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I saw a UFO..actually, it WAS a weather balloon

Started by 1953, 05/08/2007 05:54AM
Posted 05/08/2007 05:54AM Opening Post
At least I think it was. 8O

Last night about 15 minutes after sunset, I was getting ready to track down Saturn when I noticed a very bright "star" to the southwest, about 60-70 degrees up. It was bright, easily as bright as Venus and not moving to my unaided eye.

"What the heck is that?" I pointed it out to my wife who was messing around in the garden. She was considerably less interested than me.

I thought it might be a Geo satellite that the sun was hitting just right. It was NOT a solar panel "flare" as it was steady.

So I pointed my Intes MN-55 at it (5.5", F5) thinking I might be able to see an image of a satellite. Cool, I thought. I was using a 12 MM UO HD ortho with AP 1.7X barlow to look at Venus before that so everything was in focus.

I centered the "star" in the finder and looked in the eyepiece. I saw a white line with a smaller "star" at its end gliding out of the field of view. "What's that?" I thought as I grabbed the LDX75 hand paddle and slewed the image back into view.

"Oh my God!" I shouted. I now got my wife's attention back. Slowly drifting thru the field was a round, bright luminous ball with a long "tail" and a "star" on the tail's end. The ball was rocking around, wagging the tail. As it rocked I also noticed a bright red light at the base of the globe where the tail came out. The ball looked like it was being illuminated from within, glowing in fact.

I shouted to my wife to come over and look at this. She too was amazed and stood there staring into the eyepiece. I recentered the ball and kept watching it. Amazing! The image was tack sharp (the MN55 has exceptional optics) with the ball intensely outlined against the dark gray background of the twilight. Its surface color was white but it also had structure and banding, in particular, a darker "equatorial" band. The "tail" was white and tack sharp as well. I continue to observe this "UFO" for about 10 minutes, using the hand paddle to recenter the image as it drifted around a bit. Background stars were starting to appear in the field as the globe drifted on. MAJOR SPOOKY! 8O . I started to notice a few more things. The "tail" would flex a bit as it wagged about and there was a knob of some kind where the tail and red light came out of the base of the globe.

Then it happened.....it "popped". There was a star shower of tiny pieces radiating suddenly outward from where the globe used to be. The knob with the tail and light suddenly went slack, slithering like a snake and there was what looked like an open flower twisting about.

AMAZING!! 8O 8O 8O

Before it popped I was coming to the conclusion that I was watching a weather balloon. It just made sense. But man it was thrilling!! In my 45 years of watching the skies, I'd never seen anything as dramatic and unexpected as this!

I then settled down to look at "plain old Saturn". While it was giving up some spectacular images as the atmosphere was excellent, it seemed just a bit anti-climatic.

Jeff

"Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things" 8O
Posted 05/08/2007 07:10AM #1
We saw one Sunday exactly like you discribed.

We got calling everyone we could in our club to look at it and one guy imaged it. I only saw it naked eye. I was in a neighbors' backyard and was going to run home and roll out my dob when it disappeared or popped.

http://avc.comm.nsdlib.org/cgi-bin/wiki_grade_interface.pl?Weather_Balloons