Plasma Technology

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 Plasma Technology                                                                                                           Version française

         

Translation by George Hoskins

As we have already pointed out in the first part of this work, in chapter 12, numerous witness statements lead one to think that there is no real connection between the different luminous points which witnesses have seen in the sky, and that the apparent shape is only simulated.

Is it technically possible to produce a shining point floating, as it were, in the sky, without it, however, simply being a case of projection onto the background of clouds? In order to reply to this question, we need here to introduce the concept of plasma, which appeared in 1928. A plasma is a fluid composed of electrically neutral gaseous molecules, and of positive ions and negative electrons. In short, it is an ionised gas giving off photons by virtue of this ionisation, and therefore more or less luminous.

There are three main mechanisms for ionising a gas:

Thermal Ionisation: thermal excitation provokes collisions such that an atom may give birth to an electron+positive ion couple. This couple is unstable and tries to recombine itself. But if the temperature is high enough and the density great enough, each recombination is quickly followed by a new ionisation and the plasma is able to maintain itself. The required temperature for this process is at least 10,000°C (18,000°F).

By using a powerful laser and a converging lens, it is possible to ionise air locally at the point of focusing. If, for example, the lens has a focal distance of 1 metre, a bubble of plasma forms itself "miraculously" at a distance of 1 metre from the lens and seems to float in the air. By using an infrared laser, the rays of which are normally invisible to the naked eye, the result is very spectacular. But in order to project this "UFO" at great distance, it would be necessary to use a very powerful laser and a lens capable of focusing at the distance of projection. It is, therefore, more efficient to use a matrix of lasers converging towards a given point in the sky.

The first high energy lasers worked by means of carbon dioxide (CO2) and within the infrared scale. They appeared in the United States in 1968. The CO2 was inserted at one end of the laser while the residual non-toxic gases were expelled on the other side.

The first attempt to convert this into a transportable weapon was carried out by the US Army. Towards the middle of the seventies, a CO2 laser with a power of 30 kilowatts was mounted on a caterpillar-tracked vehicle LVTP-7 so as to create a "Mobile Test Unit".

At the end of the seventies, the German Diehl company came up with a similar prototype, the HELEX (High Energy Laser Experimental). It consisted of a 28-ton armoured vehicle intended to carry a high energy CO2 laser with a power of several megawatts, whose range in clear weather would have reached 10 kilometres (fig. 11-a). The required consumption of CO2 would allow up to 50 laser shots at each sortie.


Fig. 11-a: the HELEX Project of the German Air Force
Drawing based on an illustration by MBB/Diehl.
Note that where it is a single laser rather than a matrix of lasers being put into operation,
the luminous point will only exist where contact is made with the target that is being aimed at.

The American Military continued with new tests of a "Close-Combat Laser Weapon" or "Roadrunner", a vehicle designed to destroy the sensors and night-vision equipment of the enemy. Next came the "Airborne Laser Laboratory", a Boeing plane carrying a 400-kilowatt laser which succeeded in 1983 in destroying in mid-air several "Sidewinder" air-to-air missiles.

Regarding the use of such a weapon on board ship, there arose the problem of ambient humidity, which could greatly disturb the projection of the laser ray.

In France it was not until 1986 that the DGA (General Delegation for Armaments) began the LATEX project (Laser Associated with an Experimental Turret), using a 10-megawatt laser.

If all these devices were (or still are today) simple prototypes, they may nevertheless have been responsible for the sighting of several UFOs.

Let us remember that the discovery of the laser dates only from 1958 and that it is only from this date that it could have been used deliberately to produce fake UFOs. This technique for producing plasma at a distance is therefore not old enough to have been used as early as 1942 at Los Angeles, which is the date of the first historically attested appearance of an unidentified luminous phenomenon simulating an air attack during clear weather, and thus definitely not a case of projection onto background clouds (see chapter 15).

Electric Ionisation: this phenomenon occurs when an intense electric field is applied to a gas. The electrons torn away by electrostatic forces are then accelerated and acquire great kinetic energy, allowing them, on colliding with other atoms, to spread the ionisation process. A good example of the creation of this kind of plasma is provided by storm lightning.

Radiant Ionisation: this is produced when atoms are subjected to an electromagnetic radiation whose photons have an energy higher than the threshold of ionisation.

This situation is encountered naturally in the upper atmosphere where ultraviolet photons originating from the sun ionise the gaseous atoms in the ionosphere layer. Since 1991 it has been known that scientists working on President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative had realised in 1981 that it was possible to stimulate the fluorescence of a sodium layer situated at a height of 90 kilometres by means of a laser ray (a photon ray) so as to create a luminous point. This technique for producing an "artificial star" (but also a "UFO"…) was rediscovered in 1985 by 2 French astronomers and has since been used for focusing telescopes [JPP00 p. 103].

The beam which is used can also be in the high frequency scale (radio waves) or in the hyper-frequencies (microwaves). The focusing of these waves can be obtained at a specific point in space from a matrix of antennae emitting phased waves. Thanks to the technique of "synthetic aperture", this matrix can simulate the effect of a giant lens with a very long focal distance. During his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, Piotr Kapitsa described as early as 1978 the Soviet experiments in generating plasma at a distance by means of powerful microwaves [FU93 p. 11]. In the United States this technique is used by the US Air Force to produce "Atmospheric ionospheric mirrors" (AIM) which enable them to make radar waves rebound so as to explore what lies beyond the horizon or to do the same with radio waves, allowing them to communicate between two precise positions. These "mirrors" also allow them to intercept or to jam enemy communications.

Everyone can experiment for himself with creating a plasma with the help of a beam of microwaves emitted by a magnetron. All one needs for this is to place a fresh grape on a saucer in a microwave oven, the grape cut in two but with both halves still connected. Very quickly the grape bursts into flames and the series of flames thus created - which are nothing other than balls of plasma - fly up towards the top of the oven where they survive for a little while thanks to the stimulation of the microwaves, whose frequency is here 2.45 GHz (gigahertz).

Microwaves were first produced artificially by Heinrich Hertz in 1887, the magnetron was invented in 1921, and then the klystron in 1938. As for the first "maser", the equivalent of a laser for microwaves, it first appeared in 1953. This technology, probably still in its infancy, was therefore already available in 1942.
 
In order to generate plasma, the photon beam can be replaced by the emission of other particles such as protons or electrons. A synchrotron can generate a beam of protons sufficiently energetic for them to cross a certain distance in the atmosphere while only giving off very weak radiation caused by a slight loss of energy. When this energy descends below a certain threshold because of these losses, the protons can no longer go forward in the atmosphere and the remaining energy, still significant, then ionises the oxygen and the nitrogen so as to form a shining ball of plasma: a luminous point in the sky.

By adjusting the proton energy one can decrease or increase the distance at which the luminous plasma is formed. A rapid adjustment backwards and forwards can thus give the illusion of a streak of light in the sky. In the same way, by altering the quantity of protons emitted, one can lower or increase the luminous intensity of the plasma. Finally, one can play with the direction of the firing so as to produce a specific luminous shape by applying a sweeping motion. This kind of production is within the capabilities of the military, which is able to generate luminous phenomena either from the ground or from an aerial platform, probably a dirigible balloon, since numerous witnesses have mentioned the silent and very slow flight of the UFOs they have seen.

A calculation by Tom Mahood that we found on his internet site tells us that a synchrotron of average size capable of generating a continuous beam of protons with an energy of 500 MeV (megaelectronvolts) would be able to produce a luminous plasma at a distance of 1,200 metres. This beam would lose 3 KeV (kiloelectronvolts) for each centimetre travelled before releasing 100 KeV per centimetre when stopping. The luminous intensity per centimetre of the beam would therefore be equal to 3% of that of the ball of plasma. The latter would be a dozen metres in diameter, or 1% of the distance travelled in our example. These calculations were made with the help of Bethe’s formula. It seems to us, however, that there must exist a phenomenon let aside by this formula such that the energy required can be reduced by a factor of 100, thus effectively limiting the bulk and weight of the synchrotron which needs to be used. It turns out, in fact, that the first particles emitted heat up the air through which they pass, bringing about an expansion of the air before they are brought to a halt, which allows the particles which follow behind to travel further since they are meeting less resistance. In this way a kind of tunnel of low density is hollowed out within a fraction of a second into the atmosphere right up to the furthest point possible, where the UFO is thus produced and able to be maintained with much less expenditure of energy.

One might object that the particles cannot be accelerated except under a strong vacuum, which poses the question of how they are being projected through the atmosphere. This problem can be overcome by using a material which is permeable to protons at the point where the beam exits the synchrotron. Nickel, tantalum or Kapton, for example, are able to perform this task. They need, however, to be chilled, as the passing of the particles causes a strong increase in temperature. Tom Mahood tells us that he has submitted his hypothesis to several physicists working in particle physics and that they could see no objection to it. It is possible that the use of electrons instead of protons can produce an identical result while yet consuming less energy. However, because the electron has a mass of about 2000 times less than that of the proton, it will certainly have greater difficulty in penetrating deeply into the atmosphere before being brought up short by a collision of some kind. The American military is today actively studying the concept of "Charged particle beam" (CPB) made up of ions or electrons able to move through the atmosphere at a speed close to the speed of light, as well as that of "Neutral particle beam" (NPB), made up of hydrogen or deuterium atoms, which can be used in space in the fight against ballistic missiles within the framework of the Strategic defense initiative.

The main principles of the particle cannon being used could be similar to the functioning of the electron cannon used in our televisions (fig. 11-b).


Fig. 11-b

A particle beam with a horizontal and vertical sweep allows the drawing of a crude shape at long distance. The shape can be moved as a whole and can simulate an erratic flight or include astonishing turns of speed if the particle cannon is controlled by a motor. This motor, directed by computer, can be linked to a radar system which is locked onto the target (witness, vehicle, aeroplane) so as to follow the latter automatically. At distances greater than a few kilometres (it is assumed), the shape is somewhat limited to luminous spots or blobs, owing to the lack of sufficient focusing capability. In the course of years the technology has evolved, the shapes have been refined, and now, instead of fixed projections, animated projections have become possible. Let us remind ourselves that if there is a matrix of antennae being used for emitting radio waves or microwaves, the plasma which is produced in this way can be moved as a whole by electronic control of the emission phase or frequency of each antenna.

The first kind of high-energy particle accelerator, called a cyclotron, appeared at the beginning of the 30s in the United States. The energy which could be transmitted to protons was at that time intrinsically limited to 25 MeV. It was possible, however, to think of sending ions heavier than the protons and therefore with greater energy if with an equal speed of emission, such as isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium) or of helium (3He, 4He) which are made heavier by the presence of neutrons at their nucleus. This technology was thus also available in 1942 in spite of some reservations we have concerning the limited energy of the emitted particles and the weight and bulkiness of the required cyclotron. A few years later the synchrocyclotron, an improved version of this machine able to transmit an energy of 1,000 MeV to the particles, was unveiled in 1945, again in the United States. Nowadays the largest synchrotrons allow the attainment of an energy of 1,000 GeV (gigaelectronvolts).

These, then, are the three basic mechanisms whereby luminous plasma can be produced at long distance. But, a word of caution, the effect thus obtained should not be confused with the kind of plasma created on leaving the barrel of a "plasmoid" cannon, which rather behaves like a shell, even if this very particular type of projectile could also sometimes be mistaken for a UFO.

It will be objected that the UFOs seen at night sometimes appear opaque or even metallic. This impression of opaqueness could be achieved by a cannon carrying out a sweep with plasma just bright enough to simulate a metallic grey colour. In this respect, Albert Budden points out that light shining through a humid atmosphere submitted to an electromagnetic field can give the appearance of a metallic surface, due to the fact that a material’s index of refraction, in this case droplets of water in suspension, generally changes when in the presence of an electromagnetic field [AB98 p. 59]. When the UFO appears quite dark or "black" within a certain number of luminous points, and where it cannot be a physical object owing to its instantaneous disappearance or its stupendous accelerations for example, this impression can perhaps be put down to the psychology of perception or to the creation of an idealised memory: "[…] each time one wonders if the "black mass" really exists, or if it is just this ring of little lights which gives that impression" [LDLN No. 310 p. 15, Joël Mesnard on the wave of sightings of 5th November 1990].

What interest would the military have in developing such equipment? We can list several possible uses:

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To produce Atmospheric ionospheric mirrors (see AIM above).
 

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To produce radar decoys or visual decoys so as to deceive the enemy (see in appendix G the analysis of the Hessdalen lights)
 

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To illuminate an enemy site for an extended period of time, as if it were daylight.
 

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To put a mark on an enemy target for the purpose of guiding a missile, or to turn an enemy missile towards a false target and making it explode.
 

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To suppress the toxicity of a combat gas spread by the enemy, by causing a reaction with the plasma produced [PB99 p. 192].
 

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To disturb or destroy at long distance electronic, electric or electromechanical (motors) equipment with a particle beam (see CPB and NPB above).
 

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To cause fires or sever electric cables by melting them…
 

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To blind, burn or kill an enemy soldier.
 

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Etc.

Several questions remain, however, concerning the firing of a luminous plasma. We have indicated in italics some possible lines of response:

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What weight and volume of cannon are necessary, depending on the intensity of the observed phenomenon, its size, and the distance from point of firing?
As an illustration of this question we may cite the example of "Beam experiments aboard a rocket" (BEAR), carried out with success in New Mexico in July 1989 within the framework of the Strategic defense initiative. The linear particle accelerator set up in the rocket was housed in a tube of 4.36 meters long by 1.12 meters in diameter. It seems the particles were emitted with an energy of about 4 MeV. The weight of a particle accelerator is generally more than 500 kilograms per linear meter.
 

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What is the luminous intensity of the beam fired and that of the shape generated, according to the energy being used (by comparison with the brightness of the moon or the sun and that of the cone of shadow)?
By way of reply we have only the example suggested by Tom Mahood and offered above.
 

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What kind of energy is consumed, what are its volume, its weight and its cost?
Whatever technique is employed, an electric generator is required. We must add the amount of fuel consumed by the laser if any.
 

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Is production of the plasma very noisy?
Lasers function silently but the auxiliary equipment such as the electric generator, compressor, vacuum air pump, cooler, etc., can, on the other hand, be very noisy.
 

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Can the shape generated by the sweeping beam be very precise?
 

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Can the shape generated be of different colours?
The wavelength of the photons emitted depends on the energy received and on the atmospheric molecules which have been excited. Green can be obtained with oxygen and red, blue or violet with nitrogen. A plasma in the atmosphere can sometimes also be white, yellow or orange [PB99 p. 97 and 102]. The ionisation potential of nitrogen is around 15.6 eV and that of oxygen about 12.06 eV.
 

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Does the shape so formed produce an electromagnetic field?
Local concentrations of positive or negative electrical charges in the plasma create electrical fields as well as induced magnetic fields [PB99 p. 13].
 

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Does the shape emit X-rays capable of irradiating witnesses?
Hot plasmas can emit dangerous X-rays for those witnesses standing nearby [PB99 p. 218].
 

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Does the shape emit dangerous ultraviolet rays?
The sun is the typical example of a hot ball of plasma emitting ultraviolet rays which can lead to cancer. On a smaller scale, suntan lamps also produce ultraviolet rays being emitted by an ionised gas (plasma) in a glass tube.
 

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Does the shape emit microwaves?
It is more than likely because the luminous rays emitted overlap towards longer wavelengths including infrared and microwaves.
 

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Does the shape give off any sound?
It does indeed happen that a plasma emits a whistling or humming noise. This is referred to as "plasma waves" [PB99 p. 113].
 

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Can the shape give off a breath of air?
The ionisation of the air and the cascading collisions of molecules sometimes generate an electric wind having the strength of a small breeze [PB99 p. 102].
 

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Can the plasma ball produce a smell, for example that of sulphur (which is the smell traditionally associated with devilish apparitions)?
It is sometimes accompanied by a strong and disagreeable smell, characteristic of ozone or oxides of nitrogen [PB99 p. 103]. The microwaves emitted by the plasma can moreover bring about the oxidation of sulphur present in the atmosphere.
 

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Can the ball of plasma burn on contact (vegetation, witnesses…)?
Plasma is a gas heated to several hundred, thousands or millions of degrees, so it is normal that it should burn on contact, or even at some distance, according to its temperature.
 

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Is it nevertheless possible to touch a certain type of plasma with one’s hand without getting burned?
A plasma produced by a beam of very energetic electrons can maintain itself "at near room temperature" [POP98 p. 2137]. In fact, although its electronic temperature can reach 700°C as a result of the very rapid motion of the electrons, the weak thermal agitation of the ions can only confer a temperature of less than 30°C to the plasma overall.
 

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By day, can the ball of plasma generate a shadow? Can it also do so at night when it is positioned between the moon and the witness?
According to the type of plasma, part of the incident light will be reflected, part will be absorbed, and part will be transmitted. If the light is being mainly reflected or absorbed, a witness might see a shadow.
 

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Can the ball of plasma be illuminated by the headlights of a car?
Yes, for certain kinds of very reflective plasmas.
 

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Can the shape which is generated be detected by radar?
An ionised plasma reflects long waves (radio) but it can easily be passed through by short waves (TV, radar) if the density of its electrons is insufficient. Plasmas with a higher density produced by a beam of electrons allow a radar wave with a frequency of less than 10 GHz to be reflected and may therefore be used just like a high speed adjustable "mirror" for radar [POP98 p. 2137]. In the atmosphere the "Artificial ionospheric mirrors" could reflect frequencies up to 2 GHz according to a report by the US Air Force.
 

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Can the shot pass through clouds, and how would the shape generated perform in rain? Does the cloud layer not greatly reduce the possible distance for shooting?
A beam of particles like that of protons can pass through the clouds. The microwaves also pass through the clouds with the exception of certain frequencies. As for luminous laser beams or those emitted in the near infrared or ultraviolet bands, they of course cannot pass through (or else are greatly distorted).
 

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Can the plasma shot pass through a window, a shutter even, so as to create a luminous shape within a room?
It seems that a beam of particles such as protons cannot pass through either a window or a shutter. Microwaves can pass through a pane of glass or a shutter providing it is not made of metal. A laser beam can of course pass through a pane of glass but not through a shutter. Finally, a ball of plasma generated on the outside can pass through a pane of glass as sometimes seems to happen in the case of balls of lightning.
 

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Are there atmospheric constraints such as the presence of dust or pollution, of humidity, of wind, etc?
The presence of dust might certainly prevent the emitted particles from arriving at their destination. The interaction of dust and of these particles might also make the beam more apparent. Microwaves are not disturbed by dust, whereas a laser beam would be severely disrupted.

If the plasma is produced by a beam of particles, we have seen that this beam should be somewhat luminous. If it is produced by microwaves or by infrared laser, it is invisible to the naked eye except perhaps in the case of exceptional atmospheric conditions. Owing to its earlier appearance, since it was operationally available from 1942, it is the technology of the particle cannon which has our preference and which we intend to focus on in the remainder of this study. Thus we will regularly refer to a "particle cannon" each time we call to mind the artificial generation of a ball of plasma in the atmosphere.
 


      

 

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