international film festival
awards. Released on April 22, 2008.
- The Appearance of a Man, directed by Daniel Pace.
- They Came from Outer Space (previous title:
Phoenix Lights The Movie), a science fiction thriller starring Ossie Beck, Mackenzie Firgens, Yvette Rachelle, Matt Mercer, Terin Alba,
Courtney Gains, Mark Arnold, Michael LeMelle, Aaron Mills, and Luke
- Ufo Events Over Arizona
- Phoenix Lights
- Hamilton, Bill. Phoenix Sightings: Summary Report - Mass
Sightings in Arizona.
- Dateline NBC The Phoenix Lights
- The Videos
Alien Invasion of Phoenix, Arizona
- Ball, Ronald ed. Maryland Air National Guard 1921-2000,
- Ruelas, Richard. "Air Guard unit sheds light on Valley's UFOs."
Arizona Republic. 25
- LUU-2 Flare - Dumb Bombs