Fri Feb 4, 2011 01:32 AM ET
On Jan. 28, a light appeared over Jerusalem. Apparently guided by some form of intelligence, the light hovered high above the Dome of the Rock, an ancient Islamic shrine.
The footage then shows the light drop and seemingly hover just above the shrine. After a few moments, and a brief flash of a strobe, the light took off, disappearing into the night sky.
Videos have surfaced of the event and have since gone viral on YouTube. The news headlines read: "Holy Smoke - UFO in Jerusalem," "Dome of the Rock Jerusalem light all proof UFO fans need that aliens exist" and "Credible? Jerusalem UFO footage captured from multiple viewpoints."
Some of the media sources are skeptical, while others (unsurprisingly) are very quick to pull the alien card.
It's easy to jump to the conclusion that just because there are a handful of videos from different perspectives, that it must be real. Indeed, a common complaint aired by skeptics is that UFO videos are often shaky and one of a kind. For example: why would there be only one video of a UFO over a populated city?
In this case, the skeptics should be silenced; these videos appear to be from different parts to the city, shot by different people (apparently of different nationalities), of exactly the same event.
Alas, the footage might be a little too good to be true.
After consulting Discovery News in-house skeptic Benjamin Radford, it quickly became apparent that there were a few oddities in the footage and technical hitches that may reveal the videos' true nature: an elaborate hoax.
"If it is an extraterrestrial spacecraft, it is a very small one," Ben told me via email when commenting on the possible origin of the "UFO."
"Judging by the size and distance of the dome it apparently hovers over, it would likely be not much bigger than a limousine. This doesn't mean it's not a spaceship, but it does make you wonder."
OK, so if this is a real UFO and it's being driven by ET, they might just be very small aliens. Why would they need a big spacecraft?
But there's doubt as to whether this light is a UFO at all, let alone an alien visitation.
When commenting on one of the videos apparently shot by American tourists, Ben noticed something fishy about the scene.
"For what is described to be (and seems to be) a brightly glowing object, it does not appear to reflect any light off the top of the Dome, which it hovers directly above," he said. "This is especially suspicious since the dome is gold-plated, and should be highly reflective."
Ben also pointed out that even though a handful of videos have surfaced, it's still strange that more haven't come to light. Jerusalem is a religious center flooded with tourists. Although this event apparently happened at 1 a.m., shouldn't there be dozens of videos and eyewitness accounts?
"For these and other reasons, in my opinion, it's almost certainly a hoax," he concluded.
Others have pointed out problems with the footage, including an anomalous amount of shudder in the background of a second video (indicating the scene has been tampered with/fabricated) and issues with the lights in a fourth video (plus a handy guide on how to add artificial shake to your faked UFO footage).
With the increasing sophistication of video editing software, it's very easy for hoaxers to create genuine-looking footage of strange lights in the sky.
In Feb. 2010, Discovery News Video Producer James Williams caught up with one of the masters of fake UFO videos, and it's not hard to see the parallels with this Jerusalem footage:
Although there appears to be several videos of the same UFO sighting, each seems to have very basic technical issues and anomalies that belie their faked origins.