In January of this year, a series of videos showing what appeared to be a UFO hovering over Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock caused a stir. As Discovery News space producer Ian O'Neill wrote, "The footage shows the light drop and seemingly hover just above the shrine. After a few moments, and a brief flash of a strobe, the light took off, disappearing into the night sky. Videos have surfaced of the event and have since gone viral on YouTube."
Based upon my experience investigating images of UFOs and other "unexplained" phenomena, O'Neill asked for my analysis. I researched both the video and the circumstances surrounding it, and provided a list of reasons why I concluded that the videos were "almost certainly a hoax."
The reaction among UFO believers was both swift and dismissive. O'Neill's column on the topic generated more reader comments than any other at the time, and remains one of the most-commented pieces to date. The post soon made it to CBS News.com, where it generated even more controversy, with nearly 100 posters there commenting on my analysis of the video. Some expressed reservations about the authenticity of the video, but the vast majority dismissed my analysis and claimed that the video was authentic.
My skeptical explanations were ridiculed as biased and uninformed. Typical comments included: "Multiple witnesses, different video angles from different nationalities. If it is a hoax, then it would be the best of all hoaxes. I believe it is real..."; "that was the most lame explanation for these videos being a hoax..."; "I am really growing tired of you idiots attempting to debunk UFOs with your casual investigations..."; and "This is a PROPAGANDA article. People realize the truth! I wish this was a hoax. This is the unknown."
Others called my analysis "classic uninformed debunking," and stated, "Mr. Radford, if you're going to make assertions without doing your homework, then you show nothing but your ignorance." Several posters requested a follow-up: "If Ian O'Neill would comment with some follow-up research and/or analysis, then it would help restore any faith some people may have lost in his journalistic ability."
I'm not even remotely concerned about O'Neill's journalistic ability, but I am happy to present the conclusion of an independent follow-up analysis: It's a hoax.
A few days ago, the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), one of the oldest, largest, and most respected UFO investigation organizations in the world, announced their findings about the Jerusalem UFO. MUFON, though hardly a hard-line skeptical organization, has a stable of experts they draw upon for analysis.
According to a statement, "MUFON's chief Photo and Video Analyst, Mr. Marc Dantonio, stated ‘I firmly believe that the UFO was not real, for many reasons...this video and the other Jerusalem UFO Videos are in my opinion hoaxes." Dantonio cited several reasons for his conclusion, some of them echoing points I made in my analysis published in O'Neill's piece six weeks earlier.
It seems that the skeptical analysis was correct after all: The Jerusalem UFO video was a hoax. This of course puts many UFO believers in an awkward position - unless they assume that the world's largest UFO-promoting organization is also part of the effort to cover up evidence for UFOs...