Friday, August 30, 2013

I Saw a UFO...In the True Sense

Did I see a UFO?  In the truest sense, what I initially observed fit the criteria.  This past Wednesday night, I was out in my backyard doing a little star gazing.  My wife was busying packing for a next day trip to China which is part of her Executive MBA program with the University of California at Irvine.  Not wanting to get in the way of this carefully orchestrated packing ritual, I retreated outside...a ploy that has served me well for the past 31 years of marriage.

I had taken to the backyard with a pair of binoculars and my three dachshunds, I opted not to haul out the telescope for this night.  The night sky was clear and I was casually looking at the fading summertime constellations.  I was mostly interested in viewing Ursa Major, particularly the double star, Mizar, and it's optical double, Alcor.  Both stellar objects appear as one star to the naked eye, but are easily distinguished as doubles with binoculars.  Arcturus was low in the western part of the sky, but readily noticeable.

So it was that I began to casually scan the southern direction of the sky.  I had been observing for no more than thirty minutes when a brief flash of light entered into my binocular's field of view.  I could make out a fast moving object traveling approximately from the north in a southerly direction.  Then I completely lost track of the object.

The following is information based on recall (this is now Friday morning two days later):

Date and Time:  28 August 2013 approximately 2030.

Duration of siting:  Approximately 5 seconds.

Conditions:  Night was clear with no cloud cover.  No moon was visible.  Temperature was approximately in the low 80s F.  Slight wind breeze.

Brief Description of the Observation:   At approximately 8:30 pm, I was casually observing the night sky with a pair of binoculars.  I was observing generally in a southerly direction approximately 50 degrees above the horizon I caught a glimpse of a flash of light and the brief outlines of an object moving at a high rate of speed. After about 5 seconds (or less) I lost track of the object.  It appeared to be moving from generally a north to south direction.  Immediately afterwards, I observed three objects in the northern portion of the sky moving in formation with flashing red and green lights.  All three objects made a noise similar to that of a helicopter or propeller driven aircraft.  These three objects were moving in an apparent west to east direction and were visible and audible for approximately 1 to 2 minutes.

If we look at my description of the brief events, my observations are vague and open to interpretation.  I'm positive of the date of occurrence, but "iffy" on the exact time as it could have easily been more closer to 2100, yet I'm not quiet sure.  I may be in the general ball park, but what is that ball park?  The same can be held as true for the immediate timing of the follow-on three objects observed in the northern sky.

What of the conditions?  It's true that the sky was clear with no hint of clouds, and the moon was nowhere to be seen, but what of the temperature?  It was simply an estimation on my part.  Rather than being in the 80sF, it could have easily been in the mid 70sF.  Is the temperature relevant in this case?  Probably not.

If we look at my description of observation, I'm somewhat vague in that area.  I use the terms "approximately", "generally", and "apparent" in my narrative.  Though I'm quite certain of what I saw for a brief few seconds, I'm not quiet sure of the other details that I mention above.

Did I see the object for 5 seconds?  Even that is debatable as I could have only been visibly exposed for 2 to 3 seconds, by now judging from looking at my wrist watch sweep hand.  Simply, 5 seconds of visual exposure to the object is now totally in doubt.  The observation of the three flying objects in the northern sky is probably more of an accurate time of exposure since these objects were moving at slower speed based on my point of observation.

What had I observed?  Since the object gave the appearance of emitting a brief flash of light and remained at a constant rate of speed I can probably rule out military or commercial aircraft.  It's entirely possible that I observed a satellite in a low orbit, but equally probable was that I had observed a meteor.  The other three objects were definitely military aircraft, either helicopters or Osprey's flying in formation at a much slower rate of speed as my "UFO" plus the audible noise of Mil-spec engines differentiates from commercial craft.  The flashing red and green strobe lights are further tells.

My classification of the object in the southern sky did fit the definition of a UFO...I was unable to initially identify the object.  Subsequent logical explanations were thought of and my above logical candidates were chosen as the likely culprit.  The other three objects north of my location were immediately identified as military aircraft flying in formation probably originating from Marimar Marine Corps Air Station (20 southwest of my location) heading east towards either China Lake or Yuma, AZ.  Again the sound of the Mil-spec engines and flashing strobe lights were a give-away.  But, what type of aircraft remains undetermined as I could not make out the aircraft features.

This was a good personal experiment (not originally the intention) showing the lack of detail that we normally see in UFO reports from casual observers.  Most important, it showed that I'm not immune to observational discrepancies. I've now made it a point to bring out a note book during my night sky viewing times so that I might be able to provide more accurate detail should I come across "odd" observations.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I attributed my brief observation to either a satellite or meteor. I'm hedging more towards a satellite that was in a geosynchronous-type of orbit. There are a couple of web sites that illustrate how much space junk orbits the's astounding.

  3. My guess is you probably saw a satellite glint. You should check Heaven's above to see what it might have been.

  4. Tim, thanks for the web site! Checking on the site, there appears to be quiet a few possible satellites that could fit my observation.

    The main purpose of the post was to demonstrate that lack of precise observational data could lead to poor conclusions. BTW, I neglected to pinpoint a precise altitude for the object. I said approximately 50 degrees, yet it may have been greater, let's say closer to 60 degrees.

    So if I have a inferential deviation of 10 degrees either way, then the possibilities of including numerous satellites increases. Thanks for recommending Heavens Above, lots of information on the site.

    Tim H.

  5. You wrote the object was fast moving, showed a flash of light but was no longer visible mere seconds later. You also report outlines. It doesn't sound like a satellite observation to me.
    I recall one time at sunset, high up in the east in a clear sky, an exceptionnaly bright satellite. It was illuminated by the just-slipped-behind-the-horizon sun. Its slow steady motion made it clear that it was a satellite and it did not disappear suddenly but rather faded away.

  6. Having observed the sky for many years, there are such things as "glints". These are satellites that are faint and can not be seen but suddenly catch sunlight on a flat panel or surface. This causes them to flare up briefly to visibility. Iridium flares are a reasonable example of this but they usually flare up gradually and not as quickly as a "glint".
    Back in the mid-1980s, amateur astronomers thought they had located an optical gamma ray burster in the Aries/Perseus area. It became known as the Perseus flasher or "OGRE". For a few months, it was quite the news and several articles appeared in Sky and telescope. A photograph was also taken of what was believed to be the object. Eventually, somebody did an analysis of the photographs and observation times. It was determined that satellite glints were the common cause of the observations that were reported.

  7. Kolyma, I perceived a general outline, but I can not describe it in any detail. Yes, its speed, or better yet, it's velocity was constant. I can say accurately, velocity, since I have a general direction of travel...southerly...possibly southeasterly in direction. It's velocity appeared constant, that is, I noticed no slowing nor acceleration. It was only briefly in my binocular's field of view and I was unable to keep it in the field of view or simply lost it in the darkness.

    Tim Printy's term of glint probably describes my brief flash observation more accurately. BTW, this is not the first time that I've had an object race by while viewing the sky, I've also observed this with my telescope though I had not observed a glint or flash of light.

    The classic UFO sighting tends to be affiliated with a point of bright light(s), changing illumination intensity, changing colors and making perceived severe maneuvers. My observation was devoid of all of the above.

    A satellite is the only logical conclusion for my brief observation...still an outside chance that it was a meteor...

  8. So 'fast moving' meant satellite-like speed. The satellite glints are said to last about one second, your observation seemed to have been longer.
    I guess we can rule out a firefly dans le ciel d'Escondido.

    I was not aware that these glints can show up at nearly any time of the night.

  9. I was not aware Until Now that these glints can show up at nearly any time of the night. That's what I meant

  10. Kolyma,

    "So 'fast moving' meant satellite-like speed. The satellite glints are said to last about one second, your observation seemed to have been longer."

    I initially stated "fast moving" as a general description of movement...not really a good choice of words on my part...that's part of my little exercise. I should have stated constant rate of velocity, to the best of my judgement, but I unintentionally provided a vague description.

    Was the object moving at satellite speed? That I really don't know. I'd have to observe passing satellites to compare. Was, or is this still a "UFO"? I believe that it still fits the general criteria as I've yet to definitively identify the object. But...I've logical choices to make to conclude that it was a prosaic object of some sort.

    PS: No fireflies here in SoCal. Last ones that I observed was when I was living in New Hampshire and Virginia.

  11. Hello Tim,

    I reported your observation to some French friends.
    One of them proposed this one as candidat:
    If he have well understood your observation: flashing object/ N to S, around 50° south horizon, 28 August at 8.30 PM (local), Escondido California.

    Iridium 24 satellite (out of control):
    Descending Orbit. Earth revolutions since launch: 82315.6
    Flashes: Period 10 sec, dim, but with add. irreglar brighter flashes
    Appears 20h26m42s 9.9mag az: 3.3° N horizon
    Culmination 20h34m09s 6.2mag az: 86.2° E h:55.4°
    distance: 906.3km height above Earth: 764.4km elevation of Sun: -16° angular velocity: 0.46°/s
    Disappears 20h38m23s 7.9mag az:161.9° SSE h:14.4°

    Dunno if it is this one, but well, it sounds good...



  12. Hi Gilles,

    I thought of a possible Iridium satellite after viewing the site that Tim Printy had recommended. I only saw one brief flash of light as that is what got my attention.

    Interesting observation, last night at 2120 local time, and I had my journal with me to write it down, I observed a meteor in the North East direction between Cassiopeia and Andromeda. This was eye sight with no aid of binoculars or telescope.

    Based on further thought reflection, the meteor sighting, leads me to move more to the satellite conclusion...but what satellite is still the question. Again, there is so much space junk in orbit.

    BTW, I enjoyed your article that Rich Reynolds had posted on his site last week concerning Caravaca's "external agent" or as you proposed, "no need for an external agent."

  13. Back in 2010, I posted a video of what I thought was a point meteor. Ian Ridpath pointed out it was probably a glint. Closer examination revealed a faint satellite was in the area at the time and probably produced the glint. Does this look familiar?

  14. Tim, your video appears to be very close to what I had observed.

  15. Re Tim,

    I asked my friend again. IF iridium 24 sat. is your object (or a similar one), you can repeat again your observation and sighting as I expected.
    And to appreciate if it could be your object, or not, because Iridium 24 Sat. will be visible again from Escondido. You will have all informations (where to watch, when, etc.) with the following link.
    Notice the Heavens Above new tool: when clicking on the date, you will get a "star chart" in order to help where to watch.

    I hope it could help (?)



  16. Hi Tim,

    Obviously "lights in the sky" can be many things. However, if you're really interested in determining if there are UFOs, i.e. of flying objects extraterrestrial origin, there's plenty of clear evidence, and that the occupants of same have been in contact with one man on Earth, named Billy Meier, for over 70 years.

    Such claims are controversial and, of course, quickly attacked by skeptics who assume that it all must be nonsense. One such skeptic, Stuart Robbins, bit off more than he can chew. For instance, when he recently posted a video of a quadcopter, offering it as a likely explanation for many UFO sightings, I posted a clear, daytime film clip, from 1976, of a UFO with two lights flashing that demolishes his intended dismissal.

    Or at least I thought I posted it. Robbins, who is quite intimidated by the mountainous, irrefutable evidence in the Meier case, quietly censored it.

    See my blog titled:

    Spineless Skeptic Still Can’t Handle the Truth

    And, if anyone here really is interested, I can point you to where you'll find enough solid evidence - that meets scientific AND legal standards of proof. It's all free.