On August 4, 1990, two hikers near Calvine in Scotland took a photograph of a mysterious, diamond-shaped flying object hovering in the middle of the sky.
For 32 years that image, dubbed the "Calvine photo," disappeared from the public eye, becoming the object of speculation, theories and myths. But now, the groundbreaking image has finally resurfaced thanks to the efforts of British journalist David Clarke.
After 13 years of research, Clarke—who has worked as a curator for Britain's National Archives and is currently an associate professor at Sheffield Hallam University—found that former Royal Air Force (RAF) press officer Craig Lindsay had held on to a copy of the last remaining original print, waiting for someone to enquire about the mysterious image.
In the photo—one of a series of six the hikers reportedly took—a diamond-shaped object can be seen flying in the sky, while a fighter jet can be spotted in the background not too far from it.
It's the first time the public has had access to the elusive image, which has been described as the best UFO photo ever taken.
Back in 1990, the two hikers brought the photo to Scotland's Daily Record newspaper for publication. But instead, the newspaper handed the image over to the British Ministry of Defence, which kept it secret until now.
"The Daily Record's picture editor at that time sent them to Craig Lindsay, who was the RAF press officer in Scotland. He passed the print to the Ministry of Defense in London, the Ministry of Defense in London then asked him to obtain the negatives. So he went back to the Daily Record, asked the Daily Record to send the negatives to London, which they duly did—quite amazingly—and that's when they disappeared."
Clarke writes that the information linked to the photo, together with the image, should have normally been released by now, as 30 years have passed.
But the identities of the two hikers who took the photo are still unknown and are not expected to be revealed before 2072, as the Ministry of Defence has cited "privacy concerns."
"Oddly, despite all the publicity, the two chaps who took the photographs have never come forward," Clarke told Newsweek.
"The negatives have never been seen since they reached the Ministry of Defence. Now, the Ministry of Defence say that they returned them to the Daily Record, but the Daily Record say they never received them and they have no idea what happened to them. So there's a lot of questions to be answered."
What Does The Photo Show?
While we don't know what happened to the men who took the photo, we do know what they described happened 32 years ago.
According to what Lindsay told Clarke, the two men were working as chefs in a hotel in Pitlochry, in the Scottish Highlands, when, one summer evening, they decided to go for walk in the hills near Calvine.
While out walking, the two spotted a huge, diamond-shaped flying object, moving silently in the sky.
"They saw this thing in the sky and it scared them," Clarke told Newsweek.
"They ran into some woodland to sort of keep their heads down, and they heard this jet come down the valley and then, two minutes later, it returned and started circling around the object. And that's when they took the photographs."
Whether what the two men saw on that summer evening in 1990 was actually a UFO, as the two men thought then, is still unclear.
Clarke had the photo analyzed by one of his colleagues, Senior Lecturer in Photography at Sheffield Hallam University Andrew Robinson, who said the image shows no sign of manipulation.
"It follows that this is either a genuine unidentified flying object in the sky," the report by Robinson reads, "or that any construction or manipulation used to create this effect occurred in front of the camera and not in the capturing of the scene on film nor in the subsequent processing and printing of the image."
Lindsay is also convinced that the image is not a hoax.
But while Clarke admits the photo is "by far the best UFO photograph" he has ever seen, the journalist says he doesn't believe the object in the image is actually an alien flying saucer.
"Sadly, I do not think that mysterious aircraft arrived from another galaxy," Clarke wrote in a piece he published in the Daily Mail. "I believe it was man-made somewhere in a secret hangar—and whatever it was remains on the secret list and highly sensitive."
He thinks that the mysterious flying object could have been the "Aurora," a top secret reconnaissance aircraft which the U.S. was rumored to be building in the 1980s, though there was never any evidence of such a project, and the U.S. government has consistently denied its existence.
"Although there has never been any substantial evidence that it was ever built or flown, there have been numerous unexplained sightings and incidents in both the U.S. and the U.K. over the years that have fueled the Aurora myth—Calvine included," wrote Clarke.
Though Clarke is "100 percent sure that someone, somewhere in the military establishment in Britain or in the U.S. knows exactly what the photograph shows," the journalist also admits that it's possible the image could be anything—including a prank.
"The other option is that the whole thing is a practical joke, a prank that got out of hand," Clarke told Newsweek.
"The whole purpose of publishing this story is hopefully to get either the photographers themselves or someone who knows the photographers, or knows something about the circumstances, to come forward and solve the mystery."
Newsweek has contacted the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence for comment.
Update, 8/15/2022 12:15 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include an interview with David Clarke.