Is South Orange County being visited by space aliens?
On March 3 around 7 p.m., a Laguna Niguel resident reportedly spotted some sort of " This was the ninth such sighting in just a few years, according to ufostalker.com.
Was it the real deal or a close encounter of the bogus kind? Patch asked local agencies and experts to weigh in.
"All I can tell you is FAA air-traffic controllers have not observed any unusual activity on their radar scopes," said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the FAA's Pacific division.
The FAA is used to hearing such claims. In the fall of 2010, for instance, Gregor received a flurry of calls from journalists who had been contacted by people claiming they saw aircraft explode over the Pacific Ocean. "Naturally, no aircraft had exploded over the Pacific. All I can figure is there were meteorological conditions that resulted in people seeing flashes of light."
"We have no record of any calls about anyone reporting anything seen in the sky at that time," said Lt. Roland Chicone of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
In his 26 years in law enforcement, Chicone added, he has "never received a call from anyone reporting seeing an UFO, but that's not to say anybody else on the force hasn't."
John Wayne Airport
John Wayne Airport has an Airport Monitor link where people can type in any address and check for airplanes or objects in the area at any given time. A check of the area on March 3 in Laguna Niguel came up empty.
Airport spokeswoman Jenny Wedge said she also checked with the airport's noise office and "they haven’t gotten any comments or inquiries about UFOs ... these calls more often go to the FAA."
JWA's noise monitoring stations transmit noise events instantaneously to the 'Access and Noise Office,' enabling the staff to have up-to-the-second data on aircraft operations. "Noise and Access staff responds to approximately 2,500 calls per year and have received no calls about UFOs."
Just a Helicopter?
Resident Richard Bent, who spent more than 20 years working on satellites and rockets for the aerospace industry, said: "My take on most of these [sightings] is that they are helicopters. On clear nights when the object in question is heading toward you, it appears to be sitting still. I think most of these are military helicopters out over the ocean at high altitudes. The white light means they are heading toward you, red lights mean it's traveling to the left, and green means it's traveling to the right of your position. A green/red combination means it is turning.
"When the object turns, the bright white light will appear to quickly go out. Looking closely at one of these, you will usually be able to see a telltale faint red or green light that indicates an earth-made vehicle. I have seen a few of these recently in our skies. Haven't seen anything yet that I can't explain."
He added: "I am open-minded about it. I don't disbelieve, but I can't say I believe. I am a skywatcher and very amateur astronomer, as well as a pilot. Aircraft have different types of lighting depending on their circumstances. Around Laguna Niguel, we have helicopters from Camp Pendleton. We are [also] under an eastbound airway for commercial aircraft that have departed LAX... and under an approach path for Long Beach Airport. We view aircraft going from points north to San Diego and, of course, we have a smattering of private aircraft all over the place. Clear nights like we had last week make lights more visible from long distances."
"Helicopters regularly conduct training missions in the area, so it could have been a helicopter, but I cannot confirm that's what was reported in the sightings," said Camp Pendleton Public Affairs Chief Luis Agostini, who said this was the first inquiry he had ever received about any sightings.