Has the Mystery Behind One of the U.S. Military’s UAP Videos Been Solved?


Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… a U.S. government video that reportedly depicts an anomalous aerial vehicle revealed earlier this year could now have an explanation. In our analysis, we’ll be looking at 1) the video and what is known about its provenance, 2) how a group of Netherlands-based investigative journalists has conducted the most extensive analysis yet seen using open-source data, and 3) how their findings compare with existing data about similar sightings of unidentified anomalous phenomena.

Quote of the Week

“We are gonna follow our data and our investigations wherever it goes… I have a full range of hypotheses.”

– Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, Director, AARO

Latest News: In recent coverage from The Debrief, Israel has announced that NILI is Shin Bet’s response to the Oct 7 Hamas attacks, playing on Israel’s long history of chasing and neutralizing threats. Elsewhere, the oldest organism of its kind found anywhere on Earth is finding its voice with the help of dedicated scientists and land managers. You can find all our recent stories at the end of this newsletter.

Podcasts: In podcasts from The Debrief, this week on The Micah Hanks Program, we take a deep dive into what you need to know about the latest government report on UAP. Elsewhere, on The Debrief Weekly Report, MJ Banias and Stephanie Gerk dive into NASA’s new RAMFIRE project to 3D print novel rocket parts and much more. You can subscribe to all of The Debrief’s podcasts, including audio editions of Rebelliously Curious, by heading over to our Podcasts Page.

Video News: Premiering this Friday on Rebelliously Curious, Chrissy Newton catches up with Daniela de Paulis, an award-winning media artist and licensed radio operator currently serving as Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute and the Green Bank Observatory. Also, check out the latest episode of Ask Dr. Chance, where Dr. Glenn answers questions about time travel. You can get other great content from The Debrief on our official YouTube Channel.

And now, it’s time to turn our attention again to mysterious aerial objects being studied by the U.S. government and whether open-source sleuthing might have helped resolve one recent UAP cold case.

The Pentagon’s Hunt for Mysterious Metallic Spheres

In April, a hearing held by the Senate Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities focused on the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), the U.S. government’s official branch devoted to the investigation of unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP.

During the open portion of the session, led by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), questions were presented to Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, AARO’s current Director, regarding its investigations into unidentified aerial objects encountered by U.S. military personnel.

Senate hearing on UAP
Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), appears as a witness at the Senate hearing on UAP on April 19, 2023 (Credit:

“AARO is leading a focused effort to better characterize, understand, and attribute UAP,” Kirkpatrick said during the hearing, adding that a complete historical review is being undertaken regarding information from past government efforts to collect information on the phenomenon.

Along with data obtained from some of AARO’s analysis of UAP reports it had collected, Kirkpatrick shared a short video obtained by an MQ-9 Reaper drone, which depicted a small metallic spherical object as it passed over an undefined region of the Middle East.

When he shared it publicly, Kirkpatrick said the video represented one of AARO’s unresolved cases and remained in “active archive pending discovery of additional data.”

Now, we may be closer to solving the mystery behind the footage, thanks to the results of an independent analysis of the short clip of the video and the object it depicts.

Has Bellingcat Solved the Case of the Mystery Sphere?  

According to an analysis by researchers with Bellingcat, a group of Netherlands-based investigative journalists who employ open-source intelligence in their investigations, there may now be a plausible solution behind the mysterious footage.

“When the US Department of Defense published a video seemingly showing a UFO in the Middle East, Bellingcat contributor [Nathan Patin] and researcher Logan Williams went to work using open-source techniques to verify claims of the unidentified flying object,” read a post on Bellingcat’s X account.

According to posts Bellingcat shared from its official account on the social media site, Patin and Williams were able to geolocate the area where the footage was captured based on landmarks that appeared in the fleeting video clip, revealing that it was filmed over a portion of the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

metallic orb
Screenshot of an unreconciled UAP captured with electro-optical sensors aboard an MQ-9 Reaper, shown during Wednesday’s hearing (DOD/AARO).

Relying on structures that appeared in the video, the pair were able to use Google Earth measurements to produce an estimate for the size of the small, metallic sphere that appears in the video, which they say indicated the UAP “has a maximum diameter of approximately 0.43 metres or smaller due to it’s [sic] unknown elevation height,” noting that “According to AARO’s own list of ‘typical UAP characteristics’ UAPs are typically between one and four metres in size.”

Patin and Williams propose that while the object appears to be moving in the video, it is possible that it is actually remaining stationary and that the apparent motion is the result of parallax, which essentially describes the difference in the apparent relative position of an object when it is viewed from two different perspective lines of sight.

Based on this information, Patin and Williams offer a potential solution to the mystery.

“A balloon is consistent with what we see in the video,” reads a post in the thread that appeared on Bellingcat’s X account. “They can be spherical, they can appear metallic and they can float in the air. According to the BBC Science Focus website, a helium balloon can float up to 10 km – well below the operational ceiling of a Reaper drone.” The entire fascinating thread can be read here.

What About Other Reports Involving Metallic Spherical UAP?

So, thanks to Patin and Williams’s detective work, it seems that a plausible solution has been offered that can, at the very least, account for the simplest and, according to some, the most obvious explanation for what the video Kirkpatrick shared in April might convey.

However, does that necessarily mean that all UAP reports involving metallic, spherical objects are simply balloons?

While many would probably feel comfortable leaping to such conclusions, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether some reports involving metallic, spherical objects logged as UAP sightings might be a little more complicated than conventional balloons.

In a series of recent Operations Reports released by the U.S. Department of Energy last month, The Debrief reported on an incident of interest that occurred on April 30, 2019, involving an observation of a “drone like object” over Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Credit: LLNL/Public Domain)

The report described the object as a “round silver drone flying around the Process Area and periodically stopping and hovering for several seconds.” The unusual object was then observed moving toward the north, stopping and hovering briefly.

“It flew over [the] area for several minutes and departed south east [sic]. It was really high up and it looked like it was just under the clouds,” the observer’s report states.

Although the description described by the observer doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility that the object was merely a balloon, the description of its ability to stop and hover, then move to reposition itself, hover again, and leave the vicinity all from a reasonably high altitude does sound like unusual behavior for a balloon. Additionally, compared with other DOE Operations Reports released last month, which convey fairly obvious sightings of quadcopters and fixed-wing drones, the spherical object outlined in the report above is certainly interesting. Add to this the fact that it appears to match the so-called “target package” for objects Kirkpatrick and AARO have said they are looking for, which makes the case all the more intriguing.

Senate Hearing on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

As a final anecdote, in our initial coverage of the DOE’s UAP files last month, we also shared an unusual December 14, 1944, New York Times article titled “Floating Mystery Ball Is New Nazi Air Weapon,” which described Allied pilot encounters with objects remarkably similar in description.

“Airmen of the American Air Force report that they are encountering silver colored spheres in the air over German territory,” the short New York Times report read. “The spheres are encountered either singly or in clusters. Sometimes they are semi-translucent.”

It’s entirely possible that American pilots were encountering metallic balloons over Europe during the Second World War as well… although one must admit that the similarity of reports like these and countless other instances of seemingly anomalous metallic spherical UAP to the modern anomalous phenomena AARO says it is investigating is intriguing.

Maybe there are still a few genuine mysteries in our skies after all.

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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