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T hey're back!

Incredible as it may seem, less than 40 days after having celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Montreal sightings, an almost identical phenomenon was observed over the city, this time right above the Montreal Casino.

According to what witnesses told investigators of the popular Canadian group OVNI-ALERTE, the phenomenon looked like "a strange shape", not unlike "bright spotlights reflecting off of the cloud deck" but with the source of the lights seemingly situated above the clouds. The extent of the luminous display was described as "really, really, but really big", the size of the Olympic Stadium". Eye-witnesses reported that the intensity of the lights changed and one observer said it looked "as if the UFO was camouflaged by a yellowish cloud".

The phenomenon was first spotted at around 8 p.m. on December 16, 2010, and remained visible for no less than six hours. It is estimated that between 50 and 100 people in and around the casino spotted it. With night-time photography having improved considerably over two decades, this time we have high-quality photos that captured the scene.

the 2010 version

The luminous display of December 16-17, 2010, photographed by a security agent of the Montreal Casino [source: OVNI-ALERTE].

The weather data for the evening of December 16 were as follows: temperature: -11°C; wind speed: 10 km/h; wind direction: North; humidity: 78%; clouds: stratus; precipitation: light snow fall.

[Source: BOURBEAU, C., "Retour sur le PAN observé au-dessus du Casino de Montréal".]

According to Yann VADNAIS of OVNI-ALERTE there are two reasons why spotlights reflecting off clouds cannot explain the phenomenon:

(1) Although many witnesses first assumed they were looking at spotlights reflecting off of the cloud deck, a closer look convinced them that the lights were too distinct and definitely up in the air. One lady described the lights as "four white paws with orange-like beams on the sides" and added that "when clouds passed underneath the UFO, the lights got weaker". VADNAIS concludes that these and similar descriptions rule out spotlights, because spotlight beams would have illuminated patches of cloud that passed in front of the unidentified aerial phenomenon.

This would be true in the case of spotlight beams illuminating the cloud deck, but not with spotlights mirrored in ice-crystal layers higher up. Such artificial light pillars are not created by beams of light illuminating the clouds, they are the mirror images of bright lights sources appearing in billions of flat, plate-shaped ice crystals floating through the air. The spotlights responsible for the display may well have been pointing in a different direction, i.e. not tilted 90° upward to where the lights appeared, but illuminating another area of the cloud-deck (or their direct light may not have reached the clouds at all). Clouds passing in front of the mirrored lights would simply obscure the lights from view, just as the witness quoted above stated. This is beautifully illustrated by video images of a very similar display of artificial light pillars over Paris, France.

(2) Yann VADNAIS further notes that only witnesses directly underneath could see the strange lights. Examining several witness accounts more closely, OVNI-ALERTE found that the phenomenon was visible only from within a limited radius of less than 50 m (164 feet). Interestingly, one of the witnesses told the investigators: "It was truly bizarre, I could see it well, but then I moved 5 or 10 m [16.5 or 33 feet] and I saw nothing anymore". VADNAIS argues that, if spotlight beams created the lights, one would expect the patches of reflected light to be visible from a much wider angle. To explain this oddity he invokes "spatio-temporal corridors". Yet this "limited visibility" is simply another indication that we are dealing with a phenomenon of specular reflection, not diffuse reflection. Atmospheric optics expert Les COWLEY explains:

Only crystals on a column roughly midway between the light and the observer give a reflection into the eye because the small crystal mirrors are nearly horizontal and the incident and reflected rays must make equal angles to the crystal faces.

The higher the crystal, the more closely does the reflected ray come from the direction of the zenith. Therefore, when there is a cloud of crystals, their reflections appear as a line of light that points directly overhead, the zenith.

[more info and a diagram on:]

Yann VADNAIS further announces that an in-depth analysis of all the data carried out by the group might well cause a "possible revolution in the world of UFO/UAP studies". Well, we are in anticipation, but we think the group will be wasting its time since a perfectly reasonable natural explanation for these and similar sightings has been proposed by us many years ago: what we are dealing with here is a rare type of artificial light pillars, rare because the pillars are unconnected to the light source and appear high up in the sky centered around the zenith. It seems obvious to us that the light sources responsible for this new display over Montreal were the spotlights from the city's casino. If there is to be an investigation, we think it should focus on verifying if these spotlights were operational that night and if the lights seen in the sky did indeed centre around the zenith.

(January 2011)

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