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  The North Newark UFO Case:
Anatomy of a Journalistic Investigation

National Earthquake Information Center

In looking for a natural explanation for what happened, I first checked to make sure there had been no earthquake that night. According to geophysicist Willis Jacobs there was no seismic activity of any kind in the Newark area on March 5. This left only two possible prosaic explanations for the event: either the incident was weather-related or it was due to a utility company problem. I hoped to find a clue to one or the other from the analysis of the materials found in the Gonzalez yard.

Laboratory Analysis

Matthew Moniz, an analytical chemist in Massachusetts, examined the mysterious, lightweight, golf-ball shaped object MUFON investigators had found in the yard and two oak branches, one of which supposedly had been knocked off the tree by the UFO, while the other was from an unaffected part of the tree.

"The 'golf ball' is a ground fungus," said Moniz, "what's commonly known as a puffball." And the black material on the test branch? "That's another fungus," he replied, "similar to other shell fungus that you find growing on trees. Nothing unusual." But Moniz did initially find a slightly elevated level of radiation for the test branch, although later attempts to verify this proved inconclusive.

"It could have been contamination in the area that I was working in," notes Moniz. "Or the readings may have resulted from short-lived radio nuclides that have half-lives of only days. This may account for the absence of the readings in the following weeks. Short-lived radio nuclides can come from only a few places: nuclear reactors, cyclotrons, particle accelerators as well as some other natural sources such as plasma events like lighting strikes."

One witness thought the flash of light was a lightning strike. Such a strike could also explain the fallen branches, the shaking of his house, and the electrical disturbances he reported. I asked Moniz if he thought a lightning strike could explain the episode. "It very well could have been," he replied." But they indicated that the weather was 'clear.'"

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