A UFO was sighted by an amateur astronomer in Virgie, Kentucky that was very interesting.
Allen Epling photographed a UFO that was hovering over his home for several hours on the afternoon of the 16th of October. The pictures and video of the UFO with his 8-inch Schmitt-Cassegrain telescope showed an object that appeared transparent and seemed to be reflecting the sun along the edges.
Checking the MUFON database for this date revealed that the same UFO appears to have been observed in different locations many miles apart. If it were the same object, it was visible over an area of about 100 miles, which makes one wonder what it might have been. Several people have speculated on this being a balloon of some kind. Party and solar balloons have been proposed but I am somewhat skeptical of these explanations. Small balloons move pretty rapidly across the sky because of their low altitude even when the wind is not that fast. Additionally, the large area of observations indicates something at a much higher altitude.
Searching the MUFON database further, I found a report (with photographs) from the 15th in Lynchburg, Tennessee 250 miles to the southwest that appeared to be the same object. There was also a report from Huntsville, Alabama that seemed to be the same object. Another search revealed sightings in Cross Junction, Virginia and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania on the 17th of October. This was about 300 miles to the northeast of Virgie. If all of these reports were of the same object, the distance between these locations suggests a speed of about 10 mph in a northeast direction.
Radiosonde data (Nashville, TN and Blacksburg, VA) suggests the altitude of the object might have been around 20,000 meters (65,000 feet) if it were drifting with the wind. At this altitude, winds were from the west and southwest with speeds of 5-20 knots. This is consistent with the suggested flight path in the MUFON database. If this were the case, the balloon must have been a large research balloon of some kind. The altitude also explains why it was visible over such a large area. However, this shape is not something
that one might expect from a research balloon, which is usually teardrop-shaped. Is it something new?
I had to see if there were any balloon launches that might have produced this object. There was the much publicized Red Bull Stratos flight on the 14th, where Felix Baumgartner parachuted from a height of about 128,000 feet. However, this balloon and capsule was recovered. Another possible suspect was launched from Fort Sumner, New Mexico on the 10th. The payload was recovered near Boise City, Oklahoma. Wondering if the balloon did not deflate and drifted away with the upper level winds, I contacted the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) for a response. This seemed to be a plausible explanation and the absence of a payload would cause the shape of the balloon to change. As of November 1st, I have yet to receive a response.
We are left with something of a mystery here. If CSBF tells me that they recovered their balloon, it leaves us with some other source. Is it possible the military was flying a high altitude balloon that they did not want anyone to know about? Hopefully, I will be able to reveal more information about this UFO in SUNlite 5-1.
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2012
That strange cylindrical UFO seen in October 2012
Last issue, I briefly mentioned the sighting of a strange UFO hovering over Kentucky and Tennessee on the October 16th. I also described finding sightings of a similar object the day before in Tennessee and a day later in Virginia and Pennsylvania. At the time, these were my initial findings concerning, what might have been, a “mass sighting” missed by UFOlogists. Now I can present what I discovered in a manner that can help explain the event.
The news reports
The initial reports focused on a sighting by Virgie, Kentucky amateur astronomer, Allan Epling, who photographed and video recorded the UFO in his telescope on October 16th. The images were interesting and there was mention that the UFO had been seen over a wide area. The idea that an actual amateur astronomer saw this UFO piqued my interest and I wanted to learn more about the event.
The various news reports included images by Epling and the video he shot. The image/videos showed what appeared to be a balloon
of some kind. While Epling gave no specifics that can be quantified in his report to MUFON or in the news, he did mention it was at a very high angle of elevation, was of small angular size, and had a slow angular speed.
The magnification Epling stated using was 150X with an 8-inch Schmitt-Cassegrain telescope. He also mentioned he filmed it using a Canon digital camera he pointed towards the eyepiece. In the one video I saw, he zoomed in with the camera. This all indicates Epling shot using an afocal method, which does not actually photograph the entire field of view in the telescope eyepiece. The eyepiece in his telescope looked to have a large apparent field of view, indicating that the true field of view was probably about 0.5 degrees. The size of the image in the video, at its smallest, before Epling began to play with the zoom feature, was about 1/5th of the full field. This makes the maximum angular size to be about 0.1 degrees or 6 minutes of arc. I would think this was a maximum size and it probably was smaller than this value.
This all indicated that either the object was very small and close or very large and distant. The wide range of observations indicated in the news reports seemed to confirm that the object was large and at a very high altitude.
Originally, I only went to the date in question and found a few reports, that sounded like the same object, in the MUFON database.
I then decided to look further and discovered another MUFON report where the witness provided an image that looked similar to the Epling photographs. This was taken the day (the 15th) before in Tennessee. Observers in Huntsville, Alabama also saw this UFO on that morning. If this was the same object, it was moving towards the northeast at a slow rate of speed.
Following this idea, I looked at the 17th and found more reports in area centered on the West Virginia-Maryland border. One observer in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania stated they saw the object in the morning in one are of the sky and then saw it again in another area of the sky in the afternoon. Below is a summary of these reports:
Photographed through spotting scope as cylindrical object that changed brightness. Visible to the north. (MUFON)
Seen by multiple witnesses including MUFON state director over a very large area. Described as a bright dot that fluctuated in brightness. Visible to the north. (MUFON)
Changed shape from point of light to a line that fluctuated in brightness. Slowly drifted towards north-northwest. Time probably in error as it was reported on the 15th at 15:22. (NUFORC)
Long rectangular object seen in binoculars. (NUFORC)
Epling observations (MUFON and news report)
Cylinder shape. Fluctuated in brightness (NUFORC)
Johnson City, TN
Cylinder that fluctuated in brightness. Moved towards west at one point and then hovered. Eventually rose and disappeared from sight. (NUFORC)
Johnson City, TN
Slowly rotating pole-shaped object that varied in brightness. Seen in a NW direction. Eventually disappeared
from sight. (NUFORC)
Piney Flats, TN
Cylindrical object visible to the WNW that varied in brightness. (NUFORC)
Motionless “silver ink pen”. (MUFON)
Cylindrical object. Moved SW to NW. Very rough angular speed of 10-20 degrees/hour. (MUFON)
That strange cylindrical UFO seen in October 2012
Cylinder visible in sky all over town. (NUFORC)
8:30 and 15:45
Object sighted fluctuating in brightness in southern sky in the AM. In afternoon sighting, object was still fluctuating in brightness and visible as an oval shape in ENE.
UFO fluctuating in brightness in the sky. (MUFON)
Object reflecting light that was stationary in the sky. (MUFON)
Cross Junction, VA
Cylinder shaped object visible high in the sky (50-60 degrees) to the north. Fluctuating brightness. (MUFON)
Bright star-like object visible to the north that fluctuated in brightness. (MUFON)
There is a common theme in all these observations. The object was cylinder-shaped, it moved slowly, and was changing its brightness as if the sun’s reflected light was varying as the object tumbled or rotated. One can draw a possible conclusion that these were all observations of the same object. If so, how fast was it moving and was it possible it was wind driven?
The ground track
Based on these observations/reports, I came up with the above approximate ground track of the UFO between October 15th and 17th. It appears that the object traveled about 600 miles in two days. The average speed for this would be about 12 miles/hour (10 knots). This assumes a straight line path. It could have been an oscillating path making the actual speed much higher. This kind of speed seems consistent with something floating with the wind. I checked the radiosonde database at the University of Wyoming to see if the winds might support such a track.
The region of the atmosphere that tends to support the ground track was around 18,000 to 20,000 meters. If we look at that region closer, we see the following:
I looked outside the dates of 15 October and 17 October but really found nothing significant. There was one report on the 18th from an undisclosed location in New York but it really had little in the way of specifics. Manual Borraz showed me a MUFON report from California on the 7th of October that might be the same UFO but it is really hard to connect the dots on this part.
One of the reasons there probably are no observations on the 14th or sooner is the weather in that part of the region. The GOES images for the 14th showed clouds in Mississippi, Louisiana, Western Tennessee, and Arkansas. This same weather pattern was in Texas and Oklahoma the day before. If the UFO was airborne over this region on the 14th (and possibly the 13th), nobody on the ground would have seen it.
The Northeast was engulfed in clouds on the 19th, which means the only time the UFO might have been seen (assuming it continued its track) was on the 18th. As I stated previously, there was one observation in New York that might have been the same UFO but it really was too vague to draw any conclusion on this.
The potential source
What do we know about our UFO at this point? Based on the winds data, it seems the object was carried by the wind at an altitude of about 20,000 meters. A reasonable explanation is that this was a clear cylindrical balloon that was about 100 feet or less in size. I had originally suspected it might be related to the balloon launch from Fort Sumner, NM on the 10th. However, I never received a response from my inquiry where I asked if they had recovered their balloon. It is normal for them to do so and since there were no NOTAMs issued for a wayward balloon, I must assume that they did.
Another possibility was mentioned by Manual Borraz and several others:
South Korean protesters have been launching these balloons containing leaflets, food and socks for most of 2012. Some have been from boats offshore. It got so bad that the North Koreans threatened to attack if the South Korean government did not stop them. They issued a ban in October but I am not sure if it stopped the balloon launches. The balloons in the images to the right have a remarkable similarity to the Epling images on the left.
Could such a balloon find its way into the upper atmosphere and make it to the US? I guess it might be possible but is it possible one of these could reach 60,000 feet without bursting? It would have to have been a lucky shot but considering the hundreds (if not thousands) of these balloons being launched, the odds are reasonable that one might make it that far. Another possibility is that somebody decided to fly a similar balloon in the US based on what they saw happening in Korea. No matter what the source, the balloon hypothesis for this UFO seems to be a reasonable solution.