These sightings sparked a lot of speculation and controversy, as some people thought they were secret weapons or even alien spacecraft. But what were they really?
A new study by researchers from the universities of California, Arizona and Harvard-Smithsonian may have found the answer, at least for some of the cases. They suggest that some of the ‘foo fighters’ were actually plasmas, or ionized gases, that can appear in different shapes and sizes and are attracted to electromagnetic activity.
Plasmas are not uncommon in nature, and they can be seen in phenomena like lightning, auroras, and fireballs. They can also behave in strange and unpredictable ways, especially when they interact with magnetic fields or electric currents.
The researchers analyzed various reports of ‘foo fighters’ from WWII pilots, and compared them with modern observations of plasmas by astronauts and spacecraft.
They found that some of the descriptions matched very well, such as spherical or disc-shaped objects that glowed with different colors, moved erratically, and sometimes followed or approached the aircraft.
One example is the report by Lieutenant David McFalls of the US Navy, who encountered a ‘foo fighter’ over the Pacific Ocean in 1943. He described it as “a ball of fire, reddish orange in color, about six inches in diameter” that “flew along our port beam for several minutes” and then “made a 90-degree turn and flew into our number two engine”.
The study does not claim to explain all the ‘foo fighter’ sightings, as some of them may have been optical illusions, misidentified aircraft, or hoaxes. But it does offer a plausible and scientific explanation for some of the most puzzling and mysterious cases.
“These plasmas are electromagnetic entities that have a variety of shapes and sizes,” said study co-author Dr Rudolph Schild of Harvard-Smithsonian.
“They have repeatedly approached spacecraft and the space shuttles and are attracted to electromagnetic activity including thunderstorms.”
“Based on video, photographic and computerized analysis, including reports by military officers and astronauts, we believe these plasmas account for at least some of the numerous reports of UFOs and Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon over the last several thousand years including the ‘foo fighters’ observed by German, Japanese and Allied pilots during WWII.”