Dave Dietz isn't some kind of nut. He doesn't have posters of UFOs in his office. He doesn't believe Bigfoot is stalking the woods beyond his Jackson Township home. He doesn't believe in paranormal nonsense.
He's a scientist by trade, an environmental geologist. By avocation, he's an amateur astronomer. His office bookshelves contain tomes about geology and astronomy. There's not an "I want to believe" poster in sight.
So he doesn't know how to explain what he saw last Friday night when he was driving home from Abbottstown.
"It was something in the sky, and it was unidentified," Dietz, 48, said. "What I saw was something I can't identify."
That makes it a UFO.
It was between 10:30 and 11 p.m. when he saw it in the southern sky as he was driving.
It was a group of bright orbs, much brighter than the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, the Dog Star. They weren't planets; they weren't in a part of the sky that any planet would appear in. He didn't know what they were.
They hovered, in a kind of V-shape, and turned around. They weren't moving.
When he got home, he stood in the backyard of his 18th-century home and watched the lights. They were moving around, but not in any way that would indicate any kind of aircraft he's familiar with.
His wife saw him standing in the yard and came out to ask what he was doing.
He told her what he saw and pointed it out to her. She had never seen anything like it before, either. Their 10-year-old son, Nicholas, came out and watched, too.
Dietz wasn't sure how long the thing or things would be there, and he didn't think he'd have time to set up any of his telescopes, so he grabbed a pair of binoculars and his digital camera and went back outside. He watched the lights and snapped photos, about 40 in all. The photos show lights that don't appear to be like any aircraft or easily explained phenomena.
At one point -- a moment captured in one of his photos -- the grouping of bright lights seemed to expel one of the lights.
"It shot out," he said. "It reminded me of one of those marshmallow guns."
He stayed in the yard until about 1 a.m., watching the lights, and then went to bed.
The next day, he looked at the pictures and then went about trying to figure out what it was he had seen in the sky.
"As a scientist, the first thing I tried to do was debunk it," he said.
He checked satellites on the internet and said he found none that would be visible to the naked eye in that area of the sky. Even if it were a satellite, he said, satellites do not move in the way the lights he saw moved.
He checked the location of the International Space Station. It could have been that, he said.
But it would have been in another part of the sky and would have been visible only for a few minutes.
Nothing he checked could have been the lights, he said.
"I still haven't been able to debunk it," he said.
He reported it to the Mutual UFO Network at MUFON.com, but he hasn't heard anything back.
He doesn't know what the explanation could be.
"I'm not saying I saw aliens," he said. "But with all of the billions of galaxies and stars in the universe, it's foolish to think we're the only people out there."
MUFON lists UFO sightings in Pennsylvania. Some of them seen plausible. Others are like this one:
"Me and my mother was standing out on our porch when we seen this light coming over the mountain coming from the North towards the South straight towards my house then my mom said for me to get my Binoculars out to get a good look at this because it had no flashing lights unlike a plain what I seen was no air craft and when I pointed the Binoculars at this object it stopped in mid air as if it had seen me I got a good look at it and let me tell you People this object is nothing that we have it's the design is like something ancient just the formation in shape is unbelievable that's how good of a view we have been seeing these objects here just about every night just in the past 3 months they rang in different colors and shapes I never seen so many UFO's just in this short period of time as we are seeing over Shamokin."
That's just the first sentence.
On the other hand, former President Jimmy Carter once said he saw a UFO.
A message left at MUFON's Fort Collins, Colo., headquarters went unanswered. (The automated telephone operator at MUFON says, "To report an abduction experience, please press 2.")
MUFON has reported a wave of UFO sightings in Pennsylvania.
The Bucks County Courier Times in suburban Philadelphia recently ran a story about four separate reports of UFOs.
The New York Times last week ran an op-ed piece written by Nick Pope, who, from 1991 to 1994, was in charge of UFO investigations for the British Ministry of Defense.
In the piece, Pope criticized the U.S. government for dropping UFO investigations in 1969 because, he wrote, "some cases have raised national security or air safety issues."
York County 911 reported it did not receive any calls from other people who may have seen the lights. The York Airport didn't receive any reports either.
"On occasion, we're hear rumors about things," said operations manager Rick Fuess. "One of the things we hear about are helicopters."
Dietz said what he saw didn't look anything like any helicopter, or any other aircraft, he's aware of.
"All I'm saying is I saw something and it was unidentified," he said. "Being a scientist and an astronomy nut, does that give me more credibility or less credibility?"
Dietz said he had seen another UFO back in the '70s, when he was a kid. He was with his parents near Hallam when he saw a big rectangular thing in the air.
"That was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen," he said.
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