[ISCNI*Flash thanks author and researcher Miller Johnson for permission to reprint this article, which first appeared in the current issue of the New Mexico MUFON NEWS. For subscription info, contact: NM MUFON NEWS PO Box 2786 Corrales, NM 87048. Thanks also to Rebecca Schatte for assistance in preparing this article for publication.]
By Miller Johnson
March 24, 1996, another busy afternoon at Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center. Max Littell, Secretary/Treasurer of the museum, was on duty when approached by an out of state visitor with another crash site tale. The story had a familiar ring. For Max it was not the first time such a tale had crossed his path. It, like many others, centered around the 1947 debris field.
Wouldn't it be great to locate some solid evidence from the mysterious event? It could be analyzed and perhaps help solve the almost 49 year-old mystery and end the controversy. The visitor claimed knowledge of whereabouts of a debris fragment. He happened to know the framer who mounted and framed just such a piece for a former military person. This ex-military person, name withheld, claims to have been on the debris field clean-up detail that July day in 1947. Max, with a skeptical grin said, "Sure, I'd be happy to take a look at the piece if you can bring it in."
Twenty minutes later, Max -- with a non-skeptical grin -- was feasting his eyes on a triangular metal fragment framed under non-reflective glass. The dimensions of the piece were approximately 1-5/8" x 3", and the color on the visible side appeared to be a non-descript pattern of copper and bright aluminum or silver.
Three days later, March 27, the story made the front page of the Roswell Daily Record with a color photo. Associated Press stories on the subject were carried in both the Albuquerque Journal and Tribune on March 29th. An interview with Max Littell on Albuquerque's channels 4 (NBC) and 7 (ABC) were observed on the 27th and 28th. Max had stated that color photos had been sent to Jesse Marcel Jr., M.D., who saw debris from the crash site as a twelve year old. Dr. Marcel was asked if he could verify similarities between the photographs and what he saw in July of 1947.
The next step in the investigation was to seek out a qualified metallurgist with proper scienitific equipment to identify the fragment. The New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources in Socorro was highly qualified and readily available to make the analysis using X-ray fluorescence technology. Max Littell contacted the Bureau and spoke with Chris McKee, the Department Manager who would be responsible in running the test procedure. An appointment was made for 10:00 am Friday , March 29th.
Thursday evening, I received a call from Professor C. B. Moore in Soccoro expressing a strong interest to view the mysterious fragment. [Moore was involved in the top-secret Project Mogul balloon launchings in 1947, which some researchers now believe accounted for the Roswell debris. - ed] Unaware of the scheduled appointment, I called Max in Roswell after I finished talking with Prof. Moore. Max invited me to attend the meeting the next day and also extended an invitation to Prof. Moore. At 9:10 the next morning, I was at Prof. Moore's front door. We visited for 15 minutes or so and then drove to the Bureau of Mines X-ray fluorescence facility arriving there at 9:45.
Max and Roswell's Chief of Police, Ray Munts, arrived at 10:30, armed with, among other things, a camcorder and the mysterious subject matter. Chief Munts accepted the responsibility to record the procedure from start to finish. Prof. Moore and I, working under difficult lighting conditions, photographed the fragment before, during and after its removal from the frame in which it was housed. We were in constant visual contact with the fragment except for the time period in which I descended into the analysis chamber.
Chris McKee took all precautionary measures handling the fragment with tweezers to avoid fingerprints, etc. It was necessary for him to bend the piece for acceptance into the small analysis chamber. The fragment suffered a minor fracture when it was being returned to its original configuration. I was able to later calculate the frament's physical dimensions from my photos using the known mat dimension of 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" framing the piece.
The fragment had parallel creases that extended from one end to the other with a gaping hole at its center. The back side had a high gloss silvery look with no copper showing. The silvery colored surfaces were void of any tarnish. Chris did the X-ray fluorescence analysis of each side. The beam illuminated a 29 mm section of the sample which was spun continuously during the analysis so that the results are averaged over the surface of the sample face exposed to the nominal 40 kV X-rays.
The front side analysis indicated that it was about 50% Cu (copper) and about 50% Ag (silver). The back side analysis showed about 87% Ag, 12% Cu and 1% trace elements. The fragment weighed in at 16.160 grams.
[We did not] accurately measure the fragment's thickness, but I would guess it [did] not exceed 0.01 inch. Prof. Moore had come to the same conclusion.
The following paragraph regarding the fragment was included in Prof. Moore's memo faxed to me on March 31 following the March 29 analysis. Until more tests are conducted that may suggest another point of view, I am 100% behind his statements.
"The fragment clearly was not related to one of the radar targets or any of the other equipment used by the NYU [New York University, which ran Project Mogul - ed.] group. Such a diaphragm may have been in the microphone section of the sonobuoys that we flew but, if this were the case, there is the question as to how it became exposed so that the alleged GI could have pocketed it. But, unless this fragment came out of a sonobuoy, there is little chance that it was associated with a NYU flight in 1947. The fragment could have been bent easily; it could have been dented with a sledge hammer if one hit it. It clearly had been torn from its original setting. There was nothing associated with it to suggest an exotic nature or an exotic origin; it appeared to me to be a component of some terrestrial, technical artifact."
Prof. Moore also faxed me a suggestion he had received via email from David Thomas, vice-president of the nonprofit group "New Mexicans for Science and Reason." Dave is a New Mexico Tech graduate now working for a scientific company in Albuquerque. He suggests an isotopic analysis. "For example, the earthly ratios for the common isotopes of copper are 69.09% (Cu-63) and 30.91% Cu-65). These would probably be different for Cu not from our own solar system." The expanded explanation for isotopic analysis is provided by Prof. Moore in the following two paragraphs.
"Dave's idea is a good one, well worth pursuing because isotopic analysis might determine if the copper in the fragment has a different isotopic composition than that of terrestrial copper. The rationale: The ratio of copper 63 to copper 65 was probably determined by processes in the supernova that blew up more than 5 billion years ago and produced the nebula from which the solar system formed. It is unlikely that the same exact ratio would have been produced in another star. Therefore, if the ratio of copper isotopes in the fragment is different than the terrestrial ratio, it is possible that the fragment had an "extra-solar system" origin. On the other hand, if the fragment ratio is the same as the terrestrial ratio, an origin outside the solar system is not completely ruled out; it is merely less likely."
"Isotopic analysis involves use of a mass spectrometer in which a very small portion of the sample is vaporized and ionized in a vacuum: the ions are then accelerated in an electric field before passing into a region with a transverse magnetic field which deflects the moving ions into a curved path. The radius of each ion's path depends on the charge-to-mass ratio for that ion, the strength of the magnetic field and velocity of the ion. By adjusting the ion velocity or the strength of the magnetic field, it is possible to make ions having a given mass land on a target where they can be counted. When the numbers of ions in each class of ion mass are counted as their path radius is varied to make them impact the target, a measure of the relative frequency of occurrence of each ionic mass can be obtained."
David Thomas has also provided the following quote from the book, "Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics" by James M. Cork (D. Van Nostrand, 1947):
"With the precision now attainable in mass spectroscopy, it is possible to express the mass of an isotope to about six significant figures. Similarly, the relative abundance of the isotopes comprising an element has been accurately determined. No variation of this observed abundance ratio has ever been found for any of the natural elements regardless of the geographical derivation of the source, except for those elements associated with radioactivity."
The Roswell Metal Fragment incident is getting national attention as well as world-wide recognition and interest. The international UFO Museum has been bombarded with telephone calls and record numbers of visitors since the news was released. German radio has now scheduled an interview with Max Littell on June 19 at 3:00 pm.
The Museum officials are proceeding in a professional manner to obtain scientific data necessary to draw a conclusion on the fragment's origin.
[ISCNI*Flash will continue to follow this story.]
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