In the last few days, there has been controversy video released by the Pentagon of alleged unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The video was recorded in 2019 from the US Navy’s USS Russell destroyer, and shows triangular objects blinking above the ship. At the time of recording, the USS Russel was participating in military exercises in the Pacific Ocean, near the American west coast.

The Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of the video and said it had not identified which object appeared in it. That was enough for a lot of people to think that, finally, we had registered an alien ship visiting our planet for the first time. But as we will see here, the flying pyramids in that video are actually optical artifacts, so easy to reproduce that you can create your own authentic UFO video yourself.

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For this, you will need:

  • A camera that has a lens with a good aperture, or a cell phone with one of those lenses that attach to the device,
  • Black electrical tape,
  • Scissors, and
  • An airplane.

Calm. The plane doesn't have to be yours and you don't even have to hijack it. We just need him to pass by you at night.

Cut pieces of electrical tape and glue in front of the lens, leaving only a triangular opening. With that, your UFO recording device is ready.

If your camera has an aperture-controlled lens, set it to the largest aperture. That way, if you point the camera at a point of light and blur the lens, you will see a “magic” happen: the points of light become triangles, just like the flying pyramids filmed on the American coast.

Now, just wait for the plane to pass, with its lights flashing and film it with the lens out of focus. It is not difficult to see that the plane's lights flash in the same way as the UFO video. That's because they follow an international aviation standard.

Video frame of an airplane made with the “UFO recording device” (left) and video frame of the alleged UFO recorded on the American West Coast (right)
Video frame of an airplane made with the “UFO recording device” (left) and video frame of the alleged UFO recorded on the American West Coast (right)

Obviously there will be differences in the videos because the American video was probably made with a night vision camera, much more sensitive and expensive as well. This type of equipment uses an image intensifier tube, which basically consists of a device that captures photons and converts them to electrons, which are amplified and bombarded in a phosphor screen, which transforms these electrons back into photons, but into a greater intensity than captured. This tube can be attached to a binocular or monocle for direct observation, or to a camera, between the lens and the sensor. The exit image of this tube is monochromatic and greenish, in the same way as shown in the video released by the Pentagon.

Operation of an image intensifier tube. Credits: HowStuffWorks
Operation of an image intensifier tube. Credits: HowStuffWorks

Another difference is that the likely plane in the video of the USS Russel looks much taller, but still appears very bright in the video thanks to the intensifier tube that makes the equipment much more sensitive. Often, the sensitivity is so high that it can easily overshadow the image. This leads, in some cases, the operators of these cameras to partially cover the entrance of light with electrical tape, in the same way as we guide here in this text, and this may be the cause of the triangular artifact observed in the video.

The optical phenomenon that produces this artifact is known to photographers as bokeh, and is used to highlight objects or areas of interest, blurring other parts of the image. The larger the lens aperture, the greater the bokeh, and each point of light out of focus becomes a disc, or, it takes the form of the aperture of the screen that blocks the passage of light through the lens.

Example of the application of bokeh on a Christmas tree. Credits: Wikimedia / Rushilf
Example of the application of bokeh on a Christmas tree. Credits: Wikimedia / Rushilf

This shield is usually the diaphragm of the lens, the shape of which depends basically on the number of blades it has. Most lenses have a 6-blade diaphragm, which generates a hexagonal bokeh. Others have 15 blades with a practically circular bokeh. But there are also lenses other amounts of less common blades, including some with 3-bladed diaphragm, generating a triangular bokeh pattern.

Pentacon 2.8 / 135 lens with 15-blade diaphragm. Credits: Wikimedia / Edal Anton Lefterov
Pentacon 2.8 / 135 lens with 15-blade diaphragm. Credits: Wikimedia / Edal Anton Lefterov

Regardless of how it was generated, the bokeh effect is easily identified by any more experienced photographer who analyzes UFO video. So much so that this was perceived independently by several people around the world, such as the North American Mick West, and the Brazilian Alexsandro Mota. One of the evidences is that two stars appear in the image with a triangular shape and in the same orientation as the triangles of the possible plane.

Supposed UFO and stars in the video released by the American government. Credits: USNavy
Supposed UFO and stars in the video released by the American government. Credits: USNavy

So can we say that the filmed object was, without a doubt, an airplane? No, but considering that the region where the registration was made has very intense air traffic, we can say that the probability that the USS Russell filmed only one plane out of focus is very high.

If we’re not sure it’s an airplane, is there a chance it’s an alien ship? No. Maybe it could be a helicopter or a drone. But the chance of being an extraterrestrial spaceship is so small, that to consider it, we should also consider the possibility of being a flying car of the future, or an angel of light. It definitely wasn't this time.

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