Kecksburg--Real Science vs. Debunker "Science"

A rebuttal to debunker Tim Printy's nonsensical arguments ("Science Fiction vs. Science Facts") attacking my original article on the Kecksburg UFO incident

A few years ago, I put up a webpage on the Kecksburg UFO incident, in particular criticizing a 1967 paper in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Socity of Canada (JRASC), “The Fireball of December 9, 1965: Part I” by astronomers Von Del Chamberlain and David J. Krause (referred to as C/K below).  They claimed that the fireball that was witnessed over at least half a dozen states and was associated with the Kecksburg, Pennsylvania event that started minutes later was really a meteor bolide that exploded and ended near Detroit, Michigan/Winsor, Ontario, and was on a flight path at right angles to one that would have taken it toward Kecksburg.

Their main piece of evidence for this trajectory was the triangulation of two fireball trail “points” from two photographs.  I was mainly pointing out that the paper had no error analysis, and because the photos were taken so close together and formed such a narrow triangulation base, even very small errors in determining directions to the “points” could create a radically different trajectory, including one towards Kecksburg.

I also made the point that the fireball trail was thinning as it progressed, suggesting an object moving off into the distance instead of sideways to the cameras.  The thinning was also consistent with a trajectory towards Kecksburg:

Again, please refer to my original writeup for details.

Debunker Tim Printy decided to attack my article, using a lot nonsensical arguments, the worst of which I am responding to here. (I must apologize in advance for the nastiness of some of my remarks towards Printy, a reaction to his own very insulting, condescending, and ultimately baseless attacks on me.)

Printy’s article is fatuously titled “Science Fiction vs. Science Fact.”  I say “fatuously” because his criticisms pretend to be based in science when most are really remarkably stupid and downright unscientific, if not deliberately dishonest.  E.g., he defends the absolute certainty of the C/K measurements and resulting trajectory, and then claims that it is up to me to prove they made any errors. 

Quite the opposite is true.  Anybody with any REAL science training (unlike Printy, who has only a high school diploma according to a bio he once did on himself) knows absolute perfection in measurement is IMPOSSIBLE, there are ALWAYS errors, and it is the responsibility of those publishing a paper to account for various errors, estimate how large they are, and how they affect the claimed results.  In fact, in REAL science this is crucial in evaluating whether their conclusions have merit, since results could be caused by systematic measurement or random errors instead of a real claimed effect.  Referees for peer-reviewed scientific journals always demand such error analysis of experimental quantitative data, at least if they are doing their job properly. 

That’s a true science fact, not the absurd science fiction of Printy that science is about absolute perfection in measurement and nobody dare question otherwise.

Because of the extreme length of this rebuttal, some readers may want to "cut to the chase" and just read the much shorter summary at the end.


Printy, summarizing one of my criticisms of C/K JRASC paper: 

       “That there is no error analysis and that a potential 0.7 degree error in computing the azimuth for
       the meteors endpoint could shift the computed path towards Kecksburg.”

That's right!  There was indeed NO ERROR ANALYSIS in the JRASC paper (more on this later).  Actually the computed numbers I came up for a “straight-to-Kecksburg” trajectory was +/-0.6 degrees (not 0.7) error in sighting lines (or a total of 1.2 degrees for the two photography points).

I later noted that +/-0.7 degrees would create a more southerly initial trajectory and a shallower angle of descent that could carry an object the entire distance to Kecksburg instead of hitting the ground. (This also assumed a later change to a more easterly trajectory, as proposed at the time by Ivan Sanderson, who analyzed eyewitness reports). It also seemed to agree more with the thinning of the trajectory, which I attributed primarily to perspective of the fireball moving away from the cameras, instead of sideways to them.

This correction to Printy’s article may seem like a nitpick, but others are not.  Far more serious “errors” are discussed immediately below, and demonstrate that Printy doesn’t even seem to comprehend the arguments being made.

Printy goes on with the thinning trajectory criticism I raised:

       “That the apparent angular size of the dust train was not uniform across the length of the trail
       indicating the debris trail pointed away from the photographers and towards Kecksburg…”

So far, this is a basically correct statement of my position (except I was talking about average trail thickness), but then Printy comes up with the following totally bizarro comment:

       “Rudiak's 0.7 degree error is interesting because what he apparently wants is the "A"  point to
       remain the same and the new "B" point to shift in the favor of Kecksburg. [my emphasis]  One
       would think if there were errors in azimuth computations and aligning the photographs with the
       local terrain, it would have been somewhat uniform and the A point would have errors in it as
       well. To incur a 0.7 degree shift on one point and not the other would require a significant change
       in the position measured that would not be missed by individuals performing the crosschecks.”

I can only call such a comment either grossly stupid, made by someone who is incapable of comprehending a scientific argument, or a deliberate misstatement of what I actually said.  The error I was talking about applied to possible measurement error of angles at either or both camera positions.  Such errors NECESSARILY affect BOTH resulting triangulated smoke trail “points”  “A” and “B”, not just one. Where in the world did Printy possibly get the idea I was saying “point” A was fixed?

Even if Printy was incapable of thinking logically, I made the point very clear in my very first diagram (reproduced at right), where I drew example ±1.0 degree error lines around the two photograph sighting lines (from photographer positions 1 & 2), demonstrating that C/K’s two “points”, between which they drew a precise trajectory line, were actually fuzzy areas with a large range of possible trajectories that could be drawn between them.

Notice that there is no possible way I was indicating that the “A” "point" was the "same".

Nor does the "B" "point" "shift in the favor of Kecksburg" as I apparently "wanted."  The clueless Printy doesn't seem to comprehend single "points" don't "favor" or point in any direction, even if I "wanted" them to.  It takes at least two points to define a line or trajectory, not one.

Printy makes the exact same nonsensical mistake twice more (discussed in more detail later)  when he argues that a single seismographic and explosion "point" somehow confirmed the C/K trajectory over other possible ones,

My last major objection to accuracy of the C/K article had to do with their assumption of no significant drift in their two smoke trail “points” between photos taken tens of seconds apart.  I then created a graphic comparing three photos reproduced in their article, two from one photo position and the second from the other, taken approximately over a period of 30 seconds.  I marked various features on the smoke trails and noted that it was obvious that the trails were rapidly breaking up and departing from straightness.  Here is the graphic again.
I then commented on how I made the graphic:

       “In making the above graphic, the three trails were rotated about 45° to a horizontal position
        For comparison purposes, features A & B in all three pictures were made level and
       scaled to be same distance apart (although the equi-distance assumption is itself in question.)
       [Emphasis added here to contrast with Printy's misrepresentation below]

I don’t know how I could have been clearer about what I had done.  But how did Printy spin this?

       "Rudiak's 'major drift' has not to do with points A and B, which were used for the
       trajectory computation, but to the rest of the components of the trail. When one looks at
       points A and B on Rudiak's trail composite image for image 1B and 2, there is very
       little shift in position of these points in relation to his lateral yellow line (Rudiak scaled
       the images so that A and B were the same distance apart). I pasted the two images together
       to demonstrate this using Rudiak's own images. Note that red lines that show the drift he is talking
       about. However, both A and B points are at almost the same identical points in the lateral  
       direction.  Chamberlain and Krause were correct in their assessment that there was minimal
       drift present because of the close match of the key points used for triangulation.”

Thus under Printy “scientific" "logic”, if the graphic was made such that the A & B “points” appeared to be fixed relative to one another, they were fixed in space, and therefore there would be no change in trajectory.

It apparently never occurred to Printy that the real reason they appeared to be fixed is because the graphic was deliberately made that way through both rotation and rescaling to compare relative lateral trail drift. But Printy is so utterly clueless, he doesn’t realize that his alleged “fixed” points are nothing but an artifact of how the graphic was made, even though he himself notes that “Rudiak scaled the images so that A and B were the same distance apart. (The mind boggles at the utter irrationality of Printy’s argument.)

An even better example of trail dispersal will be shown in the next section, and again put the lie to the nonsensical notion of Printy's "fixed" points.

Based on my graphic, Printy also acknowledges that the trail drift is quite noticeable, but somehow believes that the rest of the trail can shift whereas the A & B trajectory “points” absolutely cannot.  They are magically fixed in space simply because Printy asserts it as so.  And the reason he has to cling to this inane argument is because if he acknowledges they very possibly, if most probably are not fixed, then he also has to acknowledge that significant error could be created in the computed trajectory because of drift of the two “points”.
The graphic at the right is one example of how wind shear can create a false trajectory, with both “points” A & B shifting between triangulation photos
1 & 2.  Rescaling A & B as equidistant in the photos taken from sites 1 & 2, as I did to compare photos, can create the false impression that A & B remain fixed in the sky.  But there is no fixed frame of reference in the blank sky, though Printy apparently believes that there is.

(As noted in my original writeup, "point" drift with time is just one of a number of possible errors that can significantly affect a trajectory calculation.  Likely multiple errors would be involved.  The graphic
at right is meant only as an extreme
Even more Printy cluelessness and falsehoods:

       “Rudiak also fails to even mention that the authors had noted that the disintegration of the dust
       trail was evident in the photographs, which Rudiak seems to trumpet as his own discovery. 
       Rudiak's claims of excessive drift causing a potential error are just another method of trying to  
      question the certainty of the positions computed and to give credence to his new projected path.”

The first statement is either a flagrant lie or total lack of reading comprehension by Printy, since in my writeup I have ALWAYS quoted directly from the C/K article on this point:

       “All that is said in the JRASC article about all this [trail drift] is that they compared 4 photos taken
       from site 2, covering a span of about 80 seconds (therefore, from about 45 seconds to 125
       seconds). The article claims that these four photos ‘reveal that the total drift of the cloud
       was minimal, although disintegration of the train is evident.’"

How did Printy miss that? I also have every right to question Printy’s ridiculous pseudoscientific fantasy of “certainty of the positions computed” given the clear photo evidence that the trails were anything but fixed and were rapidly breaking up.  The authors of the JRASC paper seemed to be minimizing the amount of drift, instead of dealing with the potential error it was introducing into their computed trajectory. 

Again, the JRASC paper had ZERO error analysis. Maybe Printy didn’t learn this in his high school science classes, but there are ALWAYS measurement errors of various types. The only question is how much and whether it has a significant effect on the conclusions. A properly done science paper will always include estimates of the error.  The JRASC paper did not.  Yet, they were working from such a narrow triangulation base, that even very small errors could throw off their calculated trajectory by a large amount, which was exactly what I was pointing out.

Printy’s assertion that I have to actually demonstrate there were such errors and how much they were shows how little he knows about the scientific method.  He has it exactly backwards. The actual onus was on the original investigators to demonstrate that the various errors that NECESSARILY arise in ANY measurement did not have a significant effect on their outcome. They did NOT do this, nor did the reviewers of their paper demand it, as a proper peer review process should have done.


I also pointed out in my criticism that overall the fireball trail was thinning out (on average) as it progressed, and that this could be further evidence that the fireball was indeed moving away into the distance instead of sideways to the photographers as the JRASC article claimed (in which case, the trail would likely have stayed about the same thickness on average).

In fact, one of the photographers used by C/K stated exactly this—the fireball seemed to be moving AWAY from him, first appearing directly in front of him to the south (as he was driving south) and rapidly moving to his left (east) while diminishing in brightness.  In a written statement to the Air Force, he estimated the azimuth of the trail at 110 deg (or 20 deg south of east), again AWAY from his position.  Of course this was just an estimate, but was very similar to the southeasterly trajectory I computed from analysis of the trail thinning. (More details below).  By comparison, a straight-line trajectory to Kecksburg would have been about 124 degrees.
To supposedly counter this claim, Printy used a photo from a well-known and heavily studied 2000 event known as the Tagish Lake fireball up in the Yukon Territory of Canada.  At right is that photo, taken from Atlin, B.C.:
Back Story:  The fireball came out of the NNW near Whitehorse, Yukon, and traveled to the SSE, exploded near North-to-South-running Tagish Lake (to the west of Atlin, B.C.--see map below), throwing down an elongated meteorite debris field on the iced-over lake (this physical evidence alone gave the approximate orientation of the fireball trajectory). The meteor trail was extensively photographed from multiple perspectives along the length of the 100+ mile trail (also by overhead satellite), including down at the burst end near Atlin, B.C., to the EAST of Tagish Lake.

This was quite unlike the 1965 fireball, with a very short photographed trail and two closely spaced triangulation photo positions, which would produce much larger potential errors.  The 2000 fireball trajectory could be more precisely calculated from the far more extensive photo evidence and prolonged trail, and STILL the primary researchers believed there was   ±3 degrees of potential error, not the perfect 0 degrees of error that Printy believes is “scientifically” true of the 1965 fireball.

The position of the photographic point at Atlin is key to demolishing Printy’s following argument:

       “A good example can be seen in the following image of the Tagish Lake Fireball dust trail taken
       from Atlin, British Columbia shortly after the fireball had passed. Note how the width of the
      trail varies along the length. Since the fireball was heading towards the photographer,
       one would expect, using Rudiak's logic, that the fireball trail would have been
       narrow at the origin point and very wide at the terminal point. This is obviously not
       the case.”
Poor confused and again totally clueless Printy.  If only he had bothered to thoroughly read his own given reference he might have realized he had the direction of travel of the fireball ass BACKWARDS. 

Instead of the meteor traveling from left to right and having a thinning trail as it approached the camera, as Printy is obviously claiming, it was actually traveling from right to left with an expanding trail as it approached the camera. The REAL situation is illustrated in this marked up version.
This is abundantly clear when the trajectory is superimposed on the various landmarks in the graphic below:  The right side of the photo represents the direction the meteor was coming FROM to the North, i.e. further away, whereas the left side is the end of the meteor when it burst near Tagish Lake to the South, the CLOSEST point to the photographer at Atlin.
One can also plot the thickness vs. distance along the trail.  The first diagram is a marked-up version with lines around the “edges” of the trail (left below), used to measure thickness, and then used to plot the values in a graph (second diagram, right below) of thickness vs. distance along trail. The scatter in thickness illustrates the variation in fireball trail thickness Printy was talking about. But a best-fit line can also be drawn through the scatter of points (graph), which again shows how the overall trail thickness decreases with distance from the camera, as would be expected from the simple geometrical laws of perspective, what I was pointing out was ALSO true with the 1965 fireball:
Below is another view of the trail from the northern end, videoed in or near Whitehorse, Yukon (see map above).   Again trail thickness can be plotted against apparent distance along the trail and a best-fit line drawn, again very clearly showing thinning with distance from the camera.  Because the trail photographed here was much longer and the differences in distance greater, the best-fit ratio of thinning from one end of the visible trail to the other is also larger (about 3.5:1 around Whitehorse, vs. about 2.4:1 at Atlin).
One can do a similar plot with the 1965 fireball, which again demonstrates an overall thinning of the trail as the fireball progresses, although there is more scatter in data points, in part because the trail photographed is shorter and the difference in distance less.  Here, the best-fit ratio here of thinning from one end to the other is only about 1.5:1.  The point is, the trail thins in a manner similar to a well-documented fireball with a well-known trajectory, again exactly as would be expected from perspective.   There are really no surprises here, yet Printy treats my simple perspective argument as somehow "unscientific".
One final point can be illustrated from multiple photographs taken from Atlin over time, showing the breakup and dispersal of the smoketrail, as shown in the composite at right.  Clearly the smoketrail spreads out in ALL directions with time in this example.

But had I instead scaled the photos to keep certain features a constant distance apart, like I did with the 1965 fireball to illustrate relative lateral dispersal, Printy would no doubt argue with his "scientific" logic that this "proved" such points were indeed fixed in the sky, instead of being nothing but an artifact of how the graphic was made.  (E.g., the center red line in the illustration through a curved feature endpoint seems to be relatively fixed, but again, this is nothing but an arbitrary artifact of how I made the graphic.) 

Without some truly fixed reference point in the photos, like the Moon or Sun or some feature on the ground, one can't be sure exactly where the parts of the trail have moved with time.

Of course, we cannot be absolutely certain how the 1965 smoketrail dispersed since the winds and camera angles would not be the same, but it would be highly unlikely for two arbitrary triangulation points to remain "fixed" while everything else in the smoketrail shifted.

After having shot himself in the foot getting the fireball direction wrong and demolishing his own case, Printy wrote:

       “This is another case of Rudiak trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg
       and away from Canada.”

No, it’s more a case of a highly biased and scientifically illiterate debunker being so desperate to show that I'm wrong that he can't even bother to get the most basic facts of his argument right.   It's also a case of Rudiak knowing the laws of optical perspective also apply to fireball trails, and scientifically demonstrating with actual trail photos of a well-determined trajectory:  the trail thins as the fireball recedes into the distance—duhhhh!  In the case of the Dec. 9, 1965 fireball, there was also a thinning of the trail as the fireball progressed, again strongly suggesting that it was receding into the distance.

While this isn’t absolute proof that the fireball was receding (Printy tries to argue, e.g., the meteor was fizzling out as it progressed), it certainly is very good evidence it was, not a case of me “trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg.”  At the very least, C/K should have taken it into consideration as a distinct possibility.

It also turns out to be in agreement with one scientific article that was written at the time.  When Sky and Telescope magazine wrote up the 1965 fireball in their Feb. 1966 issue, they published one of the photos of the trail also used by C/K and in the legend wrote about the photographer’s impressions:

       “The fireball traveled toward the EAST [emphasis mine]… Although when first seen the fireball
       APPEARED TO BE FADING [emphasis mine], it ended with a burst of light.”

The “fading” referred to could easily be due to the fireball receding into the distance, also suggested by the thinning trail, not just “fizzling out”.  This probably added to the witness’ impression that it was traveling eastward.

In another legend showing a diagram of the area around west Lake Erie where they believed the fireball ended , they wrote, “The path of the fireball extended roughly from NORTHWEST to SOUTHEAST…” 

In writing this, no doubt Sky and Telescope was also “trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg and away from Canada.”

Like the propagandist and dishonest debunker he is, Printy is trying to make it seem that alternate proposed trajectories are purely belief driven, and not based on evidence.  But obviously Sky and Telescope thought the overall evidence at the time indicated an easterly or southeasterly trajectory, not one at right angles to that.


Printy also claimed that fireball reports further east in western Pennsylvania were based on nothing more “the vague references of [Ivan] Sanderson [back in the 1960s] towards eyewitness reports suggesting that the path was different the and decades old recollections by eyewitnesses dug up by Stan Gordon.”  This is just more Printy bunk.

(For reference, see this map from my first Kecksburg writeup.)

Newspaper stories at the time (not decades later) also wrote up the fireball as traveling into western Pennsylvania on a southeasterly or easterly trajectory, mentioning grass fires and debris falls further to the West or NW (particularly near Lapeer, MI) and well to the SE of where the fireball supposedly ended (particularly in Elyria, Ohio and nearby towns), a fire and a search for debris in the Kecksburg area by the military and police (as well as Midland, PA near the Ohio/Penn. Border), and a widely reported “sonic boom” in western Pennsylvania  (more on this later).  The western Pennsylvania sonic boom was also mentioned by Dr. Nickolas Wagman, a Pittsburgh astronomer, who compared it to a similar sonic boom accompanying a meteorite found in Pennsylvania 30 years before. 

How does Printy deal with this?  Simple, you see "this was faulty reporting" by the newspapers, because he says so.  Only Printy 40+ years later knows what really happened.  In addition, one Kecksburg witness reported that he felt a distinct thump or vibration when the reported object in the nearby woods came down.  Believe it or not, Printy then goes on to claim this single report of a localized ground vibration was the alleged source of the widespread sonic boom reports that Wagman said were received from various areas of western Pennsylvania.  (And yet another spin by Printy elsewhere is

No doubt Dr. Wagman and the fire department in Elyria putting out a reported dozen grassfires from the fireball were also “trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg and away from Canada.” 

A number of news stories reported a substantial military presence in the search for debris.  E.g., the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

       “The Army and State Police sealed off an area near Midland, Pa., on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and another
       area in Lorrain county, Ohio, where falling debris was reported.  The areas were sealed with the explanation: 
       'There is an unidentified flying object in the woods'.”

It was also reported that a three-man Air Force team from a Pittsburgh radar station was being sent to help search (confirmed by Air Force Project Blue Book documents released decades later), though reporting that supposedly nothing had been found after hours of searching.

John Murphy, a reporter from nearby Greensburg, also covered the story on the ground, and in a radio program he broadcast a week later (“Object in the Woods”) mentioned personally witnessing Army and Air Force personnel in Kecksburg. (According to two station employees and his wife, Murphy’s story had been heavily censored and he had been intimidated by a visit from the military   to the radio station.  Two years later he died under suspicious circumstances in California while covering another story, a victim of a hit-and-run driver.)

The headline the next morning of the Greensburg Tribune-Review  read "Unidentified Flying Object Falls near Kecksburg — Army Ropes off Area". This article by another Greensburg reporter, Bob Gatty, read

       "The area where the object landed was immediately sealed off on the order of U.S. Army and State Police         
       officials, reportedly in anticipation of a 'close inspection' of whatever may have fallen... State Police officials 
       there ordered the area roped off to await the expected arrival of both U.S. Army engineers and possibly, 
       civilian scientists."

However, a later edition of the newspaper stated that nothing reportedly had been found after authorities searched the area.

The given reason in the newspapers that the area was being searched was because seven residents of Kecksburg had reported something crashing in the woods there, not decades later as Printy claims, but right then.

No matter how you interpret this, why would the Army be sealing off areas and the Air Force and “Army engineers” be searching for “meteorite” debris?  Since when does the military search for “meteorites”?  Obviously they thought something more important than a meteorite might be involved that had national security implications.

Despite the repeated mention in the newspapers back then, including two reporters at the scene,  that the area in Kecksburg was cordoned off by the Army, Printy continues to deny ANY Army presence there, claiming the reporters were somehow confused by a small three-man Air Force squad dispatched to the scene.  Thus Printy's mere assertions based on his own beliefs and biases he confuses with “facts” and are supposed to trump the reporters who were actually there and reported at the time, or eyewitnesses back then or later.  This Printy claims is “science” instead of “science fiction.”

Over and over again, whenever the newspapers back then reported anything that might be construed as something highly unusual happening in Kecksburg or conflicting with Printy's religious belief in the "certainty" of the C/K trajectory, Printy deals with it by claiming that the newspapers ALWAYS must have gotten these details wrong. You see, if the reporters wrote such things they were all idiots or incompetents.


In another widely reported wire-service story, a weather observer in Columbus, Ohio, reported seeing the fireball EAST of his position, i.e., directly in the direction of Kecksburg. Had the fireball truly ended in western Lake Erie, the report should have placed the fireball due North, not East.  Printy does acknowledge this widely reported story, but again flippantly dismisses it saying that the direction given must have been in error, just because he says so.  This is yet another example of Printy cherry-picking the evidence, or an example of confirmation bias, which Printy and other debunkers often claim only gullible UFO believers are guilty of. 

Similarly, according to the Cambridge, Ohio, newspaper (70 miles East of Columbus), state police had received at least four reports of “streaks of fire” passing over the northern part of the county.  Again, the reported direction should have been to the NW if the fireball truly ended its path near Detroit.  These reports would also corroborate the Columbus weather observer’s observation of a fireball to the east.  No doubt, using Printy "scientific" logic, the witnesses were again misquoted as to direction.

On John Murphy’s broadcast, a Pittsburg airport tower controller confirmed something unknown in their airspace at 4:47 p.m., a full 3 to 4 minutes after the event supposedly ended near Detroit.  Accurate times are important to air controllers.  Unless there was a second object or fireball generating the sonic boom and other reports in western Pennsylvania, no “meteor” fireball could last this long or fly this slowly.

Another local newspaper story I found from Uniontown, PA, about 45 miles SSE of Pittsburgh and 25 miles SW of Kecksburg reported a fireball disappearing below the ridgeline of a nearby mountain that was to the S and SE of town (i.e., appearing to be in the northerly part of the sky if viewed from the backside of the mountain, either on the southside or near the peak) and also appearing to be headed towards two named suburbs that were to the EAST of town, or again, easterly in the direction of Kecksburg.

However, had they been viewing the supposed meteor fireball from over 200 miles away on the supposed steep meteor trajectory of the JRASC paper, they would instead have reported it exclusively and directly to the northwest and traveling only a degree or two before diving steeply into the ground.  How could it possibly appear to be headed to EASTERN suburbs of Uniontown?  Likely the disingenuous Printy would ascribe it to more newspaper misquotations and reporter incompetence.

A handwritten letter to the Air Force (page 1, page 2) several days later (in Project Blue Book files) came from a passenger on an Air Canada Toronto flight flying south to Miami.  According to the witness, he was a former RCAF pilot during the war, was about 10 minutes flight time south of Pittsburgh (or on a still-common propeller passenger plane, about 40 miles south, i.e., in the vicinity of Kecksburg), looked out his window to the EAST (not west or northwest) and saw a pencil-shaped object in level flight, then suddenly go into a sharp dive with an orange flame, accelerate downward and disappear in a few seconds.  He commented he had never seen anything like it with its “rapid change in direction and terrific speed.”  He said the stewardess later told him the plane's captain had seen the same thing and was reporting it on the radio.

In the same Blue Book files was a handwritten letter to the Air Force (first page) from one of the photographers (Richard Champine, also discussed above and below) used by C/K in their analysis near Pontiac, Michigan.  According to Champine (with emphasis and comments by me), he was driving south and “was aware of a flash in the sky, about 30 degrees elevation, DIRECTLY SOUTH.  The flash TRAVELED TO THE EAST on a course estimated about 110 degrees [azimuth, or 20 deg. south of east] and ended at about 25 degrees elevation. The duration of the observation was approximately one second. From the time it was first observed, it appeared to be DIMINISHING IN BRIGHTNESS [consistent with fading in brightness as it receded into the distance]” and ended with a definite flash.”

Thus there is clearly conflicting eyewitness testimony at the time as to the direction of travel and the final fate of the fireball or fireballs.  But Printy claims there was no conflicting testimony, or if it was conflicting the newspapers misquoted witnesses or it was illusory, and goes further to claim that literally ALL eyewitness testimony collected back then confirms the trajectory conclusion of the C/K JRASC paper.  But did it really?


According to the C/K article, a total of 66 standardized eyewitness questionnaires were eventually filled out (out of more than 100 witnesses who responded to newspaper requests for reports) and were supposed to be reported in “Part II” of the article by Dr. J.A.V. Douglas and Henry Lee, who did most of the report collection and witness interviews. (This is mentioned in the text of “Part I”, but “Part II” is not in the list of references at the end of the article.) 

"Part II" should have been the next article in the JRASC issue, but instead there was another fireball from 1966 analyzed by the same Dr. Douglas, with data from eyewitnesses included.  So what happened to the missing "Part II" of “The Fireball of December 9, 1965” with the eyewitness data ?

In case it was published later, I checked out the next two years of JRASC --still no “Part II”.

I’m not the only one to notice the missing Part II.  Photographer Rand McNatt (who calls himself a skeptic) wrote a blog for the 40th anniversary of Kecksburg

       “One further mystery surrounds this article: There are several references to The Fireball of December 9, 1965
       -- Part II by authors Dr. J.A.V. Douglas and Henry Lee, which supposedly also appeared in JRASC. But Part II
       has disappeared completely.” 

Yes indeed, it has, with no explanation!  LIke me, McNatt also notes other serious problems with the paper, starting with:

      "Even though there was a glaring typographical error in the article, and several questionable assumptions,
       it has been gleefully cited by UFO sceptics as a perfect example of science over superstition (even though it
       seems none of them actually checked the figures independently, because the originally published coordinates had the
       object shooting UPWARD at Mach 45)."

McNatt is obviously an honest and thoughtful skeptic who realizes science papers are not sancrosanct and to be worshipped without question, quite unlike Printy (a perfect example of the "gleeful UFO sceptic" claiming the paper is a triumph of "science" over "science fiction"). .

McNatt then goes on to criticize C/K using only the testimony of the two photographers to estimate the duration of the fireball, ignoring all the other missing witnesses:

       “In order to complete their study of the meteor, and to determine a reasonable orbit, Mssrs. Krause and Von Chamberlain
       had to estimate the velocity of the object. Inexplicably, they chose to ignore their own careful interviews, which had indicated
       a period of about four seconds, and rely instead on the estimates by the two photographers, which averaged out at two
       seconds. I say "inexplicable" because the astromomers failed to mention in their article that one of the photographers,
       Richard Champine, was driving south in afternoon traffic on Interstate 75 during the event. Champine photographed the
       event with a 4x5 camera, probably a SpeedGraphic, not the easiest of cameras to manage. The other photographer,
       Lowell Wright, had been photographing sunsets at a nearby lake; I would guess his back was to the fireball when it
       appeared, and his head down, as he was using a Rolliflex camera. In any case, the estimate of the duration was obtained
       from two people who definitely had their attention elsewhere at the time of the event.

       “That same Sky & Telescope article from February 1966 gives Champine's estimate as about ONE second, and quotes
       Chamberlain as saying "the duration of the meteor was about four seconds".  Where did two seconds come from?”

McNatt then commented that 2 seconds gives a typical meteor speed, but 1 second would have been too fast and 4 seconds much too slow (more like that of a re-entering satellite, which figures into McNatt’s theory that it was a re-entering stray U.S. ICBM armed with nukes). 

It would thus seem C/K were not basing the “2 seconds” on actual overall collected eyewitness testimony (with C/K themselves admitting that, "A majority of the observers gave a 3 or 4 second duration for the visual phenomenon"), but chose it arbitrarily to correspond to typical meteor fireball speed.  This was one of the questionable assumptions by C/K that McNatt was referring to.  (In addition, Sky & Telescope likewise quotes Chamberlain saying that the visible duration was "about 4 seconds," based on his collection of testimony from "more than 100 persons.")

For whatever reason, the testimony of 64 other witnesses seems to have been deliberately ignored and to my knowledge was never published.  And of the two witnesses they did use (the photographers), one (Champine) was in sharp disagreement with their trajectory and the other with their "average" time, instead giving 4 seconds.

Despite this, Printy makes the following accusation:  “Apparently, Rudiak chose deliberately to not even note the eyewitness reports or the seismographic data that verified the computed trajectory.” 

If the eyewitness data was never properly written up, what exactly is there for me or anybody else to “note”? What eyewitness testimony that was mentioned, the apparently well-agreed upon 3 to 4 second duration of the visible fireball, seems to have been deliberately ignored for no obvious reason other than to give a higher speed more akin to a meteor. And as detailed directly below, the "seismographic data," such as it is, also doesn't "verify" any trajectory, computed or otherwise, therefore again nothing for me to "note".

Printy quotes the unpublished Dr. Douglas from somewhere else saying the eyewitnesses confirmed the “endpoint” of Kraus and Chamberlain, no doubt meaning the flash of light and/or puff of debris in the photos, with a visible trail not continuing beyond. 

First of all, here we go again with Printy inanely claiming a "point" defines a trajectory. Nobody questions there was a large explosion "point" with no visible trail beyond.  But this doesn't by itself tell us which direction the object was traveling when it the explosion occurred, though apparently Printy thinks otherwise.

Second, this was the “endpoint” of the visible trail, but that doesn't necessarily prove some intact object or objects could not have continued beyond, which other known reports indicate was the case (such as grassfires and metal debris in Elyria, 60+ miles to the SOUTHWEST to where the fireball supposedly met its death and at RIGHT ANGLES to the supposed "exact" C/K trajectory).

In fact, C/K bring up the subject, stating that, "The visible fireball ended at this point, but several observers reported that some material apparently continued beyond, along the original trajectory.  This was subsequently confirmed by the photographs (Figure 1)." 

Likewise, the Sky & Telescope article on the fireball also discusses this, quoting Dr. George Wetherill, who happened to be in the area and investigated:  "It is clear that only one fireball occurred that it became nonluminous a number of miles above the western end of Lake Erie.  Most observers agreed that it burst into several pieces at the end of its trajectory."  And quoting Chamberlain (based on his collection of 100 plus eyewitness reports), "The fireball burst into one large and several smaller fragments before it disappeared."

There shouldn't be anything too surprising here, even for a meteorite, where fragments, even a large piece, could continue beyond what superficially might appear to be a terminal explosion, but now flying too slow to become luminous from friction again, thus very difficult to see at high altitude.  This would be particularly true if as small as the reported Kecksburg object (probably no bigger than 8-10 feet wide by 10-12 feet long).

As an example of how something can survive a explosion and seem to disappear, consider the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster where tracking film seemed to show the entire shuttle craft being blown and ripped to pieces, when actually the crew cabin remained largely intact, almost invisible to the eye except under close inspection of the images. (The cabin thereafter plunged a dozen miles into the Atlantic and the crew killed nonetheless.)  A similar hypothetical example would be an object on entry from space being protected by a heat shield that might be ejected when no longer needed (a strategy employed in some heat shield design--Example), then breaking up and even exploding from suddenly increased thermal and aerodynamic stress, while the main object itself would continue on, not visible because of small size and high altitude.

McNatt gives a similar example in his faulty/errant ICBM theory, where a booster stage (not designed for reentry) broke up and exploded on reentry (creating the trail), whereas the nuclear payload in the nose cone, which was designed for reentry, continued on.  Thus, again, end of visible fireball and visible trail, but not the end of the main object that could have landed some distance away.

Not content to make the same argument once, Printy repeated it in his "Sunlite" debunking magazine, where he created his own composite graphic at the right of the two photos taken by the two photographers used in the triangulation.  Basically he repeated exactly what I did, rescaling and aligning the trails, then concluded "there is little difference between the points used."

Of course there won't be, when the methodology of creating the graphic guarantees it.  But that doesn't mean it's true.


Printy drones on:

       “If there were a really loud terminal explosion at the time of the event, one would think that seismographs in the area  
       would have recorded it. There were seismographs that were apparently in operation at State College, Pennsylvania
       and John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1965. Strangely, there is no evidence from these or other seismographs
       presented by Stan Gordon or Rudiak that shows that a large seismic event occurred in western Pennsylvania. The real
       scientific data from the seismograph points towards the computed path of Chamberlain and Krause and not
       towards Rudiak's desired trajectory.” (emphasis mine)

Despite his usual fatuous use of the word “scientific”, this is just more nonsense from Printy.  If you want to be really scientific about it, a single seismographic record doesn’t “point” in any particular direction.  E.g., to pinpoint exactly where an actual earthquake took place requires data from multiple stations, not one.

Single station data can help pin down the time of an explosion or sonic boom, as C/K actually used it (if you already think you know, like C/K, where such a sonic event occurred).  It might tell you that such an event happened within a certain range of miles.  But by itself it can’t tell you the direction or exactly where it happened or define the trajectory of a fireball, in this case.  As usual, Printy has everything backwards. 

Perhaps another thing Printy never learned in his high school classes is that a point does not define a line (a mistake he has now made 3 times).  It would take at least three such seismographic records from stations relatively far apart from one another to pinpoint the actual location of a sonic event and at least two such recorded sonic events well-separated in time and location to establish any sort of approximate trajectory.  In fact, this is the exact reason I didn’t bring it up, because in this instance it was totally irrelevant to defining the trajectory. 

There has been no second established seismic data point, except for the newspaper reports of sonic booms in Western Pennsylvania.  (On the other hand, if you do use the reported sonic booms in Pennsylvania, then what you have is an approximate southeastern trajectory or towards Kecksburg, but we can't have that, can we?)

Most people know all this from simple experience.  If you hear a car backfire or a jet sonic boom, can you tell exactly where the sound came from or what direction the car or jet were traveling when they made the sound?  Obviously not, but don't bother to argue the obvious with the all-knowing debunker Tim Printy, unless you want to be called a gullible, “unscientific” UFO believer.

Another Printy argument is that there was no sonic boom in Pennsylvania, as reported at the time, because there are no current seismographic records of it.  Here Printy doesn’t seem to realize that explosion and sonic boom data is typically thrown out in a short time because it is considered noise or artifacts in the data (more immediately below), not a true seismic event, also data that typically is not picked up at other stations because of the limited distance of travel, therefore data uncorrelated with other stations.

Printy also accuses me of making no effort to find seismic records, but I was looking into the seismic angle for the event long before Printy made an issue of it.  Back in May 1997, I communicated with geophysicist Dr. Lowell Whiteside of the National Geographical Data Center (part of NOAA) in Denver, and requested “seismographic records for Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario for Dec. 9, 1965, 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. [CST]”

Dr. Whiteside informed me of the following (quoted from email):

      "1. The data we have from that time period is especially sketchy because systems were being transferred to the
           USGS away from local bulletins. Many stations stopped publishing local bulletins in Sept to Nov 1965 before
           the USGS started publishing a complete compendium.  … the period is especially difficult because it falls in   
           the middle of a transition to a world wide network.”

      "2. The USGS stations bulletin throws out readings that cannot be matched with other readings, thus much
           of the data for and sonic booms is not recorded in the final bulletins.

      "3. The USGS probably does not have any additional data to this, as they have tossed much of their historical data
            in favor of maintaining a modern system (something about storage space). … I checked the USGS EDR (Earthquake
           data records) and they do not record anything at that time period."

So basically Dr. Whiteside was telling me that records were spotty for that period because of a transition underway to  a national and world reporting system, and furthermore, most explosions and sonic booms were already tossed out in permanent records as spurious data because they weren’t true seismic or earthquake events.  Seismographic stations are there for the purpose of detecting earthquakes, not local sonic booms or explosions or thunder.

To support this, I cannot find any current record of the shock wave recorded at the Michigan seismographic station near Detroit, used by C/K to pinpoint the time of passage of the fireball in the area. E.g., check this map of all seismic activity in Ohio and immediately adjacent areas for the last 200+ years of magnitude 2.0 or greater:

There is nothing here for 1965, including the C/K-used seismic recording near Detroit, nor is there any record of a Cleveland seismic event for December 9 referenced immediately below, again perhaps treated as false seismic data and tossed out.

Similarly one can search the USGS website and again find no record of the Detroit December 9 C/K seismic event.

No doubt by Printy “scientific” reasoning (particularly if it served one of his debunking agendas) this would constitute “proof” that it never existed, instead of being a classic case of absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  I seriously doubt C/K made up their Detroit seismic data, even if it seems no trace of it currently exists in official seismic records (at least those searched by Dr. Whiteside and those currently on the Web).

I was also informed of the following two seismic events Whiteside could find for December 9, 1965 in the area:

       “1.  We have an earthquake of Mlbg 3.5 recorded in the southern Indiana/Illinois region at Dec 9: 22:04:51 GMT (about 4:04
             CST) at 37.4N 91.1W.” [New Madrid fault]

       “2.  In addition to the report of the earthquake in southern Illinois, we have a reading from CLE in Cleveland, Ohio. They 
             reported a seismic reading at 22:08:34 GMT (about 5:08 P.M. [sic]) CST  … the CLE report states that the disturbance
             was about 340 km distant. [about 200 miles]  [Note:  Given the GMT, the correct time of the Cleveland event should have
             been 5:08 EST or 4:08 p.m. CST, not 5:08 CST, a mistake on Dr. Whiteside’s part, who may have confused it with EST.]

The two recorded seismic events were too early and too distant to have been related to the fireball of around 4:43-4:50 p.m. [CST] (therefore, just a coincidence).

And if there were other recorded non-seismic events, such as a sonic boom, they may have been discarded, as was typically done.  As noted, e.g., there is no surviving record used by C/K of the sonic boom or explosion generated by the fireball near Detroit (although one can find the 4:04 p.m. New Madrid quake on the USGS site). This does not mean the Detroit recording never existed or that the authors invented it, just that it didn’t survive the method of record-keeping into the present day, though presumably it was still around back when C/K went searching for it.

Unfortunately, it seems at the time nobody went searching for other such possible records at other seismographic stations, which might have turned up, e.g., a seismic record of the sonic booms reported at the time in Western Pennsylvania (what I was hoping to find when I made my inquiry).  If they existed, they probably got discarded as spurious seismic data, just like the Detroit one, which no longer seems to exist.

Aside from the newspaper stories of a sonic boom in western Pennsylania, there is one surviving Project Blue Book document, written within 2 hours of the incident, noting unspecified “sound” in Greensburg, PA being reported in association with the fireball incident.  Decades later principle Kecksburg researcher Stan Gordon would discover from interviewing witnesses that the reports of sonic boom were indeed centered around Greensburg (only 7 miles NE of Kecksburg).

No doubt whoever reported to Project Blue Book the “sound” at Greensburg was also guilty of “trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg and away from Canada.”


In his own desperate and disingenuous attempts to try to discredit the so-called Great Lakes fireball of Dec. 9, 1965 as having anything to do with the so-called Kecksburg UFO incident that immediately followed, debunker Tim Printy made a number of outrageously false, unscientific, if not outright stupid criticisms of my website where I pointed out many potential errors and omissions in an astronomy paper Printy used to support his position.  Printy's many bungles and untrue claims included:   

1.  Printy claimed that the fireball trajectory in the paper was based on absolutely perfect measurements which were not to be questioned, when anybody with any scientific training or simple common sense knows that there are ALWAYS measurement errors.  It is ALWAYS the responsibility of the persons writing a paper in a scientific publication to estimate the errors and whether they had a significant effect on their claimed result, otherwise the result could be nothing but an artifact of the errors.  It is NOT the responsibility of those reading the paper to prove they made errors, since they are ALWAYS there.

2.  Because I made a graphic where I deliberately equalized the relative position and distance between two fireball trail triangulation “points” and arbitrarily chose a baseline near them in order to compare relative lateral trail drift with time (drift of the trail being a potential and likely source of error), the scientifically clueless Printy claimed that because the graphic seemed to show the “points” fixed they were fixed.  In the real world, there is no reference system in the blank sky and this was nothing more than an artifact of the way the graphic was made.  Had I not made the graphic the way I did, the “points” could just as well have been made to show them moving relative to one another.

3.  Printy claimed I never mentioned the authors saying they noticed some breakup in the trail with time, which was either a flagrant lie or extremely sloppy reading by Printy, since I quoted directly from the paper where it said exactly that. Instead I noted that the authors seemed to minimize the trail drift, when the photographs actually demonstrated drift that could have introduced a highly significant error.

4.  For no rational reason I can fathom, Printy claimed that I “wanted” one trail point to be fixed in space while the other shifted “towards Kecksburg”.  Anybody with any ability to read my arguments or graphs, or with the simple ability to think, would know I never argued that, if for no other reason than it would be incredibly STUPID, since any potential measurement errors would necessarily apply to both triangulation “points”.

5.  To try to counter my argument that the fireball trail was thinning with time, strongly suggesting the fireball was moving away from the cameras instead of sideways, as the paper claimed, Printy made his most bone-headed bungle.  He produced a photograph taken of another, much better studied and photographically documented fireball, claiming that the photo showed the trail thinning as it approached the photographer. Instead, Printy didn't have sense to know he had the direction of travel backwards, i.e., the fireball trail overall was indeed getting thicker as it got closer.  Oops!

6.  Printy foolishly claimed that a seismographic record, that was only used to help pinpoint time of passage of the fireball near Detroit, also allegedly “points towards the computed path” of the paper.  A single seismographic record doesn't “point” in any direction, much less define a trajectory or origin of the seismic source. Instead it takes multiple such stations to do this, as is done in pinpointing the location and depth of an earthquake.

7.  Even though newspapers and an astronomer at the time confirmed reports of sonic booms in western Pennsylvania, and an Air Force Project Blue Book document indicating “sound” in Greensburg, PA, near Kecksburg, being associated with the fireball report, Printy argued there are no seismographic records to support the initial reports.  In reality this proves nothing one way or the other, since Printy is unaware that permanent seismographic records routinely discard what is considered artifactual seismic data, such as explosions, sonic booms, thunder, etc.  This includes, by the way, the seismic records near Detroit used by the authors to try to pin down the time of passage, which also no longer seem to exist.  Ignoring the Pennsylvania sonic boom reports is also a typical example of how Printy blows off conflicting data, then claims there are no contemporary reports to support anything happening around Kecksburg.

8.  Printy claimed that 66 eyewitness reports collected by scientists after the event ALL support the conclusion of the trajectory and then accused me of deliberately ignoring these.  But there was nothing to ignore. In reality “Part II,” which was supposed to provide these reports, was NEVER published.  At best, the quoted summary used by Printy from another source only indicated most witnesses probably saw the fireball visibly passing and an explosion in the vicinity of Detroit and western Lake Erie (which nobody disputes).  Further, one of the known witnesses, one of the two photographers of the pictures used, also claimed by the authors to be in the best position to make judgments about the fireball, made several statements directly contradicting the paper's conclusion, saying the object seemed to be fading and moving AWAY from him to the east or ESE (not sideways and moving NE as the paper claimed), on a heading near what would expected for something moving towards western Pennsylvania.  In addition, the authors briefly mentioned that some of the eyewitnesses said debris was visible beyond the so-called explosion terminus point and end of trail, which they added was confirmed by examination of the photos themselves.  This would be consistent with the newspaper reports of grass fires and metal falls in the Elyria, Ohio area, e.g., but on a completely different trajectory, again consistent with a heading towards western Pennsylvania.

9.  Printy claimed that all reports of something unusual being found and recovered near Kecksburg are all based on more modern witnesses, carefully cherry-picking the actual data showing numerous reports of something happening in the vicinity of Kecksburg and western Pennsylvania.  Already mentioned were the sonic booms and “sound” reported near Kecksburg.  One dramatic report came from an airline passenger, a former military pilot, flying near Kecksburg.  He wrote a letter to Project Blue Book indicating a highly anomalous object in a direction opposite of the fireball near Detroit, making a sharp turn and rapid dive towards the ground. Printy doesn't even acknowledge this highly conflicting contemporary report.  Another tactic of his is denial of the veracity or accuracy of the conflicting reports.  E.g., a weather observer in Columbus, Ohio reported seeing a glowing object to his east in the direction of Kecksburg.  Printy claimed the newspapers must have gotten the direction wrong.  Similarly Printy spun newspaper reports of the Army and state police sealing off the area around Kecksburg and searching for a “UFO”, the result of 7 witnesses reporting something crashing in the woods there, as exaggerated or confused newspaper reporting.  This includes one witness near the search site saying he felt a distinct ground vibration or "thump," which Printy spins fantastically into the source of reports of sonic booms throughout western Pennsylvania.
The YouTube video at right shows various views of the 2013 Chelyabinsk, Russia, huge fireball and explosion.  Even after the explosion, still-glowing pieces obviously continued beyond the explosion area for about 5 seconds before cooling and fading out, but non-glowing fragments undoubtedly continued beyond that.  At the estimated speed of the meteor of about 42,000 mph or 12 miles/second, this meant the glowing fragments continued for at least another 50-60 miles beyond the explosion, which is again what one might expect, namely something continuing beyond the main explosion area.

But not according to Printy.  Everything in the 1965 fireball ended at the explosion "point" and nothing could have progressed beyond it, even though write-ups afterward noted that witnesses and the photos indeed confirmed that was the case.

Again note the simple perspective expansion of the trail as the meteor approaches the camera and the thinning as it moves away, something Printy pretends for the 1965 fireball is just me “trying desperately to make the fireball direction shift towards Kecksburg and away from Canada.”  Apparently geometrical perspective didn't apply to the 1965 fireball.