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2008/08/07 (EN)

Physically, FOTOCAT is an Excel spreadsheet of UFO and IFO cases where an image has been obtained on photo, film or video. It contains various data columns to register the date, time, location, province and country, explanation (if one exists), photographer’s name, special photographic features, references, etc. When completed, the full catalogue will be posted on the internet, for free access to the worldwide UFO community.
• Case Number
The last catalogue count shows 8,786 cases on record.
• Catalogue Structure Improvement
Because of their intrinsic potential importance, cases where images have been taken by automatic equipment from military aircraft were noted as “gun camera” in the Special Features column of the FOTOCAT spreadsheet. Now, the possibility arises that a future review paper will be devoted to reports where photographs were taken from aircraft, in general. For this purpose, FOTOCAT archives are being examined with the intention to search for all cases of this type on file and to add the notice “photographs from airplane” in the above-mentioned multiple-motif column. Also, for better computer-retrieval purposes, a new column called “Airborne” has been included into the catalogue’s structure, where an asterisk will mark all such cases for both civilian and military incidents.
• “The Year 1954 In Photos” Paper Expanded
FOTOCAT Report #1, originally released in 2004, has been revised and enlarged. From the initial 101 cases, the current 81-page monograph reviews 115 photographic UFO sightings in the world during the wave year of 1954. It is profusely illustrated with all known UFO pictures of the period, plus case commentary for all recorded events, closing with a general statistical analysis of the registered cases.
June 30, 1954, Skive (Denmark): a “solid-looking” lens flare appears during a total eclipse of the sun. © K.G. Jensen. October 15, 1954, Anchorage (Alaska). One of the rare UFO color photographs of the period. © Richard Beaulieu.
The essay's index of content follows:
  • Introduction (pages 1-2)
  • A Collection of Reports (pages 3-66)
  • Appendix: Some Rarities For This Period (Pages 67-71)
  • A Statistical Review Of The Year 1954 (Pages 72-81)
    • The 1954 Year Cases and the Decade of the 50s
    • Cases by month: UFOs and IFOs
    • The October-November 1954 Wave
    • Cases by Country
    • Types of Explanations
    • Cases by Time of the Day
    • On the Validity of UFO Reports
    • Epilogue

This paper is available in the following link:
This is pure UFO research in the making, and I hope you will enjoy the investigation done. Please feel free to let others know about it.
Once more, my recognition goes to Matías Morey for making it possible.
• UAPs Imaged from Aircraft
Santander (Spain), October 1991. Dr. Richard Haines (right) and Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos.
Just released on the NARCAP’s web site, a note jointly prepared by Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos and Dr. Richard F. Haines addresses the topic of unidentified aerial phenomena photographed from the air. UAP (for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) is the acronym used by the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena to more formally note what others term UFOs. NARCAP was established in the year 2000 and is dedicated to the advancement of aviation safety issues as they apply to UAPs: http://www.narcap.org/
Example of supposed airborne UFO photograph: Atlixco, Puebla (Mexico), 1991, (alleged) police picture.
The purpose of this note is to establish the basis for a future review paper centered on UAP images obtained from commercial, military and private aircraft, and it emerged quite naturally as the first author is an associate to NARCAP for Spain and Dr. Haines is the chief scientist of the Center. Also, both researchers are long-time friends and coworkers. In 1981, Dr. Haines wrote the foreword to Los OVNIS y la Ciencia (UFOs and Science), one of the books authored by Ballester Olmos.
A preliminary scan of the FOTOCAT files has produced an initial catalogue of 172 incidents of this category, and the relevant spreadsheet listing all reports by date and country has been posted online for review. UFO researchers worldwide are requested to actively contribute information so that a comprehensive catalogue can be developed. The article “UAP Imaged from Aircraft” and the 172-case catalogue spreadsheet are available at: https://www.academia.edu/31544043/UAP_Imaged_from_Aircraft
This section reports contributions received from new collaborators (or from regular ones whose most recent contribution is considered outstanding). In addition to the new names cited here, many others are regularly contributing to the enlargement of FOTOCAT.
• A Very Pleasant Visit
Heriberto Janosch (right) and V.J. Ballester Olmos, two of a kind ufologists.
My estemeed friend and collaborator Heriberto Janosch González, an Argentinean-Spanish psychologist and computer analyst, in addition to serious student of UFOs, now living in Madrid, visited me on April 4, 2008. For several hours we had the opportunity to compare notes on a number of joint projects and case investigations in progress, and talk about the past, the present and the future of ufology and ufologists. During our first face-to-face meeting we enjoyed not only a very good conversation but also a typical Valencian paella. It was a true pleasure having Heri in my studio and we made plans to have other meetings with other colleagues in the near future.
• Miscellaneous Collaboration
Indispensable help in document processing (a tedious step required prior to entering reports into FOTOCAT), is being provided by Carlos González Gutiérrez, from my home city of Valencia.
Michele Porcheddu, from Italy, a sharp analyst specializing in photographic cases, is cooperating with our project by reviewing a number of classic cases I am working on currently.
Additional assistance has been provided by experienced US researcher Tom DeMary, by British reseacher Robert Moore, creator of a major database for UK cases, by the noted French UFO investigator Gilles Munsch, from the CNEGU organization, by ufologist and writer Luis A. Reinoso, from Rosario (Argentina), and by Portuguese student Nuno Montez da Silveira.
From Switzerland, the veteran researcher Bruno Mancussi has volunteered to review all issues of his collection of the old German UFO journal UFO-Nachrichten to extract reports of photographic sightings for FOTOCAT.
Canary Island journalist Alfonso Ferrer was instrumental in spreading information in Spain on the Ballester-Haines article cited above.
To them all, my gratitude.
This section will revisit certain UFO photographs from past decades with a new interpretation.
• The Niotti Photograph
In 1960, Argentina’s Revista Nacional de Aeronáutica (National Journal of Aeronautics) published several articles on UFO sightings. Its November 1960 issue carried a letter submitted by Air Force Captain Hugo Francisco Luis Niotti, an active officer of the School of Sub Officers based in Córdoba (Argentina), which described that at 16:30 hours on July 3, 1960, motoring from Yacanto, 70 km before arriving to Córdoba, he saw an “object suspended in the air, some 100-120 meters at the right of the road”. He said he took some 40 seconds to halt the vehicle and take one photograph of it, and then the object disappeared in the following seconds into the low clouds banked at 80-100 meters of altitude.
He had his camera loaded with 21º DIN film, diaphragm of 2.8 and 1/60 sec speed, and focused to infinity setting.
Niotti described the object as cone-shaped, spinning on its own axis, and moving slowly to the South, “as a balloon carried out by the wind.” But then it increased its speed considerably, rising without producing any noise, smoke or flames. There was high humidity because some light rain was falling. The object was said to be hovering 10-15 meters over the ground. Niotti calculated that its diameter was 3-4 meters wide by 6-8 meters high (major axis), dark gray in color. Originally flying at a velocity of 5-7 km/hour, it accelerated to 200 km/hour in three seconds.
   UFO pictured near Yacanto (Córdoba, Argentina), July 3,          1960. © Hugo F. Luis Niotti.
The witness provided the original negative (only one picture was taken) to the magazine, which was examined by two photographic technicians of the Aeronautics Information Services, who concluded that “the developing process of the negative has been normal” and that it actually recorded an object. As the observer stated that the object’s base in the picture was darker than the original dark gray color he saw, the examiners attributed it “to the influence of unknown radiations” over the film.
The appraisers do not seem to have presented anything more specific to support this hypothesis, however. Did Niotti present to the evaluators the full strip of negatives or just the one with the blot? Why did the examination concentrate only on the development process, as it seems?
In reality, we have an isolated photograph of an alleged slow-moving object that inopportunely accelerated as soon as the witness started to take pictures. In the absence of any testimony and, judging merely from the appearance of the image, it looks like a stain or spot of the kind that it is produced during the chemical developing process.
We knew that the Arizona-based organization Ground Saucer Watch (GSW) had analyzed this photograph, as received from Guillermo Roncoroni. Roncoroni, an IBM technician by trade, was the natural leader of the Buenos Aires association SIU, the editor of the journal UFO Press and one of the most serious ufologists in Argentina (but not devoid of beliefs.) Specializing in the early application of computers to the processing of UFO landing data, he was very fond of UFO photographs. Roncoroni died in 1999 and most of his archive of UFO slides was transferred to the FOTOCAT Project resources.
We also knew that late in November 1978, Roncoroni submitted the Niotti photograph to GSW for analysis. A response was received on February 4, 1979. The study was signed by GSW`s director William H. Spaulding, and it disclosed that three other GSW consultants had participated in the analysis, Dr. Bruce Maccabee, Fred Adrian and David Rutland.
Image analysis output produced by Ground Saucer Watch, Inc. on the Niotti photograph.
The analysis indicated that the UFO image was not fully circular, showing an asymmetry in its axes, something “highly uncommon in bonafide UFO photographs”, according to the GSW analysis, nevertheless it “substantiated” values for distance and size matching the ones given in the above letter by the witness, and it also mentioned a possible “power field” to explain the darker density of the bottom part of the object in the image, as the Argentina Aeronautics examination also suggested. Too perfect, in our view.
The GSW analysis concluded that there was no evidence to claim that the UFO represents any known type of aircraft or weather balloon, not a model, not a montage, and that the conical shape appears to be metallic.
Two-page analysis report by William Spaulding on the Niotti photograph, dated February 4, 1979.
Roncoroni was a sober computer professional, I corresponded with him from 1978 to 1984, when we worked together in developing a codebook and exchanged experiences in computing work, and in my opinion he was the kind of person who finds it difficult to accept that a serious person can lie or spin a tale. He believed in the testimony of Captain Niotti, therefore the case was outstanding to him.
But that was not the idea others in his own group had about the photograph. For instance, student Heriberto Janosch, who has always thought the tale was a hoax built upon the discovery of a developing flaw of a singular shape in the negative.
Recently, Argentinean journalist and UFO researcher Alejandro Agostinelli sent to us scans of the GSW letters to Guillermo Roncoroni. We already had that correspondence, but we found a two-page document that was new to us, an analysis report signed September 27, 1978 by GSW about a photograph sent by Roncoroni. Initially we did not know what picture was analyzed months before, but thanks to some advice from Heriberto Janosch, we realized it was a first study of GSW over the Niotti photograph, with totally opposite findings!
When we decided to write it down for this blog, we reviewed all the FOTOCAT documentation existing on this event and we found in our files a report written by a veteran ufologist from Buenos Aires, prepared in the late 1990s or early 2000s, confirming this interpretation. According to this note, Roncoroni sent the photo to GSW in the first place without mentioning who was the photographer, without providing the data of his testimony, nor giving the results of the Argentinean Aeronautics examination; just the raw picture “not to prejudice any result.”
What did the first GSW analysis conclude? There we find pearls like these: The UFO image is a misinterpretation of a standard film processing artifact. Color contouring revealed a flat image, without shape or substance. The image is close to the camera...the image is on the film’s emulsion. The image is a chemical spot created during the developing process. The tail behind the UFO image is a smear mark. We have seen dozen of these anomalies...
The first report enclosed examples of similar developing effects from technical photographic literature.
GSW report on the Niotti photograph, dated September 27, 1978, and enclosure.
And the history was...
When Roncoroni received the initial negative results he got furious and he wrote back to Spaulding about his “error”, now giving him the clues about the personality of the author (presumably one who could never lie), and only then providing the size and distance calculations of the alleged observer (factual information, no doubt), as well as the “radiation” conclusion of the Aeronautics appraiser (a relevant key the GSW could not miss). Of course, all the GSW consultants re- worked the analysis to match the witness estimates and the Aeronautics official appraisal’s conclusions. Overnight, the smear in the negative became a material, flying object that could not be explained. Obviously, GSW did not dare to contradict a fully-stamped official report.
Years later, GSW techniques and methods, and more specificaly, GSW biased interpretations of results, were under severe criticism by the ufological community in the United States and William Spaulding abandoned the field. All that remains are lots of nice-looking, colored Polaroid prints of the TV image outputs.
What to say today about this single photograph? Was it just a development flaw or a distorted flying saucer that escaped to being photographed at pleasure?
The US engineer Larry Robinson featured this picture as a hoax. I requested the reason why and he wrote: Examining the photo shows the object to be within a few feet of the camera. There is no scattering to lighten the object as there should be if the object were large and distant.
Unfortunately, Hugo F. Luis Niotti died on January 2008 and he cannot be confronted with these facts.
• Streetlamps, not Hovering UFOs
On http://fotocat.blogspot.com/2007_01_29_archive.html (under the title “1942 China Image Solved?”) we clarified the nature of an old, alleged UFO photograph. A disk-shaped object over the middle of a street in a China town was just a hanging lamp. Thanks to the courtesy of Belgian researcher Patrick Ferryn, we have received another example of this type of photograph from a remote place. The picture was submitted by the grandson of a high-ranking French civil servant in the colonnial administration of ancient Dahomey (now Benin), Africa, during the period 1925-1933. The picture, taken from the family album, belongs to a series of photographs made in the city of Porto-Novo circa 1928-1929. This portrait shows a panorama of Victor Ballat Street.
   Porto-Novo (Benin), ca. 1928-29.
   © Jean Avonts Saint Lager.
The owner of the photo is puzzled by the fact one cannot see any wires linking the summit of the wooden pole (in the middle of the picture) to the object.
An expert was consulted. Joe Maurath, Jr. has an amazing collection and a very interesting website devoted to vintage streetlights, and he replied: It definitely is a span-wire incandescent fixture which was rather similar to those used in the US from ca. 1900-1950 on a rather widespread basis for illuminating busy intersections.
Close-up of the “UFO” after image treatment. Wires are visible now. © Patrick Ferryn.
It is the effect of lighting conditions of the scene (illumination from the sun), the duration of the exposure, the processing of the negative, the printing of the picture, or a combination of these factors what impedes the cables from being visible...until the photograph is enhanced and the bad contrast effect is removed to the point to show that wires are present.
Some basic statistics derived from FOTOCAT.
• Reviewing the Decade of 1970s
In FOTOCAT there are 1,589 reports comprising the period between 1970 and 1979. This is the split by year and category (UFO and IFO):
year reports ufo ifo
1970 75 47 (63%) 28 (37%)
1971 113 63 (56%) 50 (44%)
1972 133 72 (54%) 61 (46%)
1973 171 108 (63%) 63 (37%)
1974 222 97 (44%) 125 (56%)
1975 177 94 (53%) 83 (47%)
1976 133 80 (60%) 53 (40%)
1977 182 122 (67%) 60 (33%)
1978 222 143 (64%) 79 (36%)
1979 161 71 (44%) 90 (56%)
Grand Total 1,589 897 (56%) 692 (44%)
Two annual peaks of reports can be observed in 1974 and 1978, with an equal number of 222 cases each. Overall, in this ten year period, the average number of reports per year is roughly half the number compared to the two peak years. The lowest number of reports is from 1970 with only 75 entries.
On average over the 10 year period, 56% of incidents are unexplained (UFO) while 44% are explained (IFO). These figures are held constant in most years, with the exception of 1974 and 1979, where the ratio becomes inverted to 44% (UFO) vs. 56% (IFO): the most probable reason for the inverse proportion is that in both years there were some missile test launches, and subsequent observations generated a large quantity of photographs.
Graph 1. Yearly distribution of FOTOCAT reports, 1970-1979, split by UFO and IFO.
The tally of cases by country, for the nations contributing over one per cent of the total (16 entries or more), follows:
ESP-296 USA-264 FRA-168 ARG-118 JPN-73
ITA-65 SWE-64 NOR-62 GBR-56 AUS-53
BRA-42 CAN-36 CHE-32 NZL-25 MEX-22
Spain (ESP) takes the lead in this table, not in vain there has been a large compilation effort by this author, complemented with the many image captures of ballistic missile tests by France and the USA seen from peninsular Spain or the Canary Islands in 1974 and 1979, and the frequent experiences with infrared photography in Andalucia in the last part of the decade. USA follows next, as expected. FOTOCAT has devoted special work to collect reports from Argentina, Norway or Australia and that increased the overall international count. Italy’s input is due to Maurizio Verga’s PHOTOCAT. Switzerland’s (CHE) higher position is due to the abundant (yet underestimated) material provided by contactee Eduard “Billy” Meier.
There are 10 countries which have 3% of all the cases (over 48), and these are distributed by year in the next table:
1970 8 11 4 12 4 2 1 4 7 3
1971 5 19 11 13 7 5 7 0 10 4
1972 8 38 11 4 5 6 14 10 6 10
1973 7 46 20 12 11 11 6 9 4 8
1974 *59 22 48 12 13 7 6 13 3 4
1975 32 32 19 7 20 1 7 1 4 8
1976 29 14 10 9 6 7 7 8 6 5
1977 30 39 22 9 1 3 9 7 8 4
1978 44 30 16 31 5 19 7 7 4 3
1979 74 13 7 9 1 4 0 3 4 4
SUM 296 264 168 118 73 65 64 62 56 53
(*) Including 43 series of photographs of the French ballistic firing of a MSBS from the CEL site on June 12, 1974
(†) Including 30 sets of pictures of the US Navy launch of a Poseidon ballistic missile on March 5, 1979
( ‡)Including 17 series of photographs of the French ballistic firing of a MSBS from the CEL site on June 12, 1974

June 12, 1974, Moya (Barcelona, Spain). Vapor trail of a French ballistic missile. © Renom. November 11, 1972, Mesa, Arizona. A UFO or a captive balloon? © Lee Elders.
The various national “flaps” (in US Air Force terminology, a condition characterized by an advanced state of confusion!) are highlighted. Waves occurred here and there without any discernable pattern. The major wave of 1973 in the United States has no correlate either in Europe, Latin America, Asia or Oceania. Neighbor countries do not share flap periods neither. Why do we find this chaos in the data, and within, generally, national borders?
Where regularly we will include any published literary piece on curious phenomenology.
• An Alien in a Chilean Park?
On May 10, 2004 a curious photograph was taken in the Parque Forestal (Forest Park) area in Santiago, the capitol of Chile. It created intense polemics: did the apparent being captured in the picture represent an “extraterrestrial” creature, or was it something else? Andrés Duarte, with an M.A. in Chemistry, is a reputable image analyst, and he has examined this event with unparalleled depth. His final essay -–one that we do recommend as basic reading--has been posted at the following link (in Spanish): http://usuarios.lycos.es/aduarte/investigaciones/foto_parque2/
In this paper a restoration of the photograph was achieved, thanks to a semi-blind deconvolution method based on cepstral and spectral analysis. The findings show that the subject in the image might simply be a child. Other hypotheses and published analyses on this case are also reviewed.
This is a brief item report for the serious and critical-minded UFO researcher. Some selected information sources which I judge of interest for gaining knowledge from a scientifically-oriented perspective is provided.
• Identifying Manipulated Images
The MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) journal, Technology Review, on March 17, 2008, published an interesting article by Erica Naone describing a new digital forensics tool that analyzes the lighting in an image, as a tool to catch image manipulations. This would seem to be very valuable software for use by any serious student or analyst of UFO photographs: http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/20423/?a=f
• International Survey
The Spanish UFO investigator Ricardo Campo Pérez, who is also a journalist and writer with an M.A. in Philosophy, was very kind to interview me for an article published in the last issue of the journal Cuadernos de Ufología (Ufology Notebooks), number 32, 2008, pages 149-202, the outstanding, 260-page annual monograph released by the Fundación Anomalía (Anomaly Foundation). We recommend this publication as the very best in the Spanish-speaking world. See: http://www.ikaros.org.es/b000.htm and http://www.ikaros.org.es/b001.htm
Under the generic title (in Spanish) “Sixty Years After the Arnold Case - A Survey”, Mr. Campo has compiled a mosaic of opinions from 18 UFO students worldwide, eight from Spain and ten from foreign countries. Among distinguished researchers, thinkers and authors from Europe and America included in this survey are Alejandro Agostinelli (Argentina), Peter Brookesmith (England), Martin Kottmeyer (USA), Philip Mantle (England), Kevin Randle (USA), Larry Robinson (USA), Peter Rogerson (England), Edoardo Russo (Italy), Maurizio Verga (Italy) and Nigel Watson (England), and, from Spain, J.M. Alcíbar, J. Arcas Gilardi, M. Borraz Aymerich, L.A. Gámez, L. R. González, A. Petit and J. Ruesga. The survey coordinator also opted to include the reflections of yours truly, V.J. Ballester Olmos.
V.J. Ballester Olmos (left) and Ricardo Campo Pérez standing by the former’s study library.
The three common questions that Ricardo Campo posed to all those interviewed, and my own responses to them, will be found for those interested in the Spanish section of the present update (see below). The questions were formulated from a skeptical perspective –more than my own blend– and these are fully pertinent to the end that was intended to be achieved, which was to provide a general review and perspective on and of UFO research worldwide after six decades of UFO phenomena.
• The Paradox of Incoming Case Computation in the FOTOCAT Catalogue
I have been perplexed by the high number of incoming, so-called UFO photographs from all over the world, at a time when UFO waves have vanished and, above all, when the general belief in the ET origin of UFOs is at its lowest level. Why this a paradox? Thanks to the kindness of Heriberto Janosch, a note written by me on this subject was invited by the blog Espacio Exterior. It is in Spanish and can be read in this link:
• Article Online
An article of mine (in Spanish) devoted to explaining the role that Lieutenant Colonel Ángel Bastida played in the process of desclassification of official UFO files in Spain (1992-1999) is now online:
• Transient Luminous Phenomena Bibliography
Again, the Italian Committee for Project Hessdalen has produced a superb job: Luminous Transient Phenomena in the Atmosphere (LTPA), an online data base of bibliographical entries concerning the international literature on a wide range of related topics, covering the aurora borealis, atmospheric electricity, ball lightning, Earth lights, earthquake lights, Hessdalen phenomena, ignis fatui, long-lived plasmas, noctilucent clouds, TLP and other similar phenomena of great interest to UFO researchers is available. The data base is continually being updated, and now has 4,868 entries, or 487 pages! It is presented following strict scientific criteria. Using a vast set of fields, this bibliography allows one to retrieve the data in a simple and quick way. FOTOCAT Project fully endorses this excellent tool. The ICPH has rendered a paramount service to the community of UFO investigators. The online bibliography is to be found in the following link: http://win.ciph-soso.net/bibliography/default.asp
• Ball Lightning Symposium
Studies on ball lightning and other rare forms of atmospheric electricity are matters of interest to UFO researchers. The reasons are quite obvious. Thanks to Dr. Alex Keul, we have been informed of a conference held in Kaliningrad (Russia), July 7- 12, 2008. Under the general heading of “Atmosphere, Ionosphere, Safety”, the congress dealt with the topic “Electromagnetic and Optical Phenomena in the Amosphere, Including Long-Lived and Plasma Objects.” For further information, the program index can be found in a .pdf file here.
• Books on Sale
The following five books by Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos –all of them out of print– can be purchased as a single package for 100 € (or 150 US dollars) plus shipping costs. The books will be signed by the author.
  • OVNIS: El fenómeno aterrizaje (hardcover, 1978)
  • Los OVNIS y la ciencia (with M. Guasp) (softcover, 1981)
  • Investigación OVNI (softcover, 1984)
  • Enciclopedia de los encuentros cercanos con OVNIS (with Juan Antonio Fernández Peris) (softcover, 1987)
  • Expedientes insólitos (softcover, 1995)

Those interested are invited to write to fotocat@anomalia.org (Subject: “Books”.)
Your volunteer collaboration to the FOTOCAT Project is requested. Please write to: ballesterolmos@yahoo.es
We will supply you with state, regional, provincial or national catalogues for you to check and enlarge.
If you are willing to donate photographic materials, files or literature to be preserved, feel free to use the following postal address:
Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos
Apartado de Correos 12140
46080 Valencia