back to article Indian military pondered attack on Venus and Jupiter

Some eagle-eyed astronomers have saved the planet from possible nuclear Armageddon after the Indian army mistook Jupiter and Venus for flying intruders from China. Two star-gazers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore were sent over 1,400 miles to Ladakh near the disputed border with China at the behest of the …


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  1. jake Silver badge


    Many people need to be fired. Immediately.

  2. hplasm Silver badge

    Two words-

    Military Intelligence.

    That is all.

    1. plrndl

      Re: Two words-

      Thank God someone was smart enough to check with experts before firing. I think this counts as progress.

    2. Potemkine Silver badge

      Re: Two words-

      To paraphrase Clémenceau (and not Groucho Marx as often said, these Americans want to take pride of everything), "“It suffices to add "military" to a word for it to lose its meaning. Thus military justice is not justice, military music is not music, and military intelligence is not intelligence'

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Two words-

        But military faggotry retains the meaning.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    It's easy to go "hur, hur, stoopid Indians" but there are a number of documented cases of both US and UK fighter jets being scrambled to intercept UFOs which turned out to be Venus.

    1. deains

      Agreed -- given that I have never worked a telescope in my life, if I were to try and categorise objects in the sky (which are likely only going to be bright dots) into "Venus" and "not Venus", chances are it'd be a dismal failure, and western China would even now be an irradiated crater. So it's not really fair to laugh at their mistake.

      1. jake Silver badge


        Do you really think that if you can't figure out the difference between "incoming" and "normal sky" you'd have access to the "nuke 'em" button?

        The mind boggles ...

      2. sisk Silver badge

        if I were to try and categorise objects in the sky (which are likely only going to be bright dots) into "Venus" and "not Venus", chances are it'd be a dismal failure

        How about "moving fast enough to be flying" and "relatively still and therefore probably celestial"?

        And yes, I facepalm at my countrymen to when a planet is mistaken for a UFO.

    2. jake Silver badge


      Yeah. In the 1960s.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        @ jake

        Reported in 2009: F16s scrambled against UFO

        The object was spotted by the pilot of Olympic Airways flight 266 from Athens, and the sighting was corroborated by staff at Athens Airport and a nearby Greek air force base. Pilots of two other passenger jets also reported seeing the body.

        The eyewitnesses described it as looking like a large star, although it was moving erratically and constantly changing shape.

        Two fighter jets were sent to investigate the sighting over the Greek capital in November 2007 but the object shot up into the sky and vanished before they could get a clear view.

        Greek officials say that the object, which was not detected on any radar, was probably a mistaken sighting of the planet Venus in the Autumn night sky.

        Okay, Greek Air Force, I grant you, but not the sixties either...

        1. jake Silver badge

          @Alister (was: Re: @ jake)

          You said "US and UK", not "Greek".

          Changing the story doesn't help your credibility ...

          1. James Hughes 1

            Re: @Alister (was: @ jake) Back at Jake

            Sorry, but I think you are the one with the credibility problem. You can pedant away as much as you like, but aircraft HAVE been scrambled for the reason above, very recently indeed. You really need to calm down a bit, and converse; chill, and try and reduce your post aggravation content.

      2. Uffish

        Practice makes perfect.

        See title

      3. Jess--


        In the 60's would be about right, when both the US & the UK were watching the skies for anything unusual coming from the general direction of another secretive nation with nuclear capability, In our case it was the Soviets, in India's case it's China.

        Wonder how many times soviet fighters were scrambled to shoot down venus.

    3. Khaptain Silver badge

      Don't the planets "fly" slightly slower than UFOs and also represent a much larger masse.? ( Deathstar not included)

      Also, the military must have some major doubts about their radar detection in order to mistake a planet for an "invador".....

      I can imagine the pilots reaction when realising that his target was approxiamtely 750 000 000 million kms away. "Base, I don't think that our heatseekers are up to the job, we will need something a little bit more interstellar, returning to base".

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The covers have been off the big buttons a few times by accident...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        1/10/48 NEVAR FORGET!!

        Gorman dogfight

        The Gorman UFO dogfight was a widely-publicized UFO incident. It occurred on October 1, 1948 in the skies over Fargo, North Dakota, and involved George F. Gorman, a pilot with the North Dakota National Guard. In 1956, USAF Captain Edward J. Ruppelt wrote in his bestselling and influential The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects that the Gorman Dogfight was one of three "classic" UFO incidents in 1948 that "proved to [Air Force] intelligence specialists that UFO's were real."However, in 1949 the US Air Force labeled the Gorman Dogfight as being caused by a lighted weather balloon.

        And also:

        Mantell UFO incident

        The Mantell UFO incident was among the most publicized early UFO reports. The incident resulted in the crash and death of 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, on 7 January 1948, while in pursuit of a UFO. Historian David Michael Jacobs argues the Mantell case marked a sharp shift in both public and governmental perceptions of UFOs. The Mantell Crash was quickly investigated by Project Sign, the Air Force's new research group which had been created to study UFO incidents. Though Project Sign's staff never came to a conclusion, other Air Force investigators ruled that Mantell had misidentified the planet Venus, and, wrongly believing that he could close in to get a better look, had passed out from the lack of oxygen at high altitude. However, this conclusion was later changed, because although Venus was roughly in the same position as the UFO, astronomers working for Project Sign ruled that Venus would have been nearly invisible to observers at that time of day. The cause of Mantell's crash remains officially listed as undetermined by the Air Force.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ahem *cough* UK Police....

  4. wowfood

    Anyone else think Southpark


    *opens up fire with various missiles*

  5. Amonynous

    Find arse with both hands?

    "After using a theodolite to measure the horizontal and vertical location of the objects, the astronomers decided they definitely belonged to the former category."

    Must be the worst professional astronomers in the world if they need to use anything other than their eyes and the most basic ephemeris to positively identify either of the two brightest planets. Frankly most amateur astronomers could have done so via a short telephone conversation with the idiots concerned.

    1. Uffish


      I don't think you know how to present a convincing argument to a General who is worried about national security. "As any fule kno" really doesn't work, neither does sarcasm.

      1. wowfood

        Re: @Anonymous

        it's like trying to convince your manager that option a is better than option b. Even though you know you're correct, and anyone with a hint of intellect would know you're correct, with management you still need to go over the evidence and a 20 page powerpoint presentation, preferably with a pie chart somewhere, to prove that you're correct.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: @Anonymous

          "THIS IS VENUS"

          Next slide

          "THIS IS SWAMP GAS"

          Next slide


          Next slide



          Any questions?

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Find arse with both hands?

      And no one had a smartphone with one of those Pocket Patrick Moore astronomy apps?

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    not just there

    I was sent on a lifeboat "shout" at 1a.m. by the UK Coastguard to investigate reports of a white flare.

    After a bit of searching I asked them if the "flare" was seen in the North East, yes it was Jupiter rising.

    At one point due to the extreme tidal conditions in that area we fell about 2.5 mtrs into a hole. That tends to wake you up.

    It is a mystery why they launched a lifeboat when the distress signal is a red flare.

    I got back to bed at 5 a.m. and never managed to sleep..

    <===== nearest watery based icon, perhaps in the other direction =====>

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap android phone and Google Sky Map and this embarrassing event never has to happen again. Not exactly rocket science is it?

    1. twelvebore

      ... assuming they can get a mobile phone signal

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No phone signal required just GPS

    2. Robert E A Harvey

      Not exactly rocket science is it?

      no, but not unrelated either.

      Mine's got a steel collar for attaching the helmet...

  8. frank ly Silver badge

    If it's part of your job, to look at the sky .....

    ... dont you develop an interest in basic astronomy, just for something to think about?

  9. gkroog

    Nations have been close to launching at each other a few times...

    ...over much smaller things than Venus and Jupiter...

    Cuban missile crisis, satellite launches that seemed suspiciously like missile launches, it seems some nations don't need no stinking planets to go into mob mode on other countries...

  10. Anonymous John

    I dread to think what they'll do when Comet Ison arrives.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Dumb and dumber with weapons hot level retarded.

    But then again, these guys are fighting over a few km² of glacier, which IS retarded.

    Maybe they called support in Bangalore.

    "I see bright lights in the night sky, what do?"

    "Did you try to fire at them?"

    On the other hand:

    "On October 5, 1960, the warning system at NORAD indicated that the United States was under massive attack by Soviet missiles whith a certainty of 99.9 percent. It ... had spotted the rising moon."

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Presumably when they looked at Jupiter through a pair of binoculars, they decided the Galilean Satellites were incoming missiles? Or maybe they thought they were flying in formation.

  13. Squander Two


    If you were given the job of designing aircraft to fly over enemy territory at night, what would you do? Obviously, you'd make them as radar-proof as possible. Personally, I'd also advise the use of flight paths designed to hide the objects in plain sight, like maybe correlating their positions with those of astral bodies. I'm not a one-in-a-billion genius, so no doubt the Indian and Chinese militaries have people on staff who've had the same idea. The fact that they called in astronomers to verify it indicates that they were pretty sure the objects were planets, just not 100% sure.

    The military aren't stupid. They're just incredibly paranoid, so they care about false positives about a millionth as much as false negatives.

    Come to think of it, what this story really tells us is that the Indian military have at least considered flying craft over China at night and avoiding detection by disguising them as planets. "Yes, I know it looks exactly like Venus. But so do ours."

    1. Nearly Anonymous

      Re: Tactics.

      Except that flying on a path in line with some object depends on line of sight to the observer(s). If in doubt, you'd like to triangulate with and confirm from multiple observers. So you can't fly on a hidden path to all observers. To the point, trying to disguise yourself as a planet (moon) sounds like you have bigger tactical ambitions and belong with the Imperial Galactic Empire.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tactics.

      If you were given the job of designing aircraft to fly over enemy territory at night, what would you do?

      I would not put massive lights on them. Nor rely for secrecy on a plan that depends on all potential observers remaining in an exact straight line between the planet Venus and my craft. (Ever heard of parallax?)

      1. Squander Two

        Re: Tactics.

        All potential observers? Surely the only observers you need to worry about are the enemy monitoring stations, and you know where they are. And you might put great big lights in the sky if you want to find out how the enemy will react. Or you could be testing a new type of jet or weapon which creates a lot of light. Or whatever. Anyway, all your criticisms are perfectly fair points, and I don't claim to have any real idea why an air force might put big fake planets in the sky, especially since it turned out that they didn't. I was just suggesting that being extremely suspicious is a job requirement in military leadership, and that just being able to imagine a couple of vague possibilities about how what you're observing might conceivably be construed as enemy action is enough reason to double-check these things. There's a difference between stupidity and paranoia.

        For purposes of comparison, a successful German spy in 1944 would have been reporting to Berlin "The Allies are going to land in France at a harbour that doesn't yet exist, and Kent's full of inflatable tanks." Just because something sounds completely stupid, doesn't mean you should dismiss it.

    3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: Tactics.

      Gathering intelligence with persons easily mistaken for Venus, sure. With aircraft, maybe no.

    4. Chris Sake

      Re: Tactics.

      "Beware the hun from the sun."

  14. We're with Steve

    That's no moon, oh, actually it is

  15. cowtillya

    Even with a voracious appetite such as mine this is too much bull to swallow.

    Anyway how old are you Phil!

  16. Unicornpiss Silver badge


    When are they going to start using leaves for money and then burning the forests to keep the currency from being devalued...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Wow...

      No-one cares about currency devaluation, baby.

      The inflationists are at the helm, and the will wreck the good ship.

  17. The elephant in the room

    Best to double-check - could be an Eastern twist on the classic Jerry trick...

    Look out Sanjay! A flight of Charlies diving at us out of Venus! TAKATAKATAKATAKATAKATAKATAKA Aiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!

  18. Arachnoid

    Flash Gordon.........Hes Alive!


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...the sky can be a very, very confusing place, both from below and from above. Just a couple of hours ago we were three pilots at an airfield, looking at the sky, and I noticed a light that was brighter than most--I thought it would be Mars and said so, then a discussion ensued with various theories. It was only put to rest, with no correct guesses, after watching the thing for a while with a pair of powerful binoculars when I could finally make out the strobe lights of an aircraft, as well as its landing lights (which it had no obvious reason to have on at that particular point). Keep in mind that we were three pilots, and we still could not identify an aircraft, likely of a type one of us flies.

    Conversely, I have also had my share of scares from the cockpit, usually with the moon to blame. Having the thing raising from below a dense cloud cover is really something to be seen.

  20. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    Well, to be honest, I never liked Jupiter all that much either.

  21. John 62

    I was driving south-east one morning a couple of years ago, downhill on a motorway into the city where I work and saw an incredibly bright metallic silvery light in the sky. I had never seen anything like it before. It was so bright and shiny metallic I genuinely thought for a moment it could be an alien craft like the one from Flight of the Navigator. The light didn't move much, but it did get slightly bigger as time passed, then it got closer and lower and after a couple of minutes I saw that it was not an alien space-craft, but an EasyJet 737 or 319 coming in to land that had caught the early morning sun. Reminds you just how seriously bright the sun is: even 8 light-minutes away, it can make white objects look like polished silver below a spotlight.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But what if a UFO from Venus is coming directly at you?

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Bend over and hope they've warmed their hands?

  23. PeterM42

    Hope no one tried reporting it via the HelpDesk

    Sorry to keep you on hold, your call is important to us............

    Then when they do answer, they won't LISTEN anyway.

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