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No UFOs says the Indian Army

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I found this story to be a marvel of what accurate observations can reveal. The Kolkata Telegraph reported:

{Indian] army personnel had until February 2013 documented 329 sightings of the unidentified objects seen over Thakung near Pangong Tso, a high-altitude lake shared by India and Tibet.

Army personnel have been posted at the height (above 13,000 feet) to function as a sentry/observer. All along the LAC (as also on the LoC with Pakistan) troops from either side try to set up observation posts on dominating heights to monitor movements on the other side of the undefined frontier.

Eastern Ladakh in particular is a sensitive region. Developments on this frontier led to the India-China war of 1962. Even as recently as last month, Chinese troops on horseback were reported to have crossed the LAC into India-claimed territory.

Over the past 10 years, with advances in surveillance technologies, both armies have been using pilotless aircraft with sensors and high-resolution cameras to watch each other. In the last three years, the number of transgressions reported has spiralled. There were more than 500 between 2010 and 2012. Transgressions are not only over land but also in airspace.

The [unidetified] objects were perceived to have violated the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that India shares with China 155 times.

The first object, viewed from a location about 4,715 metres above sea level near Thakung, appeared in the horizon at about 6pm and remained visible until about 5am. The second object appeared at 4am and faded away at 11am.

Army lance naik Sheminderpal Singh — a regular observer at Point 4715 — told the astronomers that he had noticed a delay of four minutes in the appearance of one of the objects each consecutive day. Singh also told [Indian Institute for Astrophysics personnel stationed at the high-altitude telescope in Han Le] that the object seemed to be the brightest light in the sky and always appeared to move with respect to the stars.

The IIAP team told the Indian Army to use an instrument called a theodolite to record the horizontal angle and vertical elevation of the two objects. Army personnel performed these observations between February 17 and 22 and submitted the data to the IIAP.

The astronomers have concluded that the object observed from Point 4715 is Jupiter as the observations coincide with the planet’s diurnal motion and the apparent motion of the object due to the rotation of the Earth.

The description of the second unidentified object that appeared early in the morning suggests that it is Venus, which is currently moving behind the Sun and will in the coming months appear as an evening object.

The IIAP team said stars and planets over the horizon in Ladakh appear very bright because of increased atmospheric transparency at the high altitude and both Jupiter and Venus at the time were the brightest planets in the sky.

The astronomers also clarified that objects that rise in the east may appear to be moving across the LAC and approaching the Indian side.

I love this story, since it recapitulates my own introduction to science. Months-long nocturnal observations of Jupiter with a home-made theodolite, using parts cannibalized from my school “geometry box” gave me my first insight into the incredible usefulness of prolonged and accurate data taking.

The two critical observations reported here by Mr. Singh were the fact that the objects moved with respect to the stars, and the regular 4 minute delay in the appearance of the object: beautiful observations that amateur astronomers cut their teeth on. I would not mind having a meticulous observer like this working with me.

It is interesting that professional astronomers had to be brought in to finish the story. That points up a rectifiable gap in training. Perhaps a basic course in astronomical observations and the use of ephemerides of planets and known artificial satellites should be provided to observers in the armed forces. I would think that a month should suffice for instruction and exercise.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

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