Guest Commentary

UFO Recogntion: Part II - Lights

By Bill Hamilton (

UFOs sighted at night are either lighted or unlighted.  All commercial aircraft carry specific lights of certain colors permitted by FAA regulations.  Military aircraft also carry specific lights usually of the same colors, but also may be flying unlighted over military operating areas.  

UFOs sometimes mimic aircraft lighting, but, more often than not, have a lighting pattern that does not conform to FAA-regulated lighting and thereby unusual lights can act as a marker of a possible UFO.  One exception to all the standard lights used by aircraft is aircraft used for commercial enterprises.  Light airplanes, helicopters, and blimps will carry lighted signs or extra lights to advertise a commercial product.

First, let us look at what the FAA requires of conventional aircraft in terms of color and position of lights:

Sec. 23.1385 Position light system installation. (b) Left and right position lights. Left and right position lights must consist of a red and a green light spaced laterally as far apart as practicable and installed on the airplane such that, with the airplane in the normal flying position, the red light is on the left side and the green light is on the right side.

(c) Rear position light. The rear position light must be a white light mounted as far aft as practicable on the tail or on each wing tip. Each position light color must have the applicable International Commission on Illumination chromaticity coordinates as follows:

(a) Aviation red-- "y" is not greater than 0.335; and "z" is not greater than 0.002.
(b) Aviation green-- "x" is not greater than 0.440-0.320 y; "x" is not greater than y -0.170; and "y" is not less than 0.390-0.170 x.
(c) Aviation white-- "x" is not less than 0.300 and not greater than 0.540; "y" is not less than "x -0.040" or "y0 -0.010," whichever is the smaller; and "y" is not greater than "x+0.020" nor "0.636-0.400 x "; Where "y0" is the "y" coordinate of the Planckian radiator for the value of "x" considered.

Sec. 23.1401 Anticollision light system.

(a) General. The airplane must have an anticollision light system that:
(1) Consists of one or more approved anticollision lights located so that their light will not impair the flight crewmembers' vision or detract from the conspicuity of the position lights; and
(2) Meets the requirements of paragraphs (b) through (f) of this section.

(b) Field of coverage. The system must consist of enough lights to illuminate the vital areas around the airplane, considering the physical configuration and flight characteristics of the airplane. The field of coverage must extend in each direction within at least 75 degrees above and 75 degrees below the horizontal plane of the airplane, except that there may be solid angles of obstructed visibility totaling not more than 0.5 steradians.

(c) Flashing characteristics. The arrangement of the system, that is, the number of light sources, beam width, speed of rotation, and other characteristics, must give an effective flash frequency of not less than 40, nor more than 100, cycles per minute. The effective flash frequency is the frequency at which the airplane's complete anticollision light system is observed from a distance, and applies to each sector of light including any overlaps that exist when the system consists of more than one light source. In overlaps, flash frequencies may exceed 100, but not 180, cycles per minute.

(d) Color. Each anticollision light must be either aviation red or aviation white and must meet the applicable requirements of Sec. 23.1397.

I have seen unidentified aerial objects using strobes similar to the anticollision lights but with varying flash frequencies.  UFOs may be using such strobing lights to mimic aircraft anticollision lights. Internally lighted blimps have also been mistaken for UFOs as several UFOs seen at night appear to be lighted in a similar manner. The only colors mentioned above are aviation red, green, and white.  UFOs have been seen with red, white, green, orange, blue, and neon lighting in various numbers, positions, and configurations.

Here is one description taken from a sighting in Ohio in July: “The security guard said that the UFO had a solid yellowish orange non-blinking light around the exterior of it, best described as a circle with neon lighting all around it. There were also two additional lights on the back of the object.”

Another report says: According to the witness, "I was on Route 3 near Lowell and had just pulled onto 495 heading south. It was around 1 a.m. I was alone in the car and (on) the highway. I had just passed Exit 30 (the Ayer/ Leominster turnoff). Then the lights hit me from behind. Blue lights. Very round, very close to the ground. At first I thought it was a state trooper, but then the lights were gone."

Another UFO had various color lights:  Warwick estimated that the UFO was "20 meters up, lights were blue, red, yellow and orange. It was ten minutes in view," adding that he felt "scared, excited, overwhelmed, maybe a bit disappointed because they didn't stay to chat." (Many thanks to Diane Harrison of UFO Network Australasia for this news story.)

Here is a report with various shapes and colors of lights: MONTERREY - On November 14, 1999, a green Flying Triangle was spotted over downtown Monterrey at 6:30 PM. Manuel Hernandez age 35 of Monterrey claims to have witnessed a UFO. He has been watching the night sky for several weeks and spotted four UFOs. The biggest had a triangle form and also has bright green lights. The location of this UFO was near the Saddle Hill. The other UFOs had a saucer shape with flashing red and blue lights. Thanks to World Wide UFO Reporting Center.

Many have wondered why UFOs would not travel in stealth mode and not display lights at all.  Just a cursory examination of UFO sightings show that most UFOs exhibit eye-catching lights of many colors as if they are intending to be seen.  There have been reports of witnesses signaling lighted UFOs with a flashlight or spotlight and receiving a return signal from the UFO.

Colors and position of lights on aerial objects is an indicator of UFO recognition so the next time you see unusual lights please make a record and drawing of what you observed including color, position, and number of lights.



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