top of page



(originally published Mar 2014)

A photo found archived at New Mexico Tech’s Atmospheric Lab may provide stunning visual confirmation that the world-famous “UFO” sighted by Officer Lonnie Zamora outside of Socorro, NM in April 1964 was indeed a balloon launched by college students at the nearby school. This extraordinary image may well illustrate who did the hoax, what it really was, and what it looked like.




The photo and accompanying notation above is courtesy the files of the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, NM.


According to school documents, the photo was taken in “approximately” 1965 in the area south of town where newly-acquired, advanced experimental balloons had been sent aloft by college students and department personnel for the prior two years.




Zamora would have been wholly unfamiliar with such an experimental balloon, introduced to the area the very year of his sighting. But four key elements are strikingly common to the photo and Officer Zamora’s testimony- the craft’s shape, features, size and color.




Zamora radioed to another officer the sighting of the craft and what he had just observed. When the officer asked Zamora “What does it look like?” Zamora responded “it looks like a balloon.” The photo shows an unusually configured aerial (especially for the mid-1960s) but it still “looks like a balloon” and of course, that is precisely what it is.




Another feature reported by Zamora is that the balloon-like object was resting on structured “legs.” That is, Lonnie said that the object had “landing gear” extended. He even drew a very crude stick-figure rendering that showed the craft had ‘legs.’


The photo of the college balloon is clearly configured with struts or fins that look very much like a space ship’s landing apparatus. The similarity is obvious. They even look like various illustrations of the craft done by amateur artists over the years!




Officer Zamora reported the size of the ovoid object as that of “an overturned car.” At another time Zamora mentions a size of about 20 feet. The average car length is about 18.5 feet. The balloon depicted in the college photo is a massive one, requiring several young people with tethers around it to control the thing. It is of similar size to ”an overturned car” – twenty or so feet.




Zamora described the color of the object that he had sighted as appearing white or ‘aluminum white.’ The college balloon in the photo is white / off-white.  And when illuminated by the sun or cloud reflection, it takes on a metal-like quality.




Though apparently filled with helium in the photo, it would be very easy to cut and remove the balloon material at the bottom of the craft (in-between the ‘landing gear’) and insert candles (as Colgate believed), a gas apparatus, and/or a pyrotechnics platform (available from the school’s Energetics Lab) to create the emitted flames as seen by Zamora.




In reference to the “circa” date for the photo of 1965 listed by the school, Officer Zamora’s sighting (also in an area ‘south of town’ where the student balloons were launched) occurred in 1964. However, it has been learned from the Atmospheric Lab that the image may have been from the year prior to the year indicated, which is why they had ‘hedged’ with the date and elected to say “circa” or “about.”  The Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at New Mexico Tech was built in 1963. In 1964 (the very year of the Zamora sighting) they began – for the first time ever – launching every type of “inflatable” available in the world at that time. In 1964 the students had a new source of “play” – balloons of very strange configuration and novel design to test.


Stirling Colgate

Skeptic Tim Printy, after reading the last piece by this author on the Zamora sighting, expressed frustration that what I have discovered and reported about this case could very well be the definitive solution to Socorro.


Printy, not trusting that Colgate had confessed to me his knowledge of the hoax, requested that New Mexico Tech scientist Dave Thomas visit Colgate at his office. Printy wanted Thomas to ask Colgate directly if all that I had said had transpired, had happened the way I had said. Although apparently lamenting that he thought that I was an historian, or he would presumably not have been so open, Colgate confirmed that everything I have reported, and our email exchanges, were truthful and accurate. Stirling Colgate died earlier this year, but not before telling all of the truth about the Socorro UFO that he felt that he could.


If one thing has been consistent about my discoveries and reporting on Socorro – they are truthful. Even when the truth hurts.

Dr. Stirling Colgate
bottom of page