View Full Version : Question...what did we see?????

2009-Aug-12, 07:39 PM
So, my daughter and I decided to try to catch the meteor shower last night. We went outside a little earlier then we should have but we could already see some flying by:) Well, I live in Minnesota...southern Minnesota. It was about 11 pm and I was looking to the Northeast. There was a white light moving slowly so my first thought was airplane. But then it started moving down out of the sky toward us and kept getting brighter and brighter as it got closer. So my next thought was meteor or something...having a hard time burning out. But the darn thing just kept coming. At this point, my daughter got scared and jumped up into my arms and I was like running for my front door! I seriously thought something was gonna hit the ground. But it stopped, turned around , went back up and then flew off to the north. In a matter of seconds it was completely gone. I don't know what to make of it and thought maybe I could find a reasonable explination for it here. Any theories on what it may have been?

2009-Aug-12, 07:50 PM
How long was that light visible? A few seconds? If so: try going to the Heavens Above (http://heavens-above.com/) website, select your geographic location as close as possible (use the "what time is it?" to verify the timezone is set correctly), under Satellites click the previous 48 hrs link. You may get a listing of Iridium Flares. If one of those events matches your observation we can explain what it was.

Create a bookmark for the website with your location selected, there are other things you could check there later, it's a useful resource.

grant hutchison
2009-Aug-12, 07:55 PM
But then it started moving down out of the sky toward us and kept getting brighter and brighter as it got closer.Like slang, I'm wondering if you saw an Iridium flare: a transient, very bright, reflection from a satellite.
That can give the impression of a rapidly approaching object, because the light gets very much brighter very quickly, like something racing straight towards you. So did you see anything at all, apart from the change in brightness, to suggest the light was actually moving towards you?

Grant Hutchison

2009-Aug-12, 08:02 PM
Without actually being there, it's hard to say. Most likely culprit? An airplane or helicopter.

A lot of people feel insulted at such a mundane suggestion (i.e., "I'm not dumb, I know what an airplane looks like!"), but the simple truth is that observation of objects at night can play tricks on even seasoned sky-watchers.

An aircraft that happens to be heading relatively straight at the observer will have a light that looks brighter and larger than usual, just like a car's headlight is much brighter when viewed head-on, rather than from the side.

Distance and altitude can be very difficult to determine, but our brain tries it's darndest to do so. That means objects can look like they're moving much faster or much slower than they really are, and a change in heading can look like a very fast, or instantanious, change in direction.

Once the air craft is flying away, the lights can be smaller, dimmer, and harder to notice, giving the impression that they disappeared or zoomed way off into the sky.

And if the aircraft isn't audible, it really seems like an odd sight.

That's my best guess.

2009-Aug-12, 08:54 PM
Im going to go check that other site out. It could very well have been a reflection I guess. But the airplane theory, being it was one of my own first theories, just doesn't stick well, considering the movement. It came straight down and then TURNED and went back up. And then proceeded off to the north. We could see it coming for a bit before it got so close it scared us. lol...it didn't start off to fast, kinda sped up as it came. I've just never seen a plane come at you and then turn around and go in a completely different direction. lolz...

2009-Aug-12, 09:00 PM
Aircraft approach lights are very bright and very directional. My best guess is that it was a light aircraft.

2009-Aug-12, 09:29 PM
Based on how it's been described so far, I'm also guessing it was an aircraft as well. To me, it sounds as if an aircraft might have been on final approach, flying more or less directly at the observers (but descending), then executed a missed approach by pulling back up then turning back into the pattern.

2009-Aug-12, 09:38 PM
It's hard to tell without more accurate information on timing. But aircraft flying into your location, then turning away sharply isn't rare or impossible. Military aircraft do unexpected things all the time. Because they can, because they are vectored in another direction, and/or because being predictable might get you killed :)

Jeff Root
2009-Aug-12, 10:17 PM

Can you estimate how long it was visible to you? From your description
we can't tell if it was two seconds or two minutes. Can you estimate how
far it moved across the sky in that time? For example, maybe it moved
from the constellation Cassiopeia to near the bright star Vega.

Roughly where were you located? I just wonder how far you were from
airports. Anywhere near Rochester?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

2009-Aug-12, 11:05 PM
No, there are no airports right close by. The closest one is about and hour and a half away. From the time we first noticed it until the time it moved up and away, it was a total of about 3 min and then once it was up, it was out of site in a matter of one min. I'm over in Vernon Center. Rochester is west of here...quite a drive. lol:)

2009-Aug-12, 11:11 PM
Hmm.. go to the same webpage (with the picked location) and click "10 day predictions for: ISS". On the next page click "Prev" until the date matches. If anything shows up for the right time, you have seen the International Space Station, which is an absolute joy to see under the right circumstances. Amazingly bright.. and in very, very rare conditions, it can be literally blindingly bright.

2009-Aug-12, 11:18 PM
Maybe it was a police helicopter.

2009-Aug-12, 11:27 PM
it possibly could of been a plane but aircraft dont usually move as fast as the OP explained. i watch planes make turns for approach to the tarmac as the path of flight for approach goes right by my house and they never move that fast to the live eye,even though in reality they are moving at a great velocity.
even when not on approach like taking off or in mid flight they dont seem to move so fast even though are.

just 2 cents added.

2009-Aug-13, 03:42 AM

On the MUFON site (www.mufon.com) under UFO Case, Last 20 reports, I notice there is a report similar to yours from Iowa on Aug 11.

Jeff Root
2009-Aug-13, 05:05 AM
No, there are no airports right close by. The closest one is about an
hour and a half away. From the time we first noticed it until the time
it moved up and away, it was a total of about 3 min and then once it
was up, it was out of site in a matter of one min. I'm over in Vernon
Center. Rochester is west of here...quite a drive. lol:)
I've never heard of Vernon Center. I see that's south of Mankato.
Did you mean that you are west of Rochester? (And even farther
away from Rochester than from the MSP airport!)

So there's no regular airport at Mankato. There must at least be a
landing field, though.

Four minutes would be the horizon-to-horizon time for a satellite in
low Earth orbit such as Iridium and the International Space Station.
If you saw it cross only a fraction of the sky in four minutes, I'd say
that's too slow. Also, I'm not sure the Sun would illuminate either an
Iridium satellite or the ISS at 11 PM in southern Minnesota. I don't
have the software to quickly find the altitude of the edge of Earth's
shadow, but the websites for Iridium flares and satellites in general
take it into account. But I suspect that any satellite close enough
for you to see was too low to be in sunlight at 11 PM.

Iridium satellites are in approximately north-south orbits. They can
be headed either north or south, but never east or west. ISS is in a
51.6 degree orbit, so it passes over Minnesota at an angle which is
more like west-east than north-south. It always goes from west to
east, and always at an angle, although the angle varies greatly.

Maybe it was a police helicopter.
That seems extremely unlikely. Because I'm right beside an interstate
freeway and close to a major hospital that does transplant surgery,
helicopters go by my place relatively often, so I'm familiar with them.
They are loud. They can be heard a long way off. Also, I doubt that
Vernon Center is much of a center of police interest. As far as I know,
the Minnesota State Patrol is the only law enforcement entity in the
state with helicopters, and I think they only have three. Minnesota
is pretty big. So that possibility is a real stretch.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

2009-Aug-13, 02:33 PM
Ok..did the 10 day prediction thing it says there were no visible passes at that time...hmmmm...and I was actually pretty excited over the prospect that it could have been that...
I looked at the website with the UFO report...oddly similar it was.
But I guess I won't know with certainty what we saw. Thanks for all your help trying to figure it out:) Ya'll are great:)