CAELESTIA was initiated in 1994. Its purpose: to collect, investigate and document reports of unidentified aerial phenomena. The name CAELESTIA is borrowed from Latin and can best be translated as "affairs of the heavens". The general idea behind the initiative was - and still is - that reports of "Unidentified Flying Objects" deserve a more correct treatment, be it from the scientific community or from the UFO community itself.
A b o u t C A E L E S T I A
Aims & objectives
CAELESTIA uses the term "UFO" as little as possible, not only because of the restrictions implied in the words "Flying" and "Object", but also because of the popular conception that UFOs equal extraterrestrial vehicles. We prefer to designate the subject of our study simply as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). When we refer to UFO reports in these pages, we are talking about those reports that circulate in UFO quarters, not to the ones that we extracted from scientific journals or were reported directly to CAELESTIA by amateurs and professionals in the fields of meteorology and astronomy.
Ufologists have accused CAELESTIA of focusing on IFOs (Identified Flying Objects) rather than on UFOs. They argue that the cases we investigate concern only uninteresting lights in the sky and vague images on photos and videos. The material presented on this website proofs this accusation to be false: many UFO reports examined by CAELESTIA describe apparently solid objects maneuvering close to the ground. Several of the cases we discuss in these pages are considered classics within the UFO community.
Identifying unexplained aerial phenomena is one of the project's major concerns. A concern which, we are sorry to say, is rarely met with sympathy from the UFO community. Most ufologists are reluctant to search for explanations. Even careful attempts to explain UFO reports in a rational manner are often met with suspicion, if not hostility. The only explanation we can give for this unsporting attitude is the natural desire of people to hold on to personal beliefs.
But not only ufologists are to blame for the lack of progress in this field and for the fact that ufology has evolved into a kind of modern myth rather than a scientific topic. Because of more urgent priorities, scientific institutions have a habit of disposing of UFO reports as quickly as possible. The result is that they provide witnesses with rapid, but not always well thought-out answers, or that they pass the reports on to a local UFO group.
Working with UFO/UAP reports is not the same as working with established facts and data. What we are dealing with are reports of transient phenomena, reported by accidental, often untrained witnesses, and although a rather large number of these reports are accompanied by some sort of physical evidence, this evidence usually turns out to be interpretable in more than one way. Moreover, the UFO literature is littered with hoaxes, exaggerations, investigative errors and cases for which elementary data are lacking. On top of all of this, there is an almost infinite number of natural phenomena and man-made objects that can cause people to report spectacular UFO experiences.
So why continue to spend our good money and free time on a subject that seems to consist mainly of anecdotal data, lacks internal coherence and is kept together with flimsy evidence? The main reason why we think reports of unusual sky phenomena deserve a closer look is that we want to preserve the good evidence from being smothered by the weight of the bad evidence. Witnesses, who are not out to seek personal gain but merely want to report a strange occurrence to the best of their abilities, deserve to be taken seriously.
Because of the diversity of the reported phenomena, CAELESTIA supports the principle that it is more rewarding to tackle one case - or a set of cases with common features - at a time, rather than to try to construct an all-in-one hypothesis in the hope of explaining the UFO/UAP problem in one single effort.
CAELESTIA's approach is unorthodox in the sense that we have gathered a vast collection of eye-witness accounts, photographs and articles that deal not with UFOs, but with rare natural phenomena and man-made contraptions that can generate UFO reports. In our search for answers, which began in the mid seventies, we realized (far too late we must admit) that compiling a database on all sorts of sky phenomena would be a logical first step to take in identifying the unidentified. One of Belgium's veteran ufologists, Jacques BONABOT, once referred to this type of documentation as the "adult files" (in UFO circles, it requires some maturity to set aside your personal convictions and start looking for down-to-earth explanations). It took us twenty years to equip ourselves with solid documentation on known and little-known phenomena that can cause people to report unusual things in the sky. The second step to take was to evaluate new UFO reports and re-examine older ones in the light of this newly required information. The approach was a success: in five years time, several hundreds of reports could be explained. Some of these cases had been lingering in the UFO catacombs for decades.
Apart from working with our 'adult files' (that are still being updated with the purpose of evaluating new reports), we also work the other way round, i.e. we try to select cases on the basis of the reported characteristics. Phenomena that strongly resemble one another, and are described in detail by credible witnesses, are re-examined to see if there are specific conditions under which such phenomena occur. We reckon that if we are to find evidence of a new phenomenon in this practically inextricable tangle of reliable and unreliable data, this is the best way to proceed.
The selection of UFO/UAP cases on the basis of the physical appearance of the phenomena described in the reports focused our attention on a series of rare meteorological phenomena, phenomena that, to our knowledge, have never been documented properly in a scientific setting (examples are: metres wide, black smoke rings and miniature mammatus formations with rapid internal motions). Pictures and/or drawings of these fascinating meteorological anomalies, some never published before, can be found in our picture galleries and in our selection of case examples. A detailed discussion of another unusual meteorological phenomenon that has been largely ignored for years, even by atmospheric scientists, can be found on the research page under Light pillars in cirriform clouds.
The decision to create our own web site came in 2006, and emerged from the need to provide a useful tool for ufologists and newcomers in the field who are interested in solving mysteries rather than maintaining them. On the other hand, we hope to prompt scientists to take a closer look at the thousands of sighting reports that have been gathered by the UFO community since the late 1940s. We think there is a real chance of bringing more previously overlooked phenomena to the surface if we start cleaning up this incredible amount of information.
We wish to express our special thanks to all those who helped with the realization of this web site, and in particular: our web designer Walter VAN DEN EYNDE; astrophysicist and co-founder of CAELESTIA Dr. Ronny BLOMME for scientific advice; Kwinten VAN WEVERBERG for meteorological advice; our long-time correspondents Frits VAN DER VELDT, Marc HALLET and Jacques SCORNAUX for their priceless help in compiling our documentation; Frederick DELAERE, Werner POETS, Jan VAN EETVELT and Gui VAN GORP, who assisted in the investigation of specific incidents; as well as Marc BROUX and Linda DERBOVEN, without whose support this site would probably still be fiction rather than fact.
Our sincere thanks also to the many other correspondents, photographers and experts who have contributed in one way or another.
Wim VAN UTRECHT (July 2007)