Developments in Brief : Pilot’s UFO Sighting May Have Been Planet

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Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

Astronomical calculations show that a Japan Air Lines pilot who says that he saw an unidentified flying object over Alaska in November probably was looking at Jupiter, and possibly Mars.

“This is not the first time that an experienced pilot has mistaken a bright celestial body for a UFO, nor will it be the last,” said Philip J. Klass, a longtime investigator of reported UFO sightings. “Jupiter was only 10 degrees above the horizon, making it appear to the pilot to be roughly at his own 35,000-foot altitude.”

The planet also was unusually bright, and located exactly where the pilot said he saw the UFO. The pilot never mentioned seeing Jupiter or Mars.


Mars was just below and to the right of Jupiter, and may explain Terauchi’s initial report that he saw two lights, Klass said.

The Buffalo-based Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which issued Klass’ report, is an organization of scientists who investigate claims of UFO sightings, ESP occurrences and other unusual phenomena.

Klass said that, in hundreds of UFO investigations over the last 20 years, “they’ve all turned out to have prosaic explanations.” He now heads the organization’s UFO subcommittee. Klass is an editor at Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and author of “UFOs: The Public Deceived.”

The JAL plane was en route from Europe, via Iceland, to Tokyo when its pilot reported the mysterious light. An airline spokesman said: “We have no position on this as the airline. The captain said he saw something; he reported it. He followed procedures.”