What soon unfolded was an example of the power of social media to bring people together and to shine some light on what is generally hidden. Between this blog and accounts provided by followers of “Dave Hayes the Weather Nut” (visit him on Facebook), by mid-Wednesday it soon became clear that in the early evening on January 8 some kind of aircraft, described as triangular or diamond shaped with lights on it, had traveled silently, at a low altitude (75’ off the ground was one report) from the center of Amherst to the outer edges of East Amherst.
Despite all the talk and all the press coverage, no answers have surfaced. So folks in Amherst are left wondering . . . what did we actually see? Clearly, this was no cross-town coordinated punking or mass hysteria. Numerous people at different points along the flight trajectory provided independent and strikingly similar accounts of what they witnessed. (And the reports continue to come in – just take a look at the comments to our previous postings on this topic, dated January 8-10.)
Although extraterrestrial visitation can be a thrilling, sci-fi-story-come-to-life prospect to consider, most of the folks I’ve spoken with are fairly certain that something far more plausible is at the root of this sighting. And the theory that seems to fit the best? That we likely witnessed some kind of locally launched unmanned aerial vehicle (more commonly referred to as a drone). There is no proof yet, and even if it was a drone, there’s still the question of whether the flight path was by design or accident, what it was doing here (possibly a test gone astray?), or who launched it. But it’s a working theory at the moment, and worth further investigation.
If you think the “drone” theory sounds as far-fetched as extraterrestrials, check out this June 2012 article from The Week, entitled “The drone over your backyard: A guide.” And yesterday, a reader posted this comment to our blog:
“A couple of days before reading the article in the Gazette about UFO sightings in Amherst I was looking out a window at my house and saw a large, gray, plane-like thing moving quickly and quietly just at the tree line. My house is in the hills, east of North Amherst so the object would have been flying north, parallel to the hills. It was daytime and I could see it clearly, although briefly. I was startled not just because it was flying so low but because it was unlike any plane I've ever seen.
When reading some of the comments here I noticed someone mentioned drones so I looked online at photos of various types of drones. One of the photos closely resembled the object I saw the other day. There were also photos online of other types of drones including models that are triangular in shape. I do hope I am wrong because the thought of drones flying around is pretty scary, but I cannot think of another explanation.”
This whole thing has raised more questions than answers. But these are questions that deserve answers. While it may be fun to wink and eye-roll about “those crazies in Amherst,” or imagine a “close encounter” of any kind, ultimately that reaction only redirects our attention away from what is really happening above us. And sometimes, apparently, it’s not just a change in the weather.