We were poking around the web, in search of more details about UFOologist George Filer’s highly publicized prediction that UFOs would visit the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Instead, we stumbled across a UFO angle on another current news story of considerably greater importance.

Filer’s March 23 UFO summary includes this item:

Confirmed reports of UFOs “hovering” and thousands of “flashing lights” over the epicenter of Friday’s main earthquake in Japan – located off Miyagi Prefecture, about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo – and UFO’s spotted near Osaka and Yokohama…

Alas, we haven’t been able to track down any reports from mainstream news organizations of UFO sightings, either on the Web or in the Nexis database. But on YouTube we did find scores of video clips of purported UFOs, spotted by UFO enthusiasts on TV news footage shot in Japan after the quake. Metacafe also has this clip of the tsunami carnage in which the poster has superimposed a pointer to call attention to a white object that seems to be moving over the water. (We’ll let you be the judge of whether this is an actual aerial object or a reflection, lens distortion or some other sort of photographic artifact.)

UFOologists maintain that sightings often spike around the time of natural disasters, and speculate that aliens are trying to warn humanity of impending catastrophe. But at least as far as earthquakes are concerned, there may be another possible explanation. As this 1992 Associated Press article details, some UFO sightings prior to earthquakes may actually be glowing, basketball-shaped globes of electricity generated by rock movements or groundwater flow changes as as underground stress accumulates in the months before a quake.

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John S. Derr, a U.S. government geophysicist, came up with that theory after studying dozens of UFO sightings in 1951 and 1952 that were clustered around 60 miles of the epicenters of three quakes that measured 4 to 5 on the Richter scale. The sightings occurred less than a year before the quakes. “The Earth is much stranger than we give it credit for,” Derr told the AP, before presenting his findings at a meeting of the Seismological Society of America.

That explanation undoubtedly would disappoint Japanese believers in UFOs, of whom there are many–including even a few in high places. Back in 2007, the news agency AFP reported that Japanese defense minister Shigeru Ishiba was contemplating how Japan would respond to an alien invasion, given its pacifist constitution. 

“There are no grounds for us to deny that there are unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and some life-form that controls them,” Ishiba told reporters at the time, according to AFP. 

“If they descended, saying ‘People of the Earth, let’s make friends,’ it would not be considered an urgent, unjust attack on our country. “And there is another issue of how can we convey our intentions if we don’t understand what they are saying,” he said.

The nation’s chief cabinet secretary, Nobutaka Machimura, backed up the defense minister, saying that he “absolutely” believed in UFOs.

It should be mentioned that Fukushima, near the site of a stricken nuclear reactor plant, even has its own UFO museum (or at least it did–no word on whether it survived the earthquake and tsunami). German expat artist-photographer Juergen Specht, in his Spechtrograph blog, provides this fascinating photo essay shot during his 2009 visit.