Is TheTruth Out There?

Pat Hill, photos by Joey Wishart  |   Monday Oct. 1st, 2018

Some Paradise Valley residents have noticed a few quirks in the skies above the beautiful Paradise Valley this year.

“I’d seen some odd lights over Hyalite while out walking the dogs in the mornings before, but didn’t really think much about it,” said one Emigrant area resident. From where Jeff Nash lives above Emigrant, Bozeman (and the busiest airport in the state of Montana) lies to the northwest just over the Hyalite Range. But the object that keeps people looking skyward these days appears on the other side of the Valley, near Emigrant Peak and the Absaroka Range.

“It [initially] caught my eye because it was darting around in the skies,” Nash said, adding that the object’s activity in the evening sky reminded him of someone playing with a hand-held laser light projected on a wall. That activity prompted Nash to get a pair of binoculars and investigate further.

“The object looks a bit wedged-shaped or triangular, almost boomerang-like, whitish inside, and rimmed with reddish lights,” he said. “I continued to watch it that night, as it did maneuvers in the sky.” Those maneuvers weren’t straight-line, but, sticking with Nash’s laser-light analogy, consisted of some squiggly movement that was dominated by circular motions.

“It reminded me of the Shriner’s Circus or something, a ferris wheel in the sky,” he said. And Nash isn’t the only person in the Paradise Valley who has noticed the strange light over the mountains. Beau Barnhill, who lives about eight miles north of Nash near the Yellowstone’s Edge RV Park, has also found himself a bit transfixed with the night sky up the Paradise Valley towards Mill Creek and beyond.

“It was pretty erratic,” said Barnhill of the activity, “looking almost like a coin flipping in the sky at one point. The motions [of the object] were really wild and dramatic. I know it wasn’t a drone. I know it wasn’t a star.”

Drones, even the longest-flying ones, cannot remain airborne for much longer than around a half an hour at the most.  You can also rule out the International Space Station, which moves rapidly across the sky, low on the horizon. The phenomena observed by Nash, Barnhill and others often remains quite high above the horizon and stationary for a long time.

“More and more people keep seeing this,” Nash said. “It’s hard to discount that something is going on up there.” And though hard to discount, it’s even harder to explain just what could be going on in the evening skies over in the Paradise Valley lately.

Such unusual activities in the heavens have attracted the attention of the United States Government for many decades now. The U.S. Air Force conducted a series of studies from 1947-1969 which looked into more than 12,000 claimed UFO sightings. The conclusion of these studies was that nearly all of these sightings involved stars and clouds, as well as conventional aircraft and spy planes, but 701 of the reported sightings from this time period remain unexplained.

The U.S. Government still remained interested in such phenomena, however. Congress appropriated just under $22 million for such an investigative program from 2008-2011, according to the New York Times. The project, officially dubbed the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, was run from deep within the Pentagon, and ended in 2012, according to the Defense Department. According to the Times, the program produced “documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.” The Times reported that the program also produced videos of “encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft--including one of a whitish oval object about the size of a commercial aircraft, chased by two Navy fighter jets from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.”

“Look at that thing, dude,” one pilot can be heard saying to the other flier. “Look at that thing! It’s rotating!” That rotating comment from the Navy pilot seems strikingly similar to what Nash described concerning the motions of the object he and others have seen.

Still, skepticism remains concerning the origins of such mysterious objects in the sky, according to M.I.T. astrophysicist Sara Seager. She told the Times that “not knowing the origin of an object does not mean that it is from another planet or galaxy.”

“When people claim to observe truly unusual phenomena, sometimes it’s worth investigating seriously,” Seager said. “[But] what people sometimes don’t get about science is that we often have phenomena that remain unexplained.” James Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle engineer and author of 10 books regarding space flight, told the Times that he was also somewhat doubtful that unexplained phenomena in the sky could have otherworldly origins.

“There are plenty of prosaic events and perceptual human traits that can account for these stories,” Oberg said. “Lots of people are active in the air and don’t want others to know about it. They are happy to lurk unrecognized in the noise, or even to stir it up as camouflage.” But Oberg did not go so far as to discount research into such unknown aerial activity.

“There could well be a pearl there,” he told the Times.

As for Nash and his neighbors in the Paradise Valley, they remain convinced there’s something up there, though they acknowledge they don’t have a clue what it is.

“There’s crazy stuff going on up there,” said Barnhill. “It’s pretty wild.” Nash’s take on the object that keeps his eyes in the evening skies lately goes a little further than that:

“We are not alone,” he said.

Postscript: On a trip back from watching Pert Near Sandstone perform at Pine Creek Lodge in the Paradise Valley last summer, I too observed a blueish disk-like object in the sky performing aerial acrobatics in evening skies. No aircraft in existence THAT I KNOW OF could perform such maneuvers. I saw such activity in the sky one other time in my life, while onboard a Navy ship navigating through a remote  passage in the Philippine Islands known as the San Bernardino Straits. A group of us were standing at the rail enjoying the sight of dozens of remote islands in the calm ocean waters of the passage, when an aircraft appeared on the western horizon in front of us. As we wondered what the craft could be, it engaged in a maneuver reminiscent of a plus sign in the sky before suddenly vanishing. Members of the crew on the ship’s bridge also observed this activity, which was recorded in the official ship’s log. After anchoring in Manila Bay and going ashore the next day, much of the conversation the crew of that particular vessel engaged in while sipping their San Miguel beer was of what went on in the skies over the sea that previous evening.  

About the Author(s)

Pat Hill

Pat Hill is a freelance writer in Bozeman. A native Montanan and former advisor to Montana State University’s Exponent newspaper, Pat has been writing about the history and politics of the Treasure State for nearly three decades.

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