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Sighting Reports 2001

Airborne Ring Sighting Investigation


Background:  On March 1, 2001 a truck driver in Salt Lake City was making a regular run in downtown Salt Lake City and he noticed a bright flash.  The flash was immediately followed by the appearance of a ring.  The truck driver had a digital camera in his truck.  In rapid sequence he took several photos.  The photos showed a well formed ring (see sequence of photos).  The ring was black, had little or no movement, and retained its shape. Eventually the ring disappeared in a cloud.  The report was originally reported to the Coast to Coast Radio Program via e-mail.  Subsequently the report along with the photos were posted on the Coast to Coast web site.  The Coast to Coast host (Art Bell) interviewed the trucker on one of his programs.  The trucker left his e-mail address on the web site. I contacted the trucker and acquired more details regarding his sighting.    Two other witnesses saw the same ring.  One was a truck driver who was following behind the primary witness.  This trucker did not want to be identified and therefore was not interviewed.  A third witness who was employed at a facility located on Beck Street saw the same ring while walking outside his workplace.  I was given the e-mail address for this witness, but the witness did not respond.

Details of Witness Report:  Subsequent to reading the online report and pictures on the Coast to Coast Web site I contacted the witness via e-mail.  The witness filled in more details including that two other witnesses viewed the ring shaped object.  The witness forwarded me the e-mail from the witness who was employed at a location along Beck Street.  I attempted to contact this witness via email, but did not receive a response.  In a response from the primary witness I received the following information:

  • The witness photographed the ring-shaped anomaly from his truck with an Aiptek pen camera.  The witness said that he used to carry a Sony Mavica, but this camera was smaller and more convenient. 

  • The ring did not appear to be smoke and was well defined.  The witness noticed a "spike" on one side of the ring and a slightly counterclockwise movement of the ring.  (See pictures six and seven for a view of the spike.)  The witness said that the ring disappeared and he wasn't sure whether it moved into the clouds or just vanished.  He said that the movement of the spike "was very eery."

  • The other witness who saw the ring described it as "giant dark ring."  This witness did not mention the flash which preceded the ring, but may not have been outside at the time.  (The worker apparently was taking a break and walking outside when he saw the ring.)

  • When looking at the sequence of photos it is evident that the ring is moving left to right (or west to east).  The reason for this is either because the object is moving from the west or the truck is turning towards the west.  Based on the location where the ring was sighted I believe that the trucker first photographed the ring while traveling north on Beck Street and turned towards the northwest as he continued northward along Beck Street.  (See street map.)  The first photos (one and two) were taken from the driver's side window (probably rolled down).  The remainder of the photos were taken through the windshield.  I do not know the exact location of where the trucker first photographed the ring, but I do know the location where witness number three saw the ring.  This location was immediately above the point at which the street bends from a north/south orientation to a northwest/southeast orientation.

Details of the Investigation

  • I gathered other pertinent information regarding the sighting including surface weather observations, winds aloft, meteorological radar data.  On March 1, 2001 some early morning drizzle was observed in the Salt Lake City area.  However, skies became partly cloudy and by noon (time of sighting) skies were partly cloudy with cloud bases about 4,000 feet.  The winds aloft were very light on that day and the atmospheric mixing was minimal.  This is consistent with the estimated minimal movement and stability of the shape of the ring. 

  • A check was made to see if other witnesses had reported this sighting.  The fact that the sighting occurred at midday and was so unusual would suggest that others had seen it.  However, a check of local Salt Lake City newspapers and media outlets did not turn up any additional witnesses.  I also checked the MUFON  and National UFO Reporting Center databases and did not find any sighting reports from Salt Lake City of this nature on March 1, 2001.  The Salt Lake City newspaper did not indicate any unusual events (fires, explosions etc) which could have possibly produced the black ring.

  • No inquiries were made to FAA, but a FOIA request was written to Hill Air Force Base to inquire whether or not they had any UFO reports or were participating in any unusual activity which could generate a well defined ring (e.g. munitions blasting etc).  In addition I asked for radar data which would reveal any anomalous objects.  (Click here to view FOIA response.)  I received an abbreviated response from Hill Air Force Base that no UFO activity was viewed or reported.

  • This sighting occurred at midday near the Salt Lake City International Airport and close to Interstate 15.  Based on this, one would think that many people would have seen the ring.  Also the ring was close to (if not in the path) of flight patterns in and out of Salt Lake City Airport.  Hill Air Force Base was nearly 30 miles north of where the ring was sighted.  Therefore it is highly unlikely that any base activity resulted in the sighting.  However, the intent of my FOIA request was to verify whether or not the base had received any inquiries or reports of unusual aerial phenomena.  See map for the location of the airport relative to Beck Street (where the ring was sighted and photographed) and the estimated location of the ring. 

  • Based on the heights of the bases of the clouds (4000 feet) and the angle at which the trucker saw the object (45 degrees), I estimate that the object was around 4,000 feet (nearly a mile) away in the horizontal.  The actual distance of the object from the observer would be slightly over one mile. This is under the assumption that the ring was close to the base of the clouds.  This is a relatively safe assumption because it appears that the ring may have eventually disappeared into the clouds.  (See worksheet used to compute distance of object).

A History of Ring Shaped UFO Sightings:  Ring shaped UFOs have been sighted and reported in the past.  It is worth highlighting the important details of these sightings to establish what may be causing this phenomenon.

  • Ft Belvoir Virginia - 1957.  At 9 am in September of 1957 several base personnel saw a well defined black ring moving over the trees on Ft Belvoir, Virginia US Army Base.  A private (whom we shall call "Private Stone") photographed the ring and took six pictures in rapid succession.  The dark well defined, circular ring moved slowly over the treetops before forming a mist and eventually becoming a cloud.  Several veterans at the base saw this ring in addition to the photographer.  This sighting was included in the Air Force "Project Bluebook" study.  Project Bluebook is the only official Air Force study of UFOs ever conducted by the Air Force. In 1967 an article appeared in the Flying Saucers magazine  which described the ring sighting and photographs.  In 1966 the University of Colorado was contracted by the U.S. Air Force to study sightings reported to Project Bluebook. Dr. Edward U. Condon headed up this study.  A report was issued by the University of Colorado in 1968 called the Condon Report.  One of the cases in Project Bluebook investigated by the Condon group was the 1957 Ft. Belvoir case.  (See Case #50 in the Condon Report). The Condon Report's official conclusion to this case was that it was the result of a simulated 'atom bomb' explosion that was conducted on that day.  In the simulated explosion a ring of explosives are set off resulting in a mushroom type cloud.  According to the Condon Report conditions could have been right on this day for the ring to form a near perfect circle.  (See sequence of photos for example of simulated atomic explosion at Ft. Belvoir.)  It is not known when the simulated atomic test photos were taken, but it is quite unlikely that they were taken on the day of the ring sighting. (We don't know the day of the sighting or the day of the simulated 'atom bomb' explosion.) Viewing the sequence of photos in atomic bomb simulation one can see that the resulting ring does not resemble the ring photographed by Private Stone.  The ring from the atomic test would likely rapidly disperse and therefore not take on nor retain a perfect ring shape.  Other scientists have studied the Ft. Belvoir ring and many do not subscribe to the fact that the ring that Private Stone photographed was the result of a simulated atomic blast.  The National Investigative Committee for Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) was involved in the investigation of the Ft. Belvoir incident.  Some of the members of NICAP were well respected scientists.

  • The Rex Heflin Photos - 1965.  On August 3, 1965 at about 12:30 pm PDT Rex Heflin (a California highway maintenance engineer) took four photos with a Polaroid camera.  These photos were taken near Santa Ana, California.  The first three photos show a disk shaped craft.  In the fourth photo the craft disappeared and left a black ring (see photo four).  Some argument was made that the fourth photo was taken at a different time than the first three photos.  However, later analysis strongly suggested that the photo was taken in the same sequence and right after the other three photos. Some members of NICAP also were involved in investigation of the Heflin photos.  The overall consensus among investigators who looked in the Heflin sighting was that the photos were authentic and that the craft likely emitted some sort of particulate exhaust before disappearing.  The ring in photo four was identified as the particulate exhaust. Another factor which adds to the credibility of this sighting is that electrical interference was noted when the craft was close to the Mr. Heflin's truck.  His radio would not work until the craft departed.  Later examination showed that the radio was in proper working order.  The University of Colorado Condon Group also investigated this sighting.  (See case #52 - Condon Report.)  The conclusion of the Condon Report for this sighting was that the evidence was inconclusive.  (I believe that is an acknowledgment that this sighting was unidentified.) Readers who are interested in the details of this sighting may find a recent article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 14, Number 4, 2000, pp 583-622.  The article is titled "Reanalysis of the 1965 Heflin Photos."  To subscribe or order past issues of Journal of Scientific Exploration see suggested periodical page.

  • Other sightings of ring shaped UFOs have been reported in UFO literature.  These rings have been dark (or black) and other times somewhat transparent and of lighter color.  No attempt will be made in this study to explore the historical ring shaped UFO sightings (other than the above two well documented sightings).  Readers are urged to visit other websites and UFO literature for descriptions of these other sightings.


  • We have looked at all of the available evidence to evaluate the ring sighting in Salt Lake City that occurred on March 1, 2001.  Every attempt has been made to explain the ring, but no reasonable explanation can be made.  Only a few witnesses saw the event and only one was personally interviewed.  Another witness provided corroborative information to the primary witness (truck driver).  The truck driver also said that a truck driver following him also saw the ring, but did not want to be interviewed.  We have seven photos of the ring.  I do not believe that these photos were hoaxed because why would a hoaxer be content just to make a ring?  Why not construct a full UFO?  Also we have other witnesses who saw the ring.  These facts support the fact that the ring was not a hoax.

  • So if we believe that the ring was not a hoax, we have  to ask the question: What could it be?  The ring was not likely the result of military operations at the only military base in the area (Hill Air Force Base).  I submitted a FOIA request to Hill asking if special military operations were conducted that could have caused a ring to form and if they had received any UFO reports.  The response was that no UFO reports were received, but nothing was said about military operations.  I am assuming that no unusual military operations occurred means Hill did not respond to the question.  Besides that, the ring was sighted nearly 30 miles south of Hill which makes it quite unlikely that military operations were the culprit.  One would also not expect the military to be conducting operations near a busy airport and very close to a freeway at midday.  Therefore I do not believe that the ring was the result of any military operations.

  • I believe that this sighting could have been the result of an exhaust emission from an unknown craft which rapidly accelerated and left the ring formation because of the flash that the photographer saw before the ring formed.  This is consistent with the Heflin sighting above whereby an unknown craft was sighted and later disappeared leaving ring shaped residue.  The case is strengthened by the fact that three witnesses reportedly saw the ring and seven photographs were taken.  However, only one witness was directly interviewed.  The testimony from one of the other witnesses came through an email that was forwarded from the primary witness.  This witness heard the truck driver talking about the sighting on the Art Bell show and subsequently emailed him with the details of his sighting.  This secondary witness did not respond to my questions in an email.  The other witness was another truck driver who was following behind in his truck.  We also don't know the reliability of the primary witness.  However, the witness had nothing to gain through reporting this sighting and was willing to put his name on a public internet server (Art Bell website).  For these reasons I feel that the witness was telling the truth and did not perpetuate a hoax.

  • Several people should have seen this ring.  The sighting occurred near midday close to the Freeway (Interstate 15) and in the traffic route of Salt Lake City International Airport.  (See map.)  As is the case with many sightings only a few are reported.  The ring would not have been visible unless a person was specifically looking up at the sky in the direction of the ring.  I did not contact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding this sighting.  However, no reports of this sighting were made to other organizations which routinely collect UFO reports (e.g. National UFO Reporting Center and Mutual UFO Network ).  One would think that several pilots would have seen the ring although it may not have been as obvious when viewed from the air versus ground level.

  • The question then arises: What is this ring?  We can make some deductions, but probably never will be able to explain what it was.  I checked with the local newspaper to see if any unusual activity was happening in the Salt Lake City area at the time (e.g., hot air balloon launches, demolition activities, etc).  This search turned up no unusual activities.  I also contacted the public relations officer at Hill Air Force Base (30 miles to the North).  Hill had no UFO reports and did not respond in the affirmative when I asked if any military maneuvers may have caused a phenomenon like what was sighted.  We can only speculate on what the ring could have been.  It does not appear to be a kite (too high and too large).  The ring was not likely the result of smoke from any demolition activities since none were reported. (The Ft. Belvoir sighting above was blamed on a simulated atomic explosion by the Condon Commission.  However, this was never proven.) Another possibility is that the ring could have been residue on the trucker's windows when he took the photos (e.g. bubble gum, dirt etc).  However, this is easily discounted because the first photos were taken from the driver's side window and the window appears to be rolled down.  The later photos were taken through the windshield.  If all of the photos would have been taken from the same point through the window and/or windshield, then some sort of residue could have possibly produced this effect. It is also doubtful that the ring was due to any natural process (e.g., meteorological).

  • Now that we have presented arguments about what the ring wasn't, we can try to speculate on what caused the phenomenon.  First off, I don't believe that it was smoke generated from any conventional man-made source.  Smoke is emitted in plumes and rapidly disperses and mixes.  This did not happen with the ring.  It kept its shape and in the later photos just disappeared.  Conditions were fairly stable (low mixing and dispersion) in Salt Lake City at the time.  However, cumulus clouds were present meaning that some vertical mixing was occurring.  Dispersion (atmospheric mixing) conditions are generally low in the mornings and nighttime hours but rapidly increase once the sun has risen.  At noon on this day cumulus clouds had already formed indicating increased mixing.  A ground level combustion process will emit a rising plume.  This could not have been a ground release because no continuation can be seen to the ground and the ring was too high.  The ring appeared to be a very dense emitted substance.  History tells us that this phenomenon has been associated with UFO sightings (see Heflin sighting above).  Also a bright flash was seen before the ring on this day.  This is suggestive that the ring formed from an emission in the air and not on the ground.  Other UFOs have been seen to exhibit some combustive process just before becoming silent and rapidly accelerating.  Perhaps that was the case here.  No other argument seems to be stronger.  For these reasons I cannot explain this sighting.  I believe that it occurred as the result of an unknown phenomenon.

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