, sometimes known as Sky Fish or Solar Entities, are a rather new entry in the field of cryptozoology
. They are said to be creatures which flit about in the air at such a high speed as to not be seen by the naked eye. However, rods appear to be observational artifacts
produced by rapidly flying animals. Practically all sightings of rods are based on video evidence, due to the propensity of video cameras to produce characteristic stroboscopic artifacts when imaging rapidly flying animals, especially insects, but also including birds. Their recent popularity seems to be a result of media exposure in television and in tabloids
Rods have been spotted in the U.S.
. Rods have also been sighted underwater and in caves. José Escamilla
has promoted video footage of rods recorded during the filming of BASE jumpers
at the Cave of Swallows
Rods gain their name from their rodlike shape. However, they have also been called "flying rods", "skyfish" and "solar
entities". They appear to be anywhere from 12 cm to 50 meters in length. Rods can control their flight path as birds and insects do.
A common speculation held by cryptozoologists and believers is that rods are some kind of unknown creature. When viewing rods on camera they appear to be able to behave and move on their own. It is proposed that they have a thin membrane
across their axis which is used for propulsion through the air, in a manner similar to the way a cuttlefish
uses its fins. It has been suggested that Rods are possible relatives of anomalocarids
which have taken to the air. Rods were the subject of season 1, episode 111 of the History Channel
series Monster Quest
, first aired on January 9, 2008. During this episode, rods body structure was tested by engineering students, who commented, "..Not a whole lot of lift. It would take a huge propulsion system to make it fly..."
Others have speculated rods may be UFOs
traveling at high speed, explaining why they are usually only seen on camera, and the fact they are often associated with UFO phenomena. Others have said that they are some kind of UFO probes sent by aliens and are commonly cylindrical shaped.
It is now thought that they are mere tricks of light
which result from how images (primarily video images) are recorded and played back. In particular, the fast passage before the camera of an insect flapping its wings has been shown directly to produce rod-like effects, due to motion blur
, if the camera is shooting with relatively long exposure times. (In low-light conditions or even when pointed at blue sky, the automatic exposure programming of a video camera is likely to select the longest possible exposure time, which is 1/60th second per video field for NTSC
format or 1/50th second for PAL
format.) This criticism points to such video being physically unable to capture a clean image of something which moves so fast relative to the camera. In particular, the "membrane" in a video frame of a rod is effectively a time-lapse of the wings of the flying animal in different positions over several wingbeats that occurred during the field exposure time, while the central "rod" is a time-lapse image of the body, showing the full distance traveled during the field exposure time. The effect is especially pronounced with large, long-bodied insects which have broad wings and fairly slow wingbeats, such as mantises, grasshoppers, and katydids
, or completely opaque wings such as moths. On video equipment which resolves the two interlaced
fields of a single video frame (which are captured successively and then displayed as alternating horizontal lines), the "rod" effect can be seen to alternate from one field to the other, producing the distinctive gaps between successive images. Similar results can be produced using standard film, if there is a long exposure and/or a stroboscopic lighting effect which lasts more than a single wingbeat. This is the technical evidence, demonstrating that one can produce "rod" effects at will if one uses the right equipment, lighting, and subject.
On August 8-9 2005, China Central Television
(CCTV) aired a two-part documentary about flying rods in China. It reported an incident which happened from May to June of the same year at Tonghua Zhenguo Pharmaceutical Company in Tonghua City
, Jilin Province, which debunked the flying rods. Surveillance cameras in the facility's compound captured video footage of flying rods identical to those shown in Jose Escamilla's video. Getting no satisfactory answer to the phenomenon, the curious research staff of the facility, being scientists, decided that they would try to solve the mystery by attempting to catch these airborne creatures. Huge nets were set up and the same surveillance cameras then captured images of rods flying into the trap. When the nets were inspected, the "rods" were no more than regular moths and other ordinary flying insects. Subsequent investigations proved that the appearance of flying rods on video was an optical illusion created by the slower recording speed of the camera (done to save video space). This is the empirical evidence showing that the "rods" themselves can be captured, and that they do indeed prove to be ordinary animals.
The History Channel series Monster Quest season 1, episode 111, first aired on January 9, 2008, includes footage where a "rod" is captured simultaneously by a traditional video camera and a high-speed camera. While the video recorded by the traditional camera showed a brightly-illuminated "rod" with multiple undulating wings, the high-speed video clearly showed a common moth flying across its field of view.
Season One Episode: "Unidentified Flying Creatures."