Re-entry Sightings of 1974-060B

1974 August 1 UTC

Ted Molczan - 2014 February 13


Days in Orbit, Decades of Mystery

Molniya 1S lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 1974 Jul 29 at 12:00 UTC, aboard a Proton launch vehicle, the third stage of which was left in a rapidly decaying orbit of 51.5 deg, 182 X 198 km. It was 6.5 m long, 4.15 m in diameter, and its empty mass was 3500 kg. It was assigned the international designation 1974-060B, and the U.S. Strategic Command catalogue number 7393.

The RAE (Royal Aerospace Establishment) Table of Earth Satellites lists 1974-060B's time of decay as 1974 Aug 01.14 = Aug 01 at 03:22 UTC. Assuming the time was rounded to the displayed precision of 0.01 days, then the range of values is +/- 0.005 d = 7 min. This is not to be confused with the precision of the decay estimate, which is unknown.

I have discovered that the luminous portion of the re-entry trajectory was widely seen from Venezuela, on 1974 Aug 01 at about 03:30 UTC = Jul 31 at 11:30 PM VET (prior to 2007 Dec 9, VET was 4 h behind UTC). The sightings were reported in major daily newspapers, but were not recognized as a re-entry, and described mainly as a UFO. The story appears not to have propagated beyond Venezuela, not even via the international UFO press of the day, which regularly covered South American sightings with the help of local correspondents and newspaper clipping services.

The sightings were quickly forgotten, and might never have come to light, had it not been for two American witnesses, who decades later reported their family's UFO sighting while living in Caracas that summer.

Emergence from Obscurity

On 2006 Mar 28, David Biedny, a prominent graphics software expert and experiencer and student of UFOs, and his brother Barry, who is a computer expert, reported their sighting of a UFO in Caracas, in the summer of 1974. The venue was The Paracast, a radio program devoted to the paranormal and UFOs. At the time of their sighting, David was 11 years old, and Barry was 8. They were in the company of their parents, both deceased by the time of the broadcast. The Biedny brothers reported having seen a large, slow-moving, cigar-shaped craft that spawned three smaller craft. They recalled the event as having occurred sometime in July 1974, around the supper hour, in daylight, well before sunset. They also recalled that the sightings had been witnessed by many people and resulted in coverage by at least two newspapers. David Biedny expressed the hope that archival copies survived, that would corroborate their reports and bring to light additional details.

The breakthrough came in June 2013, when Venezuelan UFO researcher Hector Escalante, with the encouragement of David Biedny, found archived reports published by three newspapers. Those reports largely substantiated the story told by David and Barry Biedny. David shared the news via various UFO reporting channels, including the UFO Updates mailing list:

Caracas UFO Sighting - July 31, 1974 Article

Word of the corroborating news reports spread quickly, but appears not to have inspired any further research or in-depth analysis. Until now, no one seems to have publicly considered the possibility that this UFO could have been a misperceived re-entry.

Weeks earlier, I had thoroughly searched UFO Updates for evidence of unrecognized historical re-entry sightings, just missing this news. UFO Updates was retired in December 2013, but remains accessible as an archived resource. A recent search using the keyword "cigar," turned up David Biedny's above announcement. Given the newspaper reports of roughly simultaneous sightings over hundreds of kilometres, and the possible signs of the "airship effect" in the account of the Biedny brothers, I checked the USSTRATCOM database (U.S. Strategic Command), for contemporaneous known re-entries, which yielded 1974-060B / 7393, that closely correlates temporally and spatially with the UFO sightings.

Orbit Decay Analysis

USSTRATCOM's Space Track web site contains three (3) 2-line element sets (TLEs), with epochs spanning 1974 Jul 29, 16:13 UTC to Jul 30, 15:43 UTC. The final TLE was propagated to near-decay using Alan Pickup's Satana and Satevo programs, which are designed for this purpose. Satana was used to improve the accuracy of the final TLE, by adjusting its elements - mainly mean motion and rate of decay - to better fit the duration spanned by all three TLEs. Satevo was used to propagate the resulting TLE to near-decay, which was then propagated using SGP4 to the time of the suspected re-entry sightings, 1974 Aug 01, at 03:30 UTC. Since SGP4 is not designed to accurately model the final descent trajectory (below approximately 130 km), and typically significantly under-estimates the rapid rate of descent in that regime, the mean motion was arbitrarily set to a value corresponding to the approximate mid-point of the range of altitudes during which re-entries are typically sighted, about 55 - 95 km. This step is essential to reliably verify that the re-entry was above the horizon of the locations of suspected sightings.

The resulting TLE should work in most implementations of SGP4, and will give a realistic estimate of the trajectory on 1974 Aug 01, within a couple of minutes of 03:30 UTC:

1974-060B / 7393 final descent                             74 X 76 km
1 70000U          74213.14583333  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    07
2 70000  51.4748 120.7471 0001849 310.5611 218.3968 16.75000000    05
This TLE was used to create a
Google Earth kml file containing the estimated trajectory over Venezuela, used to generate the aerial and ground-level views in the following sections.

The sighting reports have been evaluated for correlation with the re-entry trajectory and the known ways in which such events are perceived. The newspaper reports were evaluated first, because they covered a large geographic area and were published soon after the event, when memories were still fresh.

Newspaper Sighting Reports

The three articles uncovered by Hector Escalante in National University Library in Caracas are listed below:

1. E. Suarez, "Misteriosos Objetos en Cielo de Caracas", 2001 (Dos Mil Uno), "El Vespertino Nacional", Caracas, Aug 1, 1974: 1

2. J. L. Olivares, "Flying saucers over Caracas last night", Daily Últimas Noticias, Caracas, Aug 1, 1974: 57

3. "Strange luminous objects seen last night in Caracas", Daily El Nacional, Caracas, Aug 1, 1974: Section Information, body D, p.9

English translations of all three first appeared in a post to the Paracast Community Forum, under the topic Caracas News on UFO sighting. David Biedny subsequently posted a better translation of the "2001" report, by Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology, to UFO updates.

The article in "2001" provided the only reasonably detailed sighting report. The observer was ground-based in the Prados del Este neighbourhood of Caracas:

Among the witnesses is a commercial airliner captain whose name is kept confidential and who provided a more nuanced version in accordance with his logical awareness of aeronautics. Our source explained that it was a formation of four luminous objects - a main one, lacking a tail, and three acting as "escorts", leaving a luminous wake as they crossed the heavens - which appeared in the southern area of Caracas at 11:30 p.m. The formation was located at an elevation of between ten to fifteen degrees over the horizon, crossing the skies over Caracas in a West-East direction at prodigious speed. The four objects vanished - to the eyes of the informant, who was located at Prados del Este - behind the hills of Petare in the La Lagunita sector. The flying objects covered the entire distance in no more than 20 seconds at a speed far in excess of any known jet, and making no noise whatsoever.
The sighting time, 11:30 PM, coincides with the estimated time of passage of the re-entry in question, which culminated at Caracas within about one minute of that time.

The observed trajectory: west to east, 10-15 degrees above the southern horizon, is in close agreement with the estimated trajectory of the re-entry in question, which travelled from NW to SSE, culminated about 17 deg above the SW horizon, and descended to about 10 deg when it was due south. The estimated elevation at culmination is accurate to within several degrees.

The description of a formation of lights with luminous tails is consistent with meteors and re-entries.

The vanishing of the objects could have been due to the burn-out of the debris of a meteor break-up or satellite re-entry, or its passage from view below the horizon or behind an obstruction. The reported direction toward the point of vanishing was well to the east of the point at which the re-entry trajectory passed below the horizon. The cause of the discrepancy is unknown.

The duration of the sighting, maximum of 20 s, is consistent with a re-entry or a slow meteor. Absent information on the length of arc travelled, it is impossible to distinguish between the two based on time alone.

This sighting reportedly was corroborated by several other witnesses, but details of their sightings were not reported. Among them were reporters of the newspaper, "returning from an assignment in Maiquetía, who also witnessed the flight of the luminous objects." Maiquetía is about 13 km north of the centre of Caracas.

The following quote from "2001" reveals that the phenomenon was observed from two other cities:

In the early hours of the morning it was learned that the luminous objects had been seen only minutes before 11:30 p.m. over Maracay and Valencia, where the possibility of nocturnal exercises was also raised, given the proximity of the Palo Negro air base. This suggestion was discarded, like the others, and as of this morning the strange phenomenon still remains unexplained, waiting for the Cajigal Observatory to put forth one final possibility: that it was a meteor shower, even when this alternative has been dismissed in advance due to the fact that meteorites fall in semi-vertical trajectories and do not fly horizontally, much less maneuver, as was the case last night.
The reference to horizontal flight and manoeuvring is of interest, but difficult to evaluate due to the lack of supporting details. All re-entry trajectories are horizontal, but few meteors travel horizontally, so this may be a significant clue.

The very brief article in Daily Últimas Noticias added a few details of interest:

A number of foreign bodies were seen in the sky last night in various districts and neighbourhoods of the capital. The flying objects gave off an intense light that blocked his vision.

The phone in the writing process not ringing for a long time and through telephone wire altered voices reached us claiming to have seen "flying saucers" which crossed the city from north to south.

We learn that the brightness of the objects was very intense, as would be expected of meteor's or re-entry debris. The claim that the light was so intense as to have "blocked his vision" is interesting. It's not clear whose vision was being blocked; presumably, the observer's, but we need to be more certain of the translation. Much of the second sentence is confusing, perhaps due to the translation. All other reports described the trajectory as west to east; this one states north to south; taken together, they are consistent with the NW to SSE trajectory of the re-entry.

Daily El Nacional contributed a bit more information:

The two objects, described as two equidistant spheres, each with stelae, were also spotted in the city of Coro (Falcon), where the correspondent of "El Nacional" was communicated to report it.
The report of stelae, which are upright columns or slabs, may refer to the ion tails of meteors or re-entry debris. The frame of reference of the perceived orientation as vertical was not stated, but probably was the horizon. Ion tails are oriented parallel to the direction of motion. From Caracas, where the re-entry made a low-elevation pass, the ion tails would have been roughly horizontal, especially near culmination, but from Coro, where the re-entry passed nearly over-head, they would have been oriented at roughly a right-angle to the horizon during the approach and departure phase of the pass. That might have given rise to the perception of stelae, but the lack of precise details makes it difficult to be certain.

Fig.1 (below) shows the re-entry trajectory passing within visual range of all of the cities and towns reported in the newspaper articles to have had sightings; from west to east: Coro, Valencia, Maracay, Maiquetía and Caracas - a span of more than 300 km. The motion was from NW to SSE.

[Soyuz Image]
Fig.1 Re-entry track of 1974-060B and sighting locations.

The difference in time of culmination of the re-entry above the horizon between the most westerly and easterly sighting locations (Coro and Caracas) was just 36 s, and it occurred nearly simultaneously from, Valencia, Maracay, Maiquetía and Caracas, in that order, per Fig.1. This is reasonably consistent with the report of "2001", that relative the Caracas sighting, the "luminous objects had been seen only minutes before 11:30 p.m. over Maracay and Valencia". Lacking any details on the sources of these observations, and given the typically low precision of such newspaper reports, no significance should be attached to the sequence of the sightings having been correctly reported, but it is reasonable to conclude that they occurred at about the same time, consistent with the re-entry.

Much of the evidence in the newspaper articles is consistent with meteors and re-entries. Multiple meteors in horizontal flight are rare, but less rare than re-entry sightings; however, given that the re-entry of 1974-060B / 7393 was known to be in progress and within visual range at the time, and the strong correlation of the sightings with its trajectory, that is probably what was seen.

Biedny Sighting Report

The principal sources of information on the sighting by David and Barry Biedny are their joint interview on The Paracast of 2006 March 28, and David's interview on Dark Matters Radio (DMR), of 2012 December 5.

The discovery in June 2013 of the newspaper articles on the event strongly corroborated the story told by the Biedny's, with one major exception: the time. The Biedny's had confidently reported that the event occurred around 6 PM, in daylight, well before sunset. But all three newspapers agreed that it occurred at night, and "2001" reported that it occurred within a few minutes of 11:30 PM, and that telephone reports from the public began at that time. None of the newspapers mentioned an earlier event.

In the 2006 Paracast interview, David Biedny told interviewer David Twichell that the sighting occured at around 6 PM, before the sun had set; Barry recalled that it was before twilight:

20:52 DT And had the sun set?

20:53 DB No.

20:55 DT Well, when was the sun on the horizon?

20:56 DB I can't tell you exactly where the sun was, but it was - none of the traffic lights had come on - no street lamps. It was around 6 in July in South America, so pretty light outside. It wasn't dark.

21:13 BB It was pre-twilight.

21:15 DT It was what?

21:16 BB I would say it was before twilight. It was still fairly light out.

Note that sunset occured at 6:53 PM, and civil twilight began at 7:15 PM.

On 2013 July 29, Herald-Tribune Media Group reporter, Billy Cox, noted the time discrepancy on his blog, De Void. Barry Biedny's response in the comments section reveals that he had apparently forgotten what he and David reported in 2006, and now recalled the sighting as after 10 PM - at least three hours later than he reported in the 2006 Paracast interview:

I am David's Brother. I never recall David or I stating this event occurred in broad daylight, maybe that was misquoted somewhere. The event most definitely occurred late in the evening as w were walking to the "On Call" Pharmacy since all the other Pharmacies were closed (It was after 10 PM).

In an e-mail to me on 2014 Feb 6, David Biedny remained confident that their sighting occurred near 6 PM. Given the passage of four decades, and that the witnesses were children at the time, some errors of memory are to be expected.

It seems improbable for mass sightings to have occurred in Caracas at about 6 PM and 11:30 PM, and for all three known newspaper articles to have reported only one of them, and to have agreed on the same one, but it's not impossible. In the Paracast interview at 17:19, David Biedny recalled that the ensuing discussion at the hotel lasted "until very late that night", and at 24:03 that it went "late into the night, early into the morning". That seems more likely starting from a sighting at 11:30 PM than about 6 PM, but this too is insufficient to decide whether the Biedny's saw the 11:30 PM event or a different one near 6 PM.

Broadening the analysis beyond the time, to consider all of the aspects of the Biedny's sighting, may be helpful in deciding whether it can be reconciled with those reported by the newspapers. Their opening statements to host Gene Steinberg on the Paracast interview are an excellent starting point:

11:16 DB: Well Gene, this was the summer of 1974. I'm pretty sure it was July of 1974. My brother, mother, father and myself had moved to Caracas in June of '74. We were living in a hotel right near the center of the city, and one night we went out to dinner - a relatively early dinner - I think we had gotten out of dinner at about six o'clock. Somewhere around there - it was still fairly light out, even though it was sort of an after dinner kind of a thing. We were walking back to the hotel and my memory of it was that my mother stopped in her tracks and she actually said, "Lou, what's that?" And Lou, being my father, we stopped, we looked up, and there in the sky there was this huge cigar-shaped ship, sort of the archetype of the cigar-shaped craft. It was moving in the sky, very slowly - very, very slowly. And the thing I want to qualify about this was that it was kind of hard to tell how high it was because the size of the thing was so large, that there was no real reference to figure out how high is that thing in the air? Usually, when you see an airplane in the sky, because you're familiar with the scale of the real airplane, you have a good idea for how high the thing is. That's not what was going on with this cigar-shaped craft. It was huge. That I knew. But this thing was moving very slowly, for maybe a minute or two - it was about a couple of minutes - and then it stopped, and it just basically stopped at - and I also want to qualify there was no sound coming out of this thing. Completely silent. Stops dead in the air, and I remember kind of feeling of sort of dread, like what is thing doing? The next memory I have is that there was this light underneath of it, almost in the middle of it, and out of this light fly three - I remember it being three disc-shaped craft - three sort of archetypical UFOs - flying saucers. They came out of the bottom of this thing - and compared to the cigar, they were tiny, which again to me reinforced how big this thing was. Two of them moved to what I guess would have been the front of this thing, in terms of the direction it was moving. The other one flew towards the back. They all kind of flew into this triangulation position. They stopped, and then sort of as if someone hit a light switch, the whole thing went out. It was essentially gone. Barry what do you remember about it?

13:57 BB: Well, what I remember specifically, it was July. It was 1974. I remember for some reason I have very good memories about the specifics of where we were, because I guess it's helped that I've been back to Caracas several times since the incident, as shortly as last October. But we were actually, as David said, finishing dinner and we were actually stopping by a pharmacy, which was near the hotel, to get my mother some aspirin or something like that. As we were leaving the pharmacy, and going down the steps, my mother did say, "Lou, what the hell is that exactly?" And Lou was looking up, and we all looked up, and much like David's description, there was this very large cigar-shaped object. The thing that impacted me the most, was the absolute dead silence. There was no sound. And I remember, even at 8 years old, I couldn't comprehend how something so large in the sky, that wasn't a balloon obviously, was quiet. And I just stood there in amazement and once again in agreement with David, a light shone from underneath the object - I remember three lights - I don't remember them to be dish-shaped - that part's a little vague - but I do emphatically remember the three lights coming out of this ship and position themselves around this large cigar. It's funny, because it sounds perhaps hokey, but even at the age of 8, I think I realized that I was seeing something that I would probably never see again in my life. I remember my brother actually taking my mother's eye glasses off her, because she had a real strong prescription, that he could see real well with, and putting on her eye glasses. I remember running around to the building to get a better angle, and to see this thing, and by the time I got to an angle where I thought I would have seen this object, it was gone. So then I started jogging back, after I lost sight of the thing, because it simply wasn't in the sky, and I asked David, "where did it go?" And I remember, it went away. And then people started pulling up in the street, asking us if we had seen this. All these different cars, looking up into the sky, asking us where it went? If we had seen where it went. And we were all baffled.

David and Barry reported a huge cigar-shaped craft and three smaller ones, unlike the newspaper articles, which described a formation of lights with some meteor-like features. On the surface, the descriptions may seem unlikely to have been of the same event, but it has been known for decades that some witnesses of meteor break-up or re-entry debris perceive a structured craft, due to a phenomenon sometimes called the airship effect.

When meteors or re-entering objects break up, their debris spreads out along the trajectory due to their different ballistic coefficients. The fragments typically appear as a string of brilliant lights, that may span several tens of degrees of arc. Each fragment typically has a luminous ion tail. Humans may perceive the string of bright lights as one or more rows of lights on a dark, cigar-shaped craft, as on a dirigible or a blimp (hence the term airship-effect), or an aircraft or rocket fuselage, usually sans wings or tail. Our imagination supplies the object to which the "windows" must be attached.

In some cases, the cigar is perceived to have a visible surface, with a texture suggesting a manufactured object, e.g. riveted plates. In other cases, it is perceived as a dark presence, not directly visible, sometimes reported to have obscured the stars. Witnesses may believe that the intensely bright lights prevented seeing the surface of the object that they believe was present. There have been many variations of structured craft, and any given re-entry may result in a range of descriptions between meteor or re-entry-like to airship-like.

The Biedny's description of their UFO strongly suggests the airship effect. It was cigar-shaped, of the very dark, quasi-invisible variety. In the Paracast interview, at 21:34, David stated, "what I do remember about the surface of this thing, was that it wasn't reflecting any light. It seemed like it was very matte", with which Barry agreed. Asked whether he saw any windows along the structure, Barry responded that there were none, with which David agreed, and added, "the thing was basically completely dark or devoid of any actual detail itself. There were no windows, there were no surface markings of any sort, that could be seen."

The reported absence of windows is interesting. The memory formed of the huge cigar may have been stronger than that of the lights that probably triggered that perception; however, several other lights were reported. David recalls that the end of the sighting began when the cigar suddenly stopped in mid-air, and three saucer-shaped objects quickly emerged from a bright portal underneath and took up formation around the cigar, followed quickly by everything vanishing. Barry differed in that he did not mention that the cigar stopped, and he recalled the three objects that emerged only as lights. He also seems to have missed the vanishing, possibly because he was running to find a better vantage point, by which time they had gone.

Given that the cigar was essentially a dark presence, arguably those four lights were all that was actually seen. The breakup and burn-out of a fragment of meteor or re-entry debris could easily account for what was perceived. After a fragmentation, the objects separate due to their different rates of decay, creating the appearance of a new formation. A sudden break-up and rapid burnout could have given rise to David's perception or recollection that the cigar first stopped.

David and Barry both reacted strongly to the lack of sound, which they could not reconcile with any familiar energy sources that might have propelled the behemoth they perceived. The total silence enhances the strangeness of the airship effect, and it is very common for witnesses to comment upon and be confounded by it.

There does seem to be some evidence of the airship effect, but proof of a relationship to the re-entry of 1974-060B requires evidence of correlation with its trajectory. David Biedny reported on DMR on 2012 December 5, at 27:40, that the location of the sighting was the NE Corner of Avenida Sur Altamira and Avenida Jose Felix Sosa, and at 32:23, that the UFO was spotted in the southwestern sky. On DMR on 2013 July 3, at 44:25, he agreed with the newspaper reports that the motion had been west to east. Those descriptions substantially agree with the trajectory of the re-entry.

Below are present-day Google Earth ground-level views from the approximate coordinates of the sighting location (10.493433,-66.849035), showing the estimated re-entry trajectory, accurate in elevation to several degrees.

[Soyuz Image]
Fig.2 View from NE Corner of Avenida Sur Altamira and Avenida Jose Felix Sosa, looking SW.

Fig.2 (above) shows the view facing SW. The re-entry trajectory is the red line; motion was right to left (approx. west to east). The portion of the trajectory visible on the right-hand side is looking west along Avenida Jose Felix Sosa. The portion on the left-hand side is looking south along Avenida Sur Altamira. Fig.3 (below), which faces more SSW, shows more of the southern view of the trajectory.

[Soyuz Image]
Fig.3 View from NE Corner of Avenida Sur Altamira and Avenida Jose Felix Sosa, looking SSW.

The Biedny's observation in the Paracast interview that drivers were stopping and getting out to see the UFO, is a clue that its elevation was fairly low, considering the restricted view from automobiles, especially forward through the windshield. The above graphics show that the re-entry trajectory was ideally placed for drivers westbound on Avenida Jose Felix Sosa and southbound on Avenida Sur Altamira (and all streets in the city parallel to them). It would have been difficult to miss, staring ahead through the windshield.

Another clue that the UFO was low in elevation was Barry's comment that he ran around some building to get a better vantage point. He noted that he was shorter than David, which suggests that this building obstructed his view. The above graphics depict present-day buildings on the SW corner that would have partially obstructed the re-entry trajectory. Whether they were there in 1974 is unknown. If anyone has provable photos of the 1974 skyline or reliable information on the date of completion of construction of buildings in the scene, please get in touch.

In the Paracast interview, David guessed the total duration of the sighting was 3 to 4 minutes; Barry recalled it was about 1.5 minutes, but noted that he spent a couple of minutes running to obtain a better vantage point. The duration of such events is seldom recalled with precision, but it is probably safe to conclude that the sighting lasted much longer than most meteors. The re-entry spent about 80 s above 10 deg elevation, which was the likely maximum duration of sighting for typical ground-based observers in Caracas. The Biedny's sighting is in reasonable agreement.

David noted on DMR on 2012 Dec 05, that as the UFO moved closer it grew larger:

36:01 DB: So we're standing there and we're staring up at this thing, which is moving. It's moving very slowly, and it's moving from being further away from us, in our general direction, so it's as its moving, it's like getting bigger.
The perception of changing size can be strong with re-entry debris, which typically spreads out along the trajectory over 100 km or longer. The angle subtended by the trail of debris grows rapidly as it approaches, and then shrinks as it recedes. Assuming the re-entry in question was spotted when it was due west, then in the 22 s it would have taken to reach the point of culmination in the southwest, the angle subtended by a debris trail of any given length would have increased by about 45 percent, which would have appeared as a rapid and accelerating rate of growth in apparent size.

At closest approach, the re-entry passed within about 240 km of Caracas. At that range, a 100 km debris trail would have subtended about 24 deg of arc, nearly the span of the Big Dipper, consistent with the perceived huge size of the UFO. The close proximity of the re-entry trajectory to objects on the horizon might have added to the perception of large size, in a manner similar to the illusion by which the moon seems larger when near the horizon than when overhead.

David estimated the UFO's altitude at 5,000 to 8,000 ft (1.5 to 2.4 km), and Barry estimated it at 2,000 to 3,000 ft (600 to 900 m). Humans are incapable of accurately judging the linear altitude or distance of unfamiliar lights seen against a dark background, almost always severely underestimating reality. Meteors and re-entries seen at ranges of 50 to 500 km or more, typically are perceived to be less than 10 km distant, sometimes just a few hundred metres away. Such errors may seem far-fetched, but consider that Venus, which is a common source of UFO sightings, is never closer to Earth than 38 million kilometres. If the dark, cigar-shaped object can be accounted for as a manifestation of the airship effect, then all that remains were four lights, making the altitude estimates unreliable.

The UFO described by David and Barry Biedny strongly suggests meteor or re-entry debris misperceived due to the airship effect. There are signs of behaviour consistent with a meteor or re-entry, e.g. break-up and burn-out. The southwesterly direction, evident low elevation, and west to east motion, closely agree with the trajectory of 1974-060B, known to have re-entered over Venezuela that night, and shown in the previous section to have been the probable cause of the UFO sightings reported by three newspapers. Recall that in the "2001" article, the witness in the Prados del Este neighbourhood of Caracas (about 6 km to the SW of the Biedny's), also reported seeing four lights that vanished, which he described as "a main one, lacking a tail, and three acting as 'escorts', leaving a luminous wake...".

As discussed at the start of this section, the one major difference is the time of the sightings, which the Biedny's originally placed in daylight near 6 PM, and the newspapers placed at night at 11:30 PM - the same time as the re-entry. Since both sets of sightings otherwise agree with the re-entry, it is reasonable to conclude that the Biedny's probably saw the re-entry at 11:30 PM, and were mistaken about the earlier time.

I am interested in information and ideas that could improve our understanding of this incident, or suspected similar cases. If you have something to contribute, please get in touch.


David Biedny has argued that what is perhaps most important about this case is that it was nearly forgotten. He and brother Barry knew about it because they experienced it, but despite thousands of other witnesses and front page news coverage the following day, it had vanished from public consciousness almost as quickly as it vanished from the sky. They shared their experience publicly, and encouraged researchers to look for those old newspaper articles. Hector Escalante did that work, and now, with the help of modern technology, the information is readily discoverable by anyone with an interest. It's a great example for us all. If you have an interesting untold story, tell it. If you have some old documents that you can imagine being of interest to even a few, scan them and publish them, or find someone willing to do it for you. It will be a meaningful contribution to public knowledge.

Suggested Reading

Awareness of the airship effect was essential to recognizing the possibility that David and Barry Biedny witnessed a re-entry. As mentioned earlier, this phenomenon of perception has been known for decades; however, it remains somewhat obscure. James Oberg has been compiling case histories that illustrate and document the effect, concentrating on re-entries which yielded drawings by witnesses that depict perceptions ranging from meteor or re-entry-like to structured craft, including the cigar-shaped ones of the airship effect. Jim's reports were recently published via SeeSat-L, and are recommended reading for anyone seeking to better understand the phenomenon.

[Home Page]