Case File Status: Solved, out of focus celestial object (Star)


Witness Kevin Lane submitted the following case to The Black Vault / TBV Investigations on 07/14/2018. It was assigned to TBV Investigator Jim Kerr for investigation and analysis.

Witness Testimony

Witness Lane submitted the following testimony which is unedited and appears as it was submitted.

“Large glowing object, it seems to change colors from inside out. It comes and goes and changes spots in the sky in a matter of seconds. It is bright orange but changes rapidly from orange to green to blue then back orange. I have tried looking through a telescope ( Walmart brand bought for my young son ) it does not zoom in close, but it looks like it is pulsating inside out. I have pics and video with my phone that I will try and upload.”

The Evidence

Witness Lane submitted one photograph.

The Analysis

By Jim Kerr, TBV Investigations

As an amateur astronomer, photographer and videographer I have spent many years observing celestial objects in the night sky. I have experience with astrophotography along with coupling DSLR camera and video cameras to telescopes using eyepiece projection to film celestial objects. I am familiar with camera focus issues in low light and have intentionally observed and filmed celestial objects that are not in focus. Based on my database of out of focus planets and stars I can recognize photos and video of these objects that are out of focus.

The witness stated he had additional photos and video of the object he witnessed. I requested he forward the additional data along with answers to questions I submitted to him. At the time of writing this report, the witness has not responded to my request. If the witness submits the additional requested information, I will add the information to this report; however, based on the single photograph submitted, I was able to resolve this case.


Knoxville, TN., 07/14/2018 at 10:00 pm. Source: Wunderground Weather Website.

At the time of the witness’ sighting, it was 81 degrees, Dewpoint 73 degrees, Humidity 77%, Wind speed ten mph SSW, and was cloudy.

Astronomy Day Length Rise Set
Actual Time 14h 22m 6:31 AM 8:54 PM
Civil Twilight 6:02 AM 9:23 PM
Nautical Twilight 5:26 AM 9:59 PM
Astronomical Twilight 4:46 AM 10:39 PM
Moon: waxing crescent 7:11 AM 9:25 PM


Astronomical Data

Searching the archives of Stellarium, (a planetarium software that shows exactly what you see when you look up at the stars), I was able to view exactly what celestial objects were visible to the witness in his night sky from his location in Knoxville, TN on 07/14/2018 at 10:00 pm.

Based on the witness’ description that the object was pulsating (twinkling) showing colors of orange, blue and green is consistent with stars. Two of the brightest stars were visible, Arcturus which is the 4th brightest star and Vega which is the 5th brightest star we see from earth.The visible planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus, can be ruled out as the object he observed because planets do no pulsate (twinkle) or change colors.

Refer to the article link below, Why do stars twinkle but planets don’t.

Below: Excerpt from the above article. Credit, Deborah Byrd,

Stars twinkle, while planets (usually) shine steadily. Why? 

“Stars twinkle because … they’re so far away from Earth that, even through large telescopes, they appear only as pinpoints. And it’s easy for Earth’s atmosphere to disturb the pinpoint light of a star. As a star’s light pierces our atmosphere, each single stream of starlight is refracted – caused to change direction, slightly – by the various temperature and density layers in Earth’s atmosphere. You might think of it as the light traveling a zig-zag path to our eyes, instead of the straight path the light would travel if Earth didn’t have an atmosphere.”

“Planets shine more steadily because … they’re closer to Earth and so appear not as pinpoints, but as tiny disks in our sky. You can see planets as disks if you looked through a telescope, while stars remain pinpoints. The light from these little disks is also refracted by Earth’s atmosphere, as it travels toward our eyes. But – while the light from one edge of a planet’s disk might be forced to “zig” one way – light from the opposite edge of the disk might be “zagging” in an opposite way. The zigs and zags of light from a planetary disk cancel each other out, and that’s why planets appear to shine steadily.” 


Photo credit, AstroBob, via The Random Science blog.


Photo credit, AstroBob, via The Random Science blog.


Screenshot from Stellarium depicting what witness Lane observed from his location in Knoxville, TN on 07/14/2018 at 10:00 pm. Photo contains data about Vega.


Screenshot from Stellarium depicting what witness Lane observed from his location in Knoxville, TN on 07/14/2018 at 10:00 pm. Photo contains data about Arcturus.


Upon analyzing and enlarging the witness’ photo, I immediately recognized the object as an out of focus or defocused star. I have conducted tests while filming celestial objects defocusing planets and stars and archiving those images and video footage. The witness claims to have used a cell phone to take the single photo he provided; however, the camera he used while defocused on the star captured the six aperture blades inside the camera’s lens depicting the object with a hexagon shape.


I stacked my photo of the Sirius over the witness’ photo for a comparison. Other than the color both images are very similar in shape. Without any doubt, the witness photographed a star, possibly Arcturus or Vega which were both visible in his night sky.

The vast majority of cell phone camera lenses do not use an adjustable aperture that opens and closes regulating the amount of light the camera sees, and the camera sensor controls the exposure. Cell phone camera lenses use a fixed aperture of f/1.8 in a higher priced smartphone or f/2.2 in less expensive phones. When taking a defocused photo of a star with a cell phone, we would not see any internal camera lens aperture bladed. We would see the defocused star as an Airy Disk. Due to the lack of answered questions from the witness along with his statement he would try and upload video and photos from his cell phone, I have formed the opinion the single photo he provided was taken with a conventional DSLR camera with a lens that contained an adjustable six-bladed aperture. Additionally, based on the photographic evidence alone and comparing my photo to the witness’ photo the only conclusion is the witness photographed a star. Basically, it doesn’t matter what camera was used by the witness as the evidence and conclusion is in the photographic comparison.


Note that the lens contains six aperture blades that form a hexagon in the center. Even with the aperture fully open it will have a hexagon shape. When a camera lens is de-focused on a star, the camera sensor (depending on the number of aperture blades in the lens) will capture the aperture blades depicting the out of focus star as a polygonal shape. In this case, the camera lens had six aperture blades and this is why we see the witness’ capture as a hexagon shaped object.

Misidentifying celestial objects as UFO’s is a common mistake. Sites like YouTube have thousands of mistaken captures filmed by individuals that believe they captured a UFO. Based on my experience, my archival photographic and video evidence, I believe with no doubt, the witness mistook either the star Arcturus or Vega as an unidentified flying object. Again, this is a common mistake.

In closing, I would like to thank witness Lane for submitting his case to TBV Investigations. I hope this investigation answers what he observed.

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