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Celestial sight remains a puzzle
By IAN GILLESPIE

The two boys can hardly contain their excitement.

"At first, we thought it was just our imagination," says 13-year-old Anthony Crivea.

"But then other people saw it, too!" exclaims 11-year-old Jason Dean.

"And it started going in figure-eight shapes," says Crivea. "So then we thought it was a UFO."

The two friends claim they saw something strange in the sky late Sunday night, while they were watching the Perseid meteor shower at Dean's house on Vanneck Road near Komoka.

Dean's dad, Peter, can't add much to their report -- he says he was asleep in bed at the time. But he's convinced of one thing.

"Jason knows better than to fib or make up stories," he says.

Nobody doubts the honesty of the boys (who also were joined by Jason's older brother, Charles). But they're just kids, right?

True. But there were apparently four adults who also witnessed the celestial sight.

One of them confirms the boys' tale, but doesn't want his name in the newspaper. Paula Hounam, however, isn't afraid to admit seeing something unusual.

"It was weird," says the 33-year-old Londoner. "Your first instinct is that it could be a plane, but then you think, well no, that's not a plane unless the pilot is really drunk. Because it would go up and down and then zoom back to where it was initially."

Hounam and the boys say at first the object appeared to be white but later showed flashes of red and blue. Most peculiar, however, is their claim the lights moved in a kind of sharp-angled figure-eight pattern.

For the record, London police department spokesperson Amanda Pfeffer says police received no reports of unusual sightings in the sky during the past few days.

So what was it?

As a science writer and research co-ordinator with Ufology Research of Manitoba, Chris Rutkowski is one of Canada's leading experts on UFOs.

The Winnipeg-based researcher and author (his new book is called The Canadian UFO Report) says the local sighting isn't all that unusual. In 2005, there were 769 UFO sightings recorded in Canada. And he says polls indicate one in 10 Canadians believes they've seen a UFO.

But, he adds, that number may be low because many people are reluctant to admit they've seen something peculiar.

"Unfortunately, there's still a curtain of ridicule that descends upon a lot of this," he says.

After 30 years of study, Rutkowski says he's found most UFO sightings have some valid explanation. Often, he says, people are simply seeing stars or satellites.

"Even a star or a planet will twinkle with different colours," he says. "And because of a phenomenon called auto-kinesis, it can appear to move, even though it's stationary.

"You stare at it with no frame of reference and your mind interprets it as moving closer or farther away from you."

But clearly, he says, stars and satellites don't move in a figure-eight. So what did these local folks see?

"If I was forced to make an explanation, I'd have to say it sounds like a military exercise over the lake," he says, adding that military aircraft often fly in a pattern while refuelling over the Great Lakes.

That's one answer. Hounam has another.

"I'm intelligent enough to know," she says, "that I don't know everything."

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