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5 Mile Wide UFO Over Ocean: Or More Stupid Ufologists?

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5 Mile Wide UFO Over Ocean: Or More Stupid Ufologists?
In the middle of September, a Ufology website released a YouTube video exclaiming that a “5 miles wide UFO” was caught hovering above the ocean.The video showed just under two minutes of static imagery from NASA satellites.

The narrator on the film at least admitted that there could be other possibilities for the black hole, “including camera glitches, gaps missed by the process of stitching together smaller images to make a large enough one to publish, and interference.”

The truth is that the video was nothing more than satellite imagery of an area over the Arctic well known to have a “black spot” of missing data due to satellite orbital paths.

The Dumbing Down of Ufology

My first foray into the strange world of Ufology was just over a decade ago in a large online forum that, at the time, was very well-known for its popular Ufology section. I spent a large portion of my days there, examining UFO sightings and abduction stories, pouring over recently released UFO photographs, and investigating claims of leaked government secrets.

In the end, I came to the realization that despite the best intentions of any intelligent, sane academic to elevate the field to one of scientific exploration, it will forever be overrun by ignorant people, and juvenile interpretations of erroneous data. Case in point, the recent “news” about a 5 mile UFO hovering over the ocean in a NASA satellite photograph.

The original YouTube video released by The Cosmos News website shows multiple shots from the same NASA still photographs, pulled from satellite imagery stored on the NASA website.

The imagery shows the same ominous, dark circle that not only cuts into the ocean, but it even blacks out the clouds and the atmosphere itself. It’s like a very large, black object is hovering at very high altitude over the Earth at that location, sucking in all of the light from the sun, and reflecting nothing. What could this object be?

Even the Huffington Post UK picked up this idiotic story, announcing that a “five miles wide” UFO was “caught hovering over the ocean” in its HuffPost Tech section.

The author, Michael Rundle, pretty much translated the narration from the video almost word for word – and performed zero investigation or due diligence for a simple and easy explanation for the anomaly. There is, in fact, just such an explanation, and it’s well known by scientists and meteorologists all around the world.

The Black Hole is the North Pole

Satellites that orbit the Earth do so by staying in a gravitational equilibrium with the planet. However, the extreme north and south poles of the Earth represent a sort of “no-fly zone” for satellites. This is caused by the fact that most orbits circumvent around the axis of the planet, which originates at the North and South poles. Satellites may sometimes orbit near or even over these poles, but the majority of the time satellites do not directly transverse over them, creating a “pole hole” without any data for all satellites.

This is explained by the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) as follows:

“Not all satellites pass close enough to the North Pole for their sensors to collect data there. This lack of data is indicated by a gray circle, or ‘pole hole,’ in each image.[…]Historically, lack of satellite data directly over the North Pole has not concerned scientists; they have always assumed that the area underneath is covered with sea ice.” (1)

This hole is easily represented by charting out the orbit path of most satellites.


This isn’t a mystery – it’s physics. Satellites orbit the Earth by traveling at a rate of speed (relative to the rotation of the Earth), that’s why it’s far easier to launch a satellite and keep it in orbit when its path of travel is somewhat in-line with the rotation of the Earth.

All Satellites Have a Polar “No Data” Zone

Polar satellites – the satellites that try to capture imagery and data from the poles of the Earth, do so because they are launched on a orbital path that has a much lower altitude than other geo-synchronous satellites. (2) These satellites do move from pole to pole as the Earth rotates beneath them, however, they usually do not pass directly over the pole, otherwise the orbital path would not rotate around the Earth’s axis.

Because of this, imagery from polar satellites always contains a circular area where there is no data available to complete the imagery or sensor map. This can be seen in the following image from a mosaic of images provided by NASA’s Terra satellite (Source: NASA).


In a 2001 edition of USA Today, Science writer Jack Williams described what satellite sensors tell about the condition of the Antarctic ozone hole, and at the end of his article, he explained to readers why there is that big black circle on the map of sensor data.

“Even after all of Antarctica has 24 hours of sunlight, there is still an area around the South Pole with no measurements because polar orbiting satellites don’t pass directly over the pole. The black area in the Dec. 5 image at the top of this page is where the satellite’s instrument can’t “see” the amounts of ozone.” (3)

It is inconceivable that a group of people would portray this large black circle as some kind of mysterious “UFO”, but this is exactly the sort of ignorant behavior that you find throughout the field of Ufology, and that is why it’s so difficult to attract the more intelligent scientific minds of the world to explore unidentified aerial phenomenon. Few scientists want to be associated with this kind of nonsense.

It is even worse when seemingly reputable news organizations, like the Huffington Post, regurgitate that nonsense and spread it to the rest of the public, without providing the very easy to find scientific explanation for the phenomenon.

It may not be as sensational, or sell as many papers, but at least it’s editorially and intellectually honest. You do your readers a great disservice when you don’t provide them with the truth.

References & Image Credits:
(1) National Snow & Ice Data Center
(2) StormSurf
(3) USA Today

Originally published on

  • johken

    let’s get some REAL shit to investigate not this kind of crap please

  • Good clear explanation.

    I rarely read my “UFO” Google alert anymore because it is clogged with junk reports such as you describe. I expect this kind of pandering from mystery monger sites but the cynicism of MSM and local news sites is very disappointing.

    To be fair, there are a few credible UFO blogs that refuse to run this junk — unless they are debunking the report (a small percentage of UFO buffs are as disgusted as we are with this guff). But these reasonable blogs tend to be few in number, and are written and read by people who are middle-aged and up.

    Sites are trying to lure eyeballs with the cheap thrills they assume young people want. I see under 30s staring into their phones all day; that technology is made for quick hits, not temperate scientific explanations and historical overviews.

    Young people are smart. They ask me about this stuff, knowing I will tell them what is crap and why it is crap. But the content providers and the delivery system conspire against rationality.

    (Man, do I sound old! I’m not even 50!)

  • Nibs Niven

    Total nonsense. Plenty of satellites fly directly over the polls without problems. They will not fly off into space. Are you trolling us?

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