UFO hunters say they’ve finally solved Pentagon’s ‘metallic orb’ sighting – which they tracked to war-torn Syria

An eerie and tantalizingly shiny ‘metallic orb’ UFO, caught on tape by the US military in the Middle East, may have finally been identified. 

Footage of the object, hovering beneath an MQ-9 Reaper drone, was filmed on July 12, 2022 and played publicly for the first time before the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee last April.

But now data scientists with the controversial, but ostensibly independent ‘open-source’ investigation group Bellingcat say that they have ‘deflated’ widespread speculation that the object might be an alien probe gliding over the MidEast.

The object, they report, is most likely a party balloon made of the silvery metallic plastic known as Mylar. 

Using Google Earth imagery (above), taken on July 13, 2022, researchers for Bellingcat were able to track the apparent flight path that the mysterious'orb' appears to take in the Pentagon's'metallic orb' UFO video, recording on July 12, 2023

Bellingcat researchers laid out the Pentagon video, frame by frame into a map of the orb's route (above), to better compare the terrain beneath the'orb' to Google's satellite data

Using Google Earth imagery (left), taken on July 13, 2022, researchers for Bellingcat were able to track the apparent flight path that the mysterious ‘orb’ appears to take in the Pentagon’s ‘metallic orb’ UFO video, which they laid out frame by frame into a map of the orb’s route (right)

Data scientists with the group Bellingcat said they have'deflated' widespread speculation that the Pentagon's'metallic orb' UFO might be an alien probe gliding over the MidEast

Data scientists with the group Bellingcat said they have ‘deflated’ widespread speculation that the Pentagon’s ‘metallic orb’ UFO might be an alien probe gliding over the MidEast

Bellingcat’s researchers were also able to determined the mystery ‘orbs’ flight path – northeast of the city of Deir ez-Zor in Syria – a detail that the Pentagon had previously kept secret.
The group was then able to match the Pentagon’s ‘orb’ video to satellite data suggesting that the object is likely less than one-and-a-half feet in diameter. 
It was possibly released, they said, amid ‘Eid al-Adha,’ the second and largest religious holiday celebrated in the Muslim world.
While many UFO ‘true believers’ and more nuanced UFO transparency advocates joined UFO skeptics in commending Bellingcat’s investigative efforts, some questioned why the Pentagon’s UFO office chose to highlight this specific video in first place.

‘This confirms what many of us have suspected given the small size and slow speed of the object,’ said Christopher Mellon, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, in a post to X (formerly Twitter).

Since helping leak three unclassified UFO videos to the New York Times in 2017 — sightings that remain unexplained to this day — Mellon has spearheaded efforts to compel the US government to investigate UFOs more seriously and more openly.  

The fruits of that campaign led first to a short-lived Pentagon UFO task force in 2020 and now a permanent UFO office within the Department of Defense, which now investigates them under a new name: ‘Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena’ (UAP). 

The Pentagon's UFO office, AARO, still lacks a formal reporting portal for military personnel to report their UFO sightings, which the office has been directed to create by Congress

The Pentagon’s UFO office, AARO, still lacks a formal reporting portal for military personnel to report their UFO sightings, which the office has been directed to create by Congress

But Mellon has not been entirely pleased with how this new group, officially named the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), has handled its mandate. 

AARO took a full year to stand-up its public-facing website, for example, which still lacks a formal reporting system for military personnel to report UFO sightings, which the office had been directed to create by Congress. 

And AARO’s site only went live belatedly, following the media frenzy surrounding incredible and ominous sworn congressional testimony by UFO whistleblower and retired intelligence officer David Grusch — who has accused the government of running a decades-long and illegally operated UFO crash retrieval program.  

‘It is hard to imagine AARO releasing anything but the weakest and least compelling UAP videos,’ Mellon wrote, in reference to the ‘metallic orb’ video.

Since helping leak three unclassified UFO videos to the New York Times in 2017 — sightings that remain unexplained to this day — ex-Pentagon official Chris Mellon has spearheaded efforts to compel the US government to investigate UFOs more seriously and more openly

Since helping leak three unclassified UFO videos to the New York Times in 2017 — sightings that remain unexplained to this day — ex-Pentagon official Chris Mellon has spearheaded efforts to compel the US government to investigate UFOs more seriously and more openly

Bellingcat’s researchers were able to decode the video starting with the scant information accompanying it from AARO: specifically, that the UFO was filmed on July 12, 2022 by a Reaper drone somewhere over the Middle East. 

The date matched that year’s ‘Eid al-Adha’ (‘Feast of the Sacrifice’) festivities in Syria, which began the evening of Friday, July 8, 2022 and continued until Tuesday, July 12.

What is Bellingcat?

Bellingcat is an investigative journalism site ran by British journalist and blogger Elliot Higgins.

Higgins rose to prominence for his investigations of the Syrian Civil War in 2012 and 2013, in which he used open-source intelligence and geo-location to prove the Syrian regime’s use of chemical and cluster weapons. 

Off the back of his success, he launched Bellingcat in 2014, and along with a small group of fellow journalists and volunteers discovered that the MH17 disaster, which claimed the lives of 298 civilians, was caused by a Russian missile. 

Higgins continued to fund Bellingcat’s investigations with crowdfunding via Kickstarter, and the organisation began to expand overseas and take on more investigations. 

The organisation now has roughly 20 full time staff and dozens of contributors around the world, and is funded entirely by crowdfunding, grants and revenue generated via its training programmes.

Bellingcat specialises in using open-source intelligence (OSINT) and social media research to fact-check and verify information, and provides training to journalists looking to develop their research skills.  

Higgins described Bellingcat as ‘citizen investigative journalists using open source information to investigate, collaborate, and report on worldwide issues that are being under-reported and ignored’.

The holiday commemorates God’s test of Abraham and the near-sacrifice of Abraham’s son, as depicted in the Quran and other religious texts. 

‘While it’s exciting to imagine a 30 centimeter-wide alien spacecraft flying around the Middle East,’ the Bellingcat investigation’s two coauthors wrote in their post, ‘Occam’s razor suggests that perhaps we’re just looking at a party balloon.’

Using Google Earth Pro imagery captured on July 13, 2022, the researchers were able to track the apparent flight path that the mysterious ‘orb’ takes in the MQ-9 drone’s video.

While it looks potentially like the ‘orb’ might have zipped over 750 meters of Syrian desert in just 16 seconds, for a hot rod speed of 105 miles-per-hour (mph), the Bellingcat team argued that this could be explained with via an optical illusion: parallax.

Based on their calculations, if the Reaper that filmed the orb was travelling at approximately 186 mph at an altitude of the 24,606 feet, then the unidentified object could have easily moved at something closer to local wind speed.

‘If it had an altitude of 2000 meters,’ the group wrote, ‘the object would have a real speed of 44 km/hr [27.3 mph].’ 

‘Historic weather data for July 12, 2022 forecasted winds of approximately 20 to 25 kilometers-per-hour at 0 meters to 3000 meters altitude, from a westerly direction,’ Bellingcat noted — or half the orb’s speed under their initial parallax measurements.  

The group’s report did not elaborate on this gap further, approximately 15-to-12 mph of unaccounted speed above the wind temperature.

Instead, they posted an interactive parallax calculator along with their report.

Based on the group’s interactive tool, a Mylar balloon would have to be cruising at an altitude of 2,300 meters to achieve a speed consistent with being pushed along by the local wind speed. 

The orb’s diameter under this scenario would be just under 1-ft long, 30 centimeters.

The MQ-9 Reaper drone above, an unmanned aerial vehicle, would still be moving at approximately 186 mph (300 km/hr) at an altitude of the 24,606 feet (7,500 meters) in this plausible scenario.  

Based on the group's interactive tool, the mylar balloon would have to be cruising at an altitude of 2,300 meters (above) to achieve a speed consistent with being pushed along by the local wind speed, 20-to-25 km/hr, if the MQ-9 Reaper was filming the object from 7,500-meters high

Based on the group’s interactive tool, the mylar balloon would have to be cruising at an altitude of 2,300 meters (above) to achieve a speed consistent with being pushed along by the local wind speed, 20-to-25 km/hr, if the MQ-9 Reaper was filming the object from 7,500-meters high

Bellingcat was able to use the known horizontal length of buildings near the flightpath of the'orb' to calculate the largest possible size of the orb: 1.5 ft if the UFO was close to the ground. The orb's actual size would be smaller, the higher in altitude and closer to the camera it flew

Bellingcat was able to use the known horizontal length of buildings near the flightpath of the ‘orb’ to calculate the largest possible size of the orb: 1.5 ft if the UFO was close to the ground. The orb’s actual size would be smaller, the higher in altitude and closer to the camera it flew

Measurements available via Google Earth Pro helped the researchers determine the length of the landmarks on the desert surface, along the'metallic orb' UFOs flight path.

Measurements available via Google Earth Pro helped the researchers determine the length of the landmarks on the desert surface, along the ‘metallic orb’ UFOs flight path. 

When Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, the director of AARO for the Department of Defense, first presented the orb video to NASA’s UFO advisory panel last June, the physicist described the orb as ‘a typical example of the thing we see most of.’

A majority of the UFO reports to AARO are described as ’round or spheres,’ Dr. Kirkpatrick said: about 52 percent.

‘We see these all over the world,’ he told NASA’s panel, ‘making very interesting apparent maneuvers.’

Kirkpatrick was even more explicit on this point in private, according to a source who spoke to the DailyMail.com and who was present at a closed-door, but unclassified meeting between the NASA panel, Pentagon officials and other guests.

‘NASA had a big thing for their study plan in Florida, earlier this year,’ said this source, who would only speak to DailyMail.com under the condition on anonymity.  

AARO's first annual report, issued earlier this Oct., concluded that none of 2023's military UFO sightings were the result of classified US programs. But the Pentagon's UFO chief told CNN that a few UFOs displayed'concerning' signs of being made by America's foreign adversaries

AARO’s first annual report, issued earlier this Oct., concluded that none of 2023’s military UFO sightings were the result of classified US programs. But the Pentagon’s UFO chief told CNN that a few UFOs displayed ‘concerning’ signs of being made by America’s foreign adversaries

During that meeting, one of the scientists on NASA’s advisory panel said to Kirkpatrick, as this source recalls it, ‘Come on. You gotta give us something, right? You guys are telling us there’s something here, but you won’t give us any data.’ 

‘You won’t give us any information. How are we supposed to do science with this? How are we even supposed to know if there’s a there there?” or so this source recalls the NASA expert as pleading. 

‘And he [Kirkpatrick] says to them, ‘Look. I will tell you this: There is something there.”

According this source, who has met in private with Dr. Kirkpatrick at various points since the former CIA scientist took on the AARO directorship last year, ‘my impression of him is that he’s been trying to get more information around this.’

‘He’s been complaining from the beginning, when I first met him,’ the source continued, ‘about having his hands tied, specifically by Moultrie,’ in reference to the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie.

Along with Scott Bray, the Pentagon’s Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence, Moultrie spoke last year at the first public congressional hearings on UFOs in half a century. 

During that May 2022 hearing, Moultrie told legislators and press, ‘Our goal is not to potentially cover up something, it’s to understand what’s maybe out there.’ 

Have YOU seen one? The Pentagon reveals what the most commonly reported UFO looks like

Ever since the first sighting more than 75 years ago, popular culture has usually depicted a UFO as a flying saucer emitting a powerful halo of light.

But that could finally change following the official release of information from the Pentagon about the mysterious aerial phenomena. 

The new Department of Defense document reveals characteristics of the typical UFO, including the colour and the shape, velocity, and flight level

The new Department of Defense document reveals characteristics of the typical UFO, including the colour and the shape, velocity, and flight level 

Based on clues from reported sightings, the typical UFO has a round shape, usually described as spherical or an orb, with a white or silver colour, often translucent. 

It also has a size of between 3 and 13 feet (1 to 4 metres) and usually travels through the air at a height just below commercial passenger planes. 

The Pentagon has also released a hotspot map that reveals the location of reported UFO sightings, including Japan and the Middle East. 

Read more here. 

Janice Dean

Janice Dean is a WSTPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Janice Dean joined WSTPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: janicedean@wstpost.com.

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