Tasa Nugraza Barley
People were stunned last week when a university student claimed to have photographed a flying saucer in the skies over Blok M in South Jakarta.
Maulana Ibrahim Rau said he had intended to take a photograph of an apartment complex, but when inspecting the photograph on his digital camera later, it showed what appeared to be a small flying saucer to the right of the screen.
Nur Agustinus, 43, one of the founders of Beta-UFO, a community established in October 1997 to investigate UFO sightings in Indonesia, was suspicious of the photograph.
“I knew the picture was a hoax the first time I saw it,” he said.
He thought he had seen that UFO before, and when he went back and looked over his records, he noticed a strong resemblance to a photo of a “flying saucer” on the Web site of a UFO community in the United States. Maulana later admitted on his blog that his picture was a fake and had been intended as a joke.
“Many people make claims that they have seen flying saucers and aliens,” Nur said. “But with today’s technology, pictures and videos can be easily manipulated.”
Muhammad Irfan, 21, the director of a similar community called Ufonesia, also doubted Maulana’s initial claim and was sad it turned out to be a hoax. “I hope Maulana won’t do something like this again,” he said.
Both Nur and Irfan say they have been fascinated by UFOs, aliens and associated phenomena for a long time.
Nur has a degree in psychology, but what he enjoys most is hunting UFOs, although he has never seen one, or an alien for that matter.
“I believe that we’re not the only ones [in the universe],” he said.
His interest in extraterrestrials started back in the 1970s when he first came across tales of natural mysteries linked to astronomy and the wider universe.
“When I was a kid I always liked to look up at the sky and all the stars,” Nur said.
So, together with friends who shared the same interest, he founded Beta-UFO (Beta stands for Benda Terbang Aneh, or Unusual Flying Objects) to investigate reports and document alleged UFO sightings in Indonesia.
Beta-UFO claims to be the largest UFO community in Indonesia.
“Our missions are the documentation, investigation, research, public education and scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. We collect and investigate claims of alleged UFO sightings in Indonesia,” Nur said.
The group has a mailing list of 1,000 and 80 to 100 active members, who meet once a year in Jakarta for an annual gathering. At other times they share information and news through the group’s Web site, as well as investigating reported UFO sightings.
“We have a special group of UFO hunters,” Nur said. The group sets up camp at spots where many reports of UFOs have originated.
“They’ll stay for several days with their cameras and video recorders ready in case a UFO appears,” Nur said.
“During the 1950s and 1960s, there were many reports of UFOs from eastern Indonesia. But now the reports come from all over Indonesia, with most coming from Jakarta, Bandung and Cirebon.”
Irfan established his community, Ufonesia, in January 2008, with the intention of uniting young Indonesians who shared an enthusiasm for UFOs and aliens. His interest began in December 2005 when he himself saw what he believed to be an alien spacecraft.
“Before, I was a bit skeptical. But after I saw it with my own eyes, I now believe that flying saucers and aliens do exist,” he said.
Irfan said his sighting occurred at 1 a.m. as he was preparing to go out. He looked up at the sky, which was gloomy and reddish, as if it were going to rain. A few seconds later, he said, a bright light emerged from the clouds. At first he thought it was moonlight, but he then realized it was something more. The light stayed still for a few seconds, then it took off at great speed.
“I don’t believe that God has created this huge universe only for humans,” he said.
Nur tells of an alien encounter that allegedly occurred in July 1959 in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara. A police officer named Alwi Alnadad reported seeing six aliens dressed in blue clothes and black boots and carrying gray cylindrical rods. All had wavy white hair and some also wore beards. Alwi reported that a 6-year-old boy was abducted by the aliens and later released in the middle of a farmyard.
Nur and fellow members of Beta-UFO believe the policeman’s story.
Nur said he was aware that many people might consider him delusional for his beliefs. He said it was particularly difficult to convince others that extraterrestrials exist because he had never seen proof of aliens himself.
Irfan said he was also judged negatively for his beliefs. “But I don’t care,” he said. There will be a time when people see UFOs and aliens with their own eyes. When that time comes, they’ll be the ones who are embarrassed.”
Dr. Dhani Herdiwijaya, a former director of Bosscha Observatory in Bandung and former chairman of the Astronomy Department at the Bandung Institute of Technology, said: “Flying saucers and aliens don’t exist. At least we don’t have any proof to back up people’s claims.”
He said that one of NASA’s missions was to find another planet that was capable of supporting life.
“So far, they haven’t been able to do so,” he said.
But Nur and Irfan believe that we already have enough evidence of sentient life elsewhere.
“Some foreign governments have declassified their documents relating to UFOs and aliens,” Nur said.
“I don’t have to see [aliens] to believe.”