Moon Pigeons

I have this distinct memory of seeing a Boa Constrictor in my backyard when I was a kid. It wasn't just a garden snake - this thing had a distinctive grey diamond pattern and was wider than my head is round. My reaction was to climb to the top of our play gym as it slithered around the base. This wasn't in some jungle community; nope, I grew up in the suburbs of Seattle.  

Current day me understands why my parents barely reacted to kid me when I described a gigantic snake in our backyard. I now logically know that this event never took place - it was a product of a powerful imagination. But to me, this was real as any other memory.

The human brain is incredibly powerful. So when the checkout person at Sprouts tells me that he has encountered aliens multiple times, my reaction is perhaps unique among astronomers. I understand that under extreme stress or even just normal conditions, we can make ourselves believe almost anything. And not just believe in a conspiracy theorist -schizophrenic - that crazy dude on the corner sort of way, but REALLY believe as I experienced with the Boa. 

This article is about a topic this same checkout person tipped me off to - Moon Pigeons. I decided to investigate further (instead of working on my actual work). Here's the video I watched:

(Video credit: Science Channel)

If you watched the video, skip the next paragraph. 

Here's what happened: Apollo 10's headed to the moon. Their mission is to map the lunar surface in preparation for the famous moon landing of Apollo 11. But they have some issues with their computer system as they are trying to connect the lunar module with the command module. The TV footage of the orbit around the moon shows some strange patches of light that move across the screen. These aren't just blips- there is a distinct shape that continues to move coherently across the entirety of the frame. Dubbed "moon pigeons" by the MSC structural engineers because there is no positive identification available, these objects are difficult to explain. Right after these moon pigeons appear, the computer starts working again and all else goes as planned. Ooooo, creepy.

Once the video was released to the public, multiple explanations surfaced.

 It was thiiiissss big...  (Image Credit:   Eydoux & Souleyet 1842 )

It was thiiiissss big...

(Image Credit: Eydoux & Souleyet 1842)

This moon pigeon (which does look winged, and spaceship-like to me) is an extraterrestrial ship warning humans away from the moon. Some think that they jammed the computer system, some think they are benevolent and fixed it. Perhaps less imaginatively, some attribute the moon pigeon to a piece of debris from the mission or the leftovers of a previous mission. Some think it's a chunk of ice. Nobody really thinks it's an actual pigeon.

So I read NASA's official report on the subject, entitled "Moon pigeons and other unidentified visual phenomena associated with space flight". It was pretty dry, as scientific papers tend to be.  But their conclusions are that there are three main possibilities for the moon pigeon based upon the TV trajectory of the multiple sightings. They investigated the velocity of the object as it moved across the screen as well as the light reflected as the object tumbled through the sky in some cases. They conclude that the mysterious flying pigeon could be debris from an earlier mission, or ice, or internal/ external reflection from the window of the spacecraft.

Possibly a little boring, but that's the official scientific report. And here's my opinion - I will never believe the "official" report 100%, but I'll lean more towards believing it than people's opinions and raw speculations. If someone wants to publish a scientific peer-reviewed article on the alien nature of the Moon Pigeon, be my guest, and I would be excited to read it.

After all, I believe there's life out there, just that we haven't necessarily encountered it quite yet. We have a lot of exploring to do.



 (Image Credit:  NASA )

(Image Credit: NASA)