By Lee Speigel
Unusual things in the California skies -- daytime and nighttime -- have people asking whether UFOs are responsible for what seems like extra air traffic.
Writing in the Laguna Niguel Patch, Debbie Sklar wondered if the town is being visited by space aliens as she looked into recent UFO sightings in the southern portion of the Golden State. After hearing about the recent spate of unusual UFO reports in Laguna Niguel, Sklar said, "I am looking up at the sky a whole lot differently once evening rolls around."
Further north, the city of Fresno offers its own UFO encounters in the form of many video images taken by Robert Thorson. Since 2006, Thorson estimated he has videotaped around 200 strange objects and lights in the sky.
"I started watching the stars a couple hours a night and began to notice some things were flying around. I didn't know what they were -- shooting stars or satellites -- but they seemed to be moving closer and getting brighter," Thorson told The Huffington Post.
Now, before your "Warning! Warning! Hoax! Hoax!" signals go off -- and they probably should at this point -- it's important to know that Thorson is physically disabled, which allows him to spend a great deal of time watching the sky, day and night, with camera always ready.
And he's a regular skywatcher for Sanger Paranormal Society, a group that investigates paranormal claims in the Fresno area.
"One of the reasons why some people don't take Robert seriously is because they think his stuff is either computer-generated or Photoshopped, but all he knows how to do technically is to load the video from his camera to YouTube," said Sanger Paranormal Society founder Jeffrey Gonzalez. "Some people think it's all nonsense and must be a hoax. These armchair quarterback debunkers thrash him because they can't see how a guy like this is videotaping so many things."
On March 1, Thorson said he videotaped an airborne object over his tree-lined Fresno neighborhood:
"I saw this reddish-colored object above the houses. I thought it might be a helicopter, so I grabbed my camera while the object seemed to be raising up, going higher," Thorson said. "There were a couple times where it got really bright. It's hard to estimate how high it was, but it looked like a glowing saucer. I can normally hear high-flying jets going by most of the time, but this thing didn't make any noise."
Thorson added that he could see some kind of material streaking out of the back of the object, before the whole thing disappeared.
With so many videos posted by Thorson on YouTube under the name of "kingufokid," HuffPost called on the services of Marc Dantonio -- whose company FX Models creates special devices for the U.S. Navy, Congress and the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- to look at some of Thorson's videos starting with the March 1 object.
"It has all the hallmarks of a rocket launch," Dantonio said. "The bright exhaust plume, and as it was going through the atmosphere, you would see it illuminate stuff as it passed through, just like a launch. Vandenberg Air Force base does night launches all the time."
The next video Dantonio looked at, from February 2011, shows a daytime silver-colored object high in the sky near clouds that seems to morph from one shape to another:
"Whenever someone says they see an object that appears to morph, that means it's moving in a way that people can't tell it's tumbling," Dantonio explained.
"A ship under intelligent control probably isn't tumbling. I think this looks like two mylar balloons that are tied together very closely and are moving at a speed consistent with balloons and catch the light like balloons."
Continuing our Fresno UFO hit parade, a video captured by Thorson in September 2009 shows a group of twinkling lights that change position:
"The key here is that you have to look at the speed at which these are moving," Dantonio said. "Could UFOs just sit and hover lazily through the sky? Sure, but to me, these were moving all over the place, were seen from a long distance and were flashing at a rate consistent with LED flasher balloons that you can buy on Amazon. They just sort of float along and get farther and farther away."
And our final Thorson video sample, from November 2010, shows a "typical" triangular-shaped object:
"Honestly, that was just an aircraft," said Dantonio. "If you look at the lights carefully, the green light changes relative to the other two. What you're seeing is the running light on the wing tip of the plane, sticking out toward the camera. It's actually moving across the sky in exactly the way that you would see a plane at night if all you could see was the lights. This is FAA-mandated lighting."
Whew! And how does Dantonio address the issue where Thorson and other eyewitnesses often report not hearing any sound made by the objects they think are UFOs?
"Many times, if they're jets, for instance, you won't hear the sound until maybe four minutes after it's gone, because it takes time for the sound to come rolling across the landscape and make it to your ears. If it's a light plane with smaller motors, you might never hear it."
Dantonio, who looks at every UFO picture and video with a critical eye, isn't suggesting Thorson is faking his videos.
"I don't think the guy is anything but genuine and is just not informed about some phenomena, and I'd be happy to help him figure out what these things are," Dantonio said. "These skywatchers are invaluable and the people who will be on the front line of discovery are the people who are out there watching, not those who are driving in their cars. People like him are going to be the ones who eventually see a real UFO."