Updated: 16th December 2017

Look! Is That A UFO Over Jesus Head?

The story of Christmas began when three wise men saw something strange in the sky and decided to investigate.

Anyone who’s seen a UFO can easily relate to what those wise men might have been thinking, and that’s what makes the images in these paintings so compelling.

Many unusual aerial objects depicted in paintings between the 14th to the early 18th century look, at first glance, like modern-day UFO sightings.

It’s easy to wonder why artists of those long-ago centuries seemed obsessed with including these curious objects in scenes surrounding the stories of the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

The first example here is a wall mural, or fresco, from 1350, “The Crucifixion,” artist unknown, in the Visoki Decani Monestary in Kosovo, Yugoslavia. Two odd-looking objects with “pilots” can be seen in the sky on both sides of Jesus.

Visoki Decani Monestary, Kosovo, Yugoslavia

“As odd as the details in the upper left and right sections of the Kosovo fresco may seem to modern eyes, they, in fact, refer to something readily familiar: the sun and the moon,” according to Dennis Geronimus, associate professor of Italian Renaissance art and chair of the Department of Art History at New York University.

“The strangeness, to our sensibilities, no doubt lies in the fact that the two celestial bodies are personified by two crouching figures that are shown as inhabiting them: producing a kind of ‘man in the moon’ effect,” Geronimus told HuffPost in an email.

He added that the apparent simultaneous presence of both the sun and moon, “alludes to mentions in several of the Gospels of the sky growing dark in daytime during Christ’s crucifixion.”

Our next painting, from 1486, is “The Annunciation with Saint Emidius,” by Carlo Crivelli, that resides at the National Gallery in London. It shows a circular object shooting a thin beam of light down to the Virgin Mary.

National Gallery, London

“The golden beam descending from a cloud bank through an opening in Mary’s bedroom wall, and reaching its destination at the Virgin’s head, carries along its path the Holy Spirit,” said Geronimus. “Characteristically, here it assumes the form of a white dove and symbolizes the incarnation.  

“The Virgin Mary is shown as being infused — or, to put it literally, impregnated — with the Holy Spirit, a miraculous event that will lead to the birth of Christ.”

The following image is a close-up of that circular cloud bank.

National Gallery, London

Computer scientist Jacques Vallee agrees with Geronimus’ take on these works of art. But he wonders why this form of symbolism seems to crop up in so many works of art from these years.

“It’s certainly true that these paintings do not represent actual sightings by the artist or contemporary events of the scene,” Vallee told HuffPost. Vallee and his co-author, Chris Aubeck, are about to publish an extensive update to their 2010 book, “Wonders in the Sky,” which looks at reports of strange aerial objects reported by many people — including scientists — in pre-20th century accounts, beginning in 1879 and moving backward in time to biblical sightings.

“The value of it, scientifically, is that now we can anchor the beginning of the UFO phenomenon into real, documented history,” Vallee said.

“You cannot simply say that, because somebody saw something round in the sky in medieval times, it’s the same phenomenon that people see today. We are not making that statement. We’re simply describing what people saw and the phenomena associated with it as a contribution to the overall study of the history of the phenomenon.”

Vallee (see image below) was a principal speaker in 1978 at the only major United Nations UFO presentation in history, where he urged serious, international, unbiased research, focusing on those UFO reports considered truly unidentified.

Photo by Y. Nagata

“I think the skeptics are right in saying that many of the reports have to do with things that, today, we recognize as comets and meteors and other natural phenomena. And that’s fair. We go through that and eliminate those and we keep the ones that are unidentified,” Vallee said.

In the late 1960s, Vallee’s early UFO research was so respected by the United States Air Force that his books were recommended reading to cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

He points out how many people misinterpret unexplained objects seen in old paintings. 

“We don’t go into ideology. We’re not saying it’s proof of alien anything. We’re saying there is a phenomenon and it has some of the characteristics of the modern phenomenon, and we let it go at that. You still have to account for differential descriptions because of the changes in the cultures and the changes in the media, through which the data has arrived to us.” 

Our next painting to consider, from the 15th century, “Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John,” is attributed to more than one artist and is located at the Palazzo Vecchio Museum in Florence, Italy. Mary, mother of Jesus, is seen looking down while, in the background, something unusual is taking place.

Palazzo Vecchio Museum, Florence

What appears as a domed UFO is hovering in the sky while a man and his dog are standing on a ledge staring up at it. These details are revealed in the following composite image.

Palazzo Vecchio Museum, Florence

“The dark blue, almond-shaped form, emitting golden rays, constitutes a symbol that was very common in the Renaissance, when this [circular panel, for private devotion] was painted,” said Geronimus. 

“It alludes to the announcement of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem to the shepherds, as told in the Gospel of St. Luke (2:8-14). The awed shepherd and his trusted dog are easy to spot here. Rather than depicting an angel as the divine messenger, however, this Florentine master represents the sign more naturalistically — and obliquely: as a celestial phenomenon.”

Our final Christmas painting, from 1710, “Baptism of Jesus,” created by Arendt de Gelder, is at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK.

It depicts a large, circular object shooting beams of light down toward Jesus.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

“The four rays that pass down from the sky to illuminate the kneeling figure of Christ, as he is baptized by St. John, refer to the divine power of the Holy Spirit, as embodied again by the white dove hovering at the center of the radiant cloud from which the rays emanate,” said Geronimus.

Here’s a close-up of that circular cloud with the light beams.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

“What is unusual, really, about this composition is not so much the literal quality of the Holy Spirit’s celestial origins, but the fact that the baptism is here imagined as seemingly a nocturnal event.

“Suffice it to say,” Geronimus concludes, “none of these painted details amount to early modern UFO sightings, which isn’t to say that the Kosovo muralist’s or Carlo Crivelli’s contemporary audiences did not believe in otherworldly beings or supernatural events.” 

UFOs? Maybe They’re Just…

UFOs? Maybe They’re Just…

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London Pizza Oven UFO

It wasn’t exactly the UK version of the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash. Still this little incident in southwest London caused a bit of a furor on Oct. 17, 2015. Police responded to calls about an unexplained object on fire in the middle of a local street. Initial law enforcement thought it was a crash-landed UFO — it turned out to be a pizza oven that had apparently fallen off a truck or was abandoned. No aliens here.

Kingston Police UK

London Pizza Oven UFO
It wasn’t exactly the UK version of the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash. Still this little incident in southwest London caused a bit of a furor on Oct. 17, 2015. Police responded to calls about an unexplained object on fire in the middle of a local street. Initial law enforcement thought it was a crash-landed UFO — it turned out to be a pizza oven that had apparently fallen off a truck or was abandoned. No aliens here.
Kingston Police UK
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Manufactured UFO — 2011
Pictured is a quad copter — a deliberately manufactured UFO created by special effects wizard Marc Dantonio for a National Geographic special, “The Truth Behind: UFOs,” which aired in December 2011. On the left is what the small device looks like resting on the ground, measuring 4 feet in circumference. At right, is how it appeared behind a tree in the night sky.
Marc Dantonio / FX Models / YouTube
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More Chinese Lanterns, aka UFOs
These candle-lit Chinese lanterns can rise high into the sky and are often mistaken for UFOs.
China Photos / Getty Images
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Boomerang UFO composite images — 10-5-12
This is a composite of images shot by two eyewitnesses of a boomerang-shaped UFO they reported seeing over their Burbank, Calif., home on Oct. 5, 2012. Mutual UFO Network photo/video analyst Marc Dantonio concluded the object was likely “a balloon, floating on the wind that has collapsed in half.”
Mutual UFO Network
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Kentucky UFO — Oct. 16, 2012
Amateur astronomer Allen Epling captured video and images of a cylindrical object in the sky above his Virgie, Ky., home on Oct. 16, 2012. This is one of the images he took, which led many to believe the object was a high-flying solar balloon.
Allen Epling / YouTube
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Sky Lanterns Mistaken For UFOs
Chinese or sky lanterns are often misidentified as UFOs. These three were part of a large group of lanterns that was the main event of the 2013 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival in Taiwan on Feb. 24, 2013.
Getty
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Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 2013
This is a composite image of how three alleged UFOs maneuvered about in the sky over Melbourne, Australia, in early February, 2013. The final verdict isn’t in yet on whether they’re birds, aircraft, balloons, bugs or something truly unidentified.
FindingUFO / YouTube
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Exploding Weather Balloons, Not UFOs
On Dec. 20, 2012, a bright, circular object (pictured at the top of this composite image) was videotaped exploding in the skies above Sacramento, Calif. It wasn’t immediately identified, resulting in speculation that it was either an alien spacecraft, military top secret weapon, runaway planet, North Korean satellite, among others. Within a short period of time, it became apparent that this was a weather balloon. The bottom part of this image shows such a balloon as it ascended over Tampa Bay, Fla., on July 2, 2012, and exploded in an identical manner as the Sacramento object, probably much to the dismay of all true ET believers out there.
CBSNews13 / Sutor 1000 / YouTube
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Changing UFO Pattern — Warren, Mich. 1-10-13
This four-image series of lights in the sky was recorded over Warren, Mich., on Jan. 10, 2013. The lights were seen changing into several patterns. The most logical explanation for these types of UFOs is a series of balloons or lanterns.
LUFOS.net / YouTube
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UFOs Over Earth
This composite image shows four different times that alleged UFO were photographed above Earth by either space shuttles or the International Space Station. The big question is whether or not they are truly unidentified objects or if they are more likely reflections from spacecraft windows, meteors or fast-moving spacecraft-generated debris.
danielofdoriaa / YouTube
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Pink UFOs Or Lens Flares?
What appear to be pink-red UFOs are actually lens flares from the Google Earth street view camera as it snapped images in Texas (left) and New Mexico (right).
2012 Google
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Lens flares Arizona
These two flying saucer-shaped, pink-colored lens flares were created by the Google Maps camera as it drove through locations in Sedona, Ariz. (left) and Flagstaff, Ariz. (right). The images were snapped in April 2009. Submitted to HuffPost by trenna.
2012 Google
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Lens flare Whiteriver, Ariz.
This skybound lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in June 2008 over Whiteriver, Ariz. Submitted to Huffington Post by Cheryl Weeks.
2012 Google
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Lens flare Gulfport, Miss.
This very Earthbound lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in November 2007 at Gulfport, Miss. Submitted to Huffington Post by Jenni Parker.
2012 Google
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Lens flare Eureka Springs, Ark.
This seemingly grounded lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in January 2008 at Eureka Springs, Ark. Submitted to Huffington Post by SE.
2012 Google
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Lens flare Escanaba, Mich.
This lens flare appears to be following a car. The Google Maps image was created in October 2008 at Escanaba, Mich. Submitted to Huffington Post by Mary Robinson.
2012 Google
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Cincinnati Skydivers NOT UFOs Sept. 28, 2012
On the night of Sept. 28, 2012, a group of strange-looking lights appeared in the sky near Cincinnati, Ohio. First there was one, then, two, then three lights, slowly descending. It turns out, however, that these lights were originating from a group of skydivers performing a pyrotechnics jump at the La Salle High School homecoming event.
Galuyasdi / YouTube
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Weather Phenomenon
Some UFO sightings may be due to a natural phenomenon known as sprites, like this one shown from 2006. “Lightning from [a] thunderstorm excites the electric field above, producing a flash of light called a sprite,” said geophysicist Colin Price.
ILAN Science Team / Space.com
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Clouds
Clouds: Saucer-shaped or “lenticular” clouds that form at high altitudes have been confused with UFOs.
Getty Images
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Blimps or Advertising Balloons
Blimps or advertising balloons: These can look like flying saucers from some angles, especially at night.
Lars Baron, Bongarts / Getty Images
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Sunken Ship in the Baltic Sea
On June 19th the Swedish-based diving company Ocean Explorer discovered something they’ve never quite seen before. They were exploring in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland looking for sunken treasures when a very unusual image suddenly appeared on the sonar. A 197 feet diameter cylinder shaped object was discovered at the depth of approximately 275 feet which resembles the Millennium Falcon from the movie Star Wars.
www.oceanexplorer.se / Everett Collection
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Baltic Sea UFO 1
An image released on June 15, 2012, shows a close-up view of the unidentified object sitting on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Expressen.se / YouTube
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Baltic Sea UFO 2
Close-up of rock bed that forms the Baltic Sea UFO, which still mystifies researchers.
Expressen.se / YouTube
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Baltic Sea UFO 3
One of several odd stone circle formations, sitting on top of the unidentified object at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Expressen.se / YouTube
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Antarctic UFO — Aug. 10, 2012
A circular UFO hovers above the Neumayer-Station III research facility in Antarctica on Aug. 10, 2012. Theories ranging from a simple weather balloon to a more elaborate ship from another planet have run the Internet gamut. The next slide shows a closeup of the object.
myunhauzen74 / YouTube
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Antarctic UFO Closeup — Aug. 10, 2012
This is a closeup of the UFO from the previous slide. No official explanation has been offered about the object.
myunhauzen74 / YouTube
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Meteors
Meteors: Space debris can create a spectacular light show when it burns through the Earth’s atmosphere, and sometimes reported as UFOs.
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
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Civilian or Military Aircraft
Civilian or military aircraft: Planes can look mysterious at night or in certain light conditions, thus confusing an observer.
Sean Cole, US Navy / Getty Images
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Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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