Neighbor Betty and I have a standing date to meet up late at night to watch the Perseids meteor shower. We've been doing this for a couple of years. We set up our chairs and spend a couple of hours watching the sky and talking. It's always a beautiful way to spend an evening.
This year the Perseid shower was to peak on the night of August 12th. We set up our chairs on her daughter's driveway because she lives on higher ground. We saw several small streaks of light as meteors hit the atmosphere. There were also several larger meteors trailing brilliant tails. They were traveling incredibly fast.
About midnight Betty's daughter came outside to join our watch. It was a short time later that we had our close encounter of the first kind.
Let me say at this point that Neighbor Betty has several things on her bucket list. One of them is to see an Aurora Borealis. I have orders to call her any time of the night, if I see an Aurora. But seeing an unidentified flying object is probably NOT on her bucket list.
As we were looking to the northwest we noticed something very strange. A light appeared, faint at first, growing brighter and stronger. The only way I can describe it is that it pulsed slowly, from faint to very bright then back down to faint, and gone. It was not like anything we'd seen before. It was at least 30 times brighter than Venus. There were no companion lights, such as an airplane would have. In my mind it was definitely not an airplane.
We watched the area because if it was a plane the light would appear again but the position would change as it moved in the sky. I fully expected the light to appear again in a slightly different location.
There it was again. Pulsing from nothing to bright..... in the EXACT SAME SPOT in the sky. Now we were truly puzzled. Our minds raced to make some sense of what we were seeing. Seconds passed. The light pulse appeared a third time.
Seconds passed. I'm counting in my head. One... two... three... four. There it is again. This time very faint, making it seem as if it had moved a great distance away. And there was more. On both sides of the main light was a trail, making the light look like an elongated oval.
We continued the discussion about what this could possible be. We scratched our heads and watch more comets. As we parted our ways we wondered once again.
The next morning I hit the internet. There were no reports of anything strange happening in our area. But something strange had happened. A few days later I ran into a neighbor who is a pilot. I recounted our experience to him, hoping he might have some explanation. And he did.
He said we probably saw an Iridium Satellite. Never heard of it. Evidently it's used to service satellite phones and the configuration of it's solar panels creates the light pulse that we had seen.
IRIDIUM SATELLITE FLARES
It is usual to see three, four or more pulses and certainly unusual that the light appears to be stationary. But what I've deduced is that from our position the satellite was moving directly away from us which accounted for the fact that it appeared motionless to us.
Iridium Satellite - Source, Wikipedia
The streaks to each side give the optical appearance of something ovoid.
Mystery solved. But I am not happy because I love a little mystery in life. It sometimes annoys me that scientists feel duty bound to explain absolutely everything. Let's leave some mystery.
And so, my bucket list still contains the item.....
- Have a close encounter of the first kind.