Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

Unusual Sightings

2010 December 13

The following are some of the reports the webmaster has received over the years of unusual sky phenomena. The Webmaster makes no claims regarding their authenticity or accuracy.

Missile Launch?

2006 May 9

Mike M.
Above eastern Pacific Ocean

The webmaster initially stored this report with other Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launch observations. However, upon later examination, it was determined that a Vandenberg AFB launch did not occur on this date.

Initial report:

"I saw the launch this morning from about 650 miles west and 41,000 up. A great place to see a launch. I was wondering what kind of launch vehicle it was. It seemed to travel mostly in a westward arc but after what appeared to be a couple of stage separations a forward moving puff of smoke appeared and then the object seemed to go staight up from that point continuing as a point of light going up vertically until we lost sight of it. I was also in about the same location for last weeks launch but only got to see the remains of the smoke trail as the sun came up."

Follow-up comments:

"The location and altitude are correct. I am an airline pilot and I was returning from Hawaii going to Phoenix. I don't recall which island but can find out if you need it. We leave around midnight from Hawaii and that puts us in a good spot for the early launches."

"It would be 650 nautical miles and we were actually more South West. That mileage is from Vandenberg and was taken from out flight management computer. Our Lat/Long would be around N28 47.8 W133 15.4. That is an approximate guess. We use several tracks when crossing the Pacific to Hawaii and that is from one of the tracks that we normally use. I also recall a few flights being rerouted to the Southern tracks from Northern ones which isn't normal but when we saw the launch we realized that Air Traffic Control was just clearing the area below the launch track."

"I will double check the date but I recall sending the email the day I saw it. I have seen several launches before and this looked just like the rest, this however was by far the best location to watch from. Also, it was witnessed by several other planes in the area, some of them mentioning it over the radio. I will check with the Captain that I was flying with on that trip and see if he has anything to add."

Unusual Point of Light

2006 August 4 ~21:45 PDT

Tom R.
Sequoia National Park, California

The observer initially reported that this sighting occurred on August 9. After checking his calendar he determined the correct date was August 4.

Initial report:

"I was on a backpacking trip in Sequoia National park the week of August 7-11 (Wednesday the 9th) and happened to see an object in the sky (we assumed it was a satellite) as it passed through the Northern Cross, it changed trajectories, then got REAL bright, in a white, round dot, then disappeared.

I looked at the launch schedule for Vandenburg AFB, but nothing rings a bell there. I thought maybe space debris, but no orange glow as it broke up. It was far too high to be an airplane."

Follow-up comments:

"Well normally Satellites travel in very predictable straight lines, but this made a curl. During the "curl" it became super white bright, brighter than any other star in the sky, then went out. There wasn't any orange sparkler type debris after, say from reentry or anything like that."

"It would have been Friday August 4th, and probably 9:30-10pm. (Sky was very dark, and at that time of year, the horizon glows util probably 9:15-30)

It would be hard to tell about it curling but it seemed to be a curl, but chances are, it probably did spiral, but no way to know from my vantage point. The best reference would be the Northern Cross..."

Fast Radar Contact

1947 September or October

Name Withheld
Off the Ventura-Santa Barbara coast, California

"This was in October or November of 1947. I was an Electronic Technician's Mate on board the U.S. Navy submarine Blueback, and was on duty one evening as operator of our aircraft radar. We were sailing northward at a point somewhere off the Ventura-Santa Barbara coast. Suddenly I saw (and reported to the Captain) a blip that was steadily moving across the PPI screen at a rate that I clocked as about 1,000 mph. As I recall it was moving in a SW to NE direction, toward the coast. The blip was so strong, with such a constant motion in a straight line, that I didn't think it could have been anything but a real object.

In the fall of 1947 I knew of no aircraft that flew at that speed. We had to report the sighting as "unidentified." But I have wondered since -- could I have been watching one of the first supersonic flights (perhaps by Scott Crossfield) from Edwards AFB -- or could it have been some rocket test? However the direction -- toward the coast -- makes the latter seem unlikely."

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