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1949: Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh UFO Sighting

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Date: August 20, 1949              BBU

Sighting Time: n.a.

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Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Summary: Clyde Tombaugh was the American astronomer who discovered the planet Pluto. On August 20, 1949, he observed a UFO that appeared as a geometrically arranged group of six-to-eight rectangles of light, window-like in appearance and yellowish-green in color, which moved from northwest to southeast over Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Full Report

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Clyde Tombaugh in 1931 with the telescope he used to discover Pluto (Photo: AP)

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Clyde Tombaugh, the American astronomer who discoverd Pluto, the ninth planet in our Solar System.

Tombaugh and UFOs

Tombaugh was probably the preeminent astronomer to have reported seeing Unidentified Flying Objects. On August 20, 1949, Tombaugh saw several UFOs near Las Cruces, New Mexico. He described them as six to eight rectangular lights, stating “I doubt that the phenomenon was any terrestrial reflection, because… nothing of the kind has ever appeared before or since… I was so unprepared for such a strange sight that I was really petrified with astonishment.” A similar shocked response has been reported by many other who claim to have seen mysterious aerial objects.

Tombaugh was also later to report having seen three of the mysterious Green Fireballs, which suddenly appeared over New Mexico in late 1948 and continued at least through the early 1950s. In 1956 Tombaugh had the following to say about his various sightings:

“I have seen three objects in the last seven years which defied any explanation of known phenomenon, such as Venus, atmospheric optic, meteors or planes. I am a professional, highly skilled, professional astronomer. In addition I have seen three green fireballs which were unusual in behavior from normal green fireballs…I think that several reputable scientists are being unscientific in refusing to entertain the possibility of extraterrestrial origin and nature.” 

In 1949, Tombaugh had also told the Naval missile director at White Sands Missile Range, Commander Robert McLaughlin, that he had seen a bright flash on Mars in August 1941, which he now attributed to an atomic blast (mentioned May 12, 1949, in a letter from McLaughlin to Dr. James van Allen). Tombaugh also noted that the first atomic bomb tested in New Mexico would have lit up the dark side of the Earth like a neon sign and that Mars was coincidentally quite close at the time, the implication apparently being that the atomic test would have been visible from Mars.

In June 1952, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer acting as a scientific consultant to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book UFO study, secretly conducted a survey of fellow astronomers on UFO sightings and attitudes while attending an astronomy convention. Tombaugh and four other astronomers told Hynek about their sightings, including Dr. Lincoln La Paz of the University of New Mexico. Tombaugh also told Hynek that his telescopes were at the Air Force’s disposal for taking photos of UFOs, if he was properly alerted.

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