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Zig-zag light moved across half the sky?

  1. Aug 13, 2012 #1
    Victoria, BC Canada
    approx 23:00-23:20
    Aug 12, 2012

    Went to view the Perseid meteor shower with a friend. We were there about an hour watching when we noticed a small white light moving in the sky. At first we thought it was a small star but ruled it out after it moved a fair distance without fading or disappearing. From where we sat it started about 90 degrees to our right and moved across the sky until it was about 10 degrees to our left. It was doing quite an obvious zig-zag pattern and moved a very large distance across the sky away from us before it slowly disappear. The entire viewing lasted about 5-8 minutes. It was not even 5 minutes after that disappeared when we noticed another light to our left (about 100 degrees or so) and followed it replicating the same pattern going around us, and began to disappear about 10-15 degrees to our right. The second one lasted again just under the 10 minute range.

    As a comparison for height/speed we saw two planes cross nearby at the same time and about 8 meteors. These lights we very steady, left no trail and were moving much quicker than a plan. They appeared quite bright but very small (brightness equal to say the north star but relatively smaller.) They were much higher than an air plane even taking into account the military air shows I've seen at this same location. They also did not grow or decrease in size or brightness. I have seen other meteor showers and been star gazing in this precise area before. These lights were also moving the opposite direction of any of the meteors and had no tails. (no drugs/booze/cloud coverage etc)

    Had my camera with me in hopes of catching a meteor but discovered early on it wasn't capable of picking up the stars so there was no way for me to film it. (Really wish I could have!)

    To give a better idea of our location and direction:
    We were on the bridge facing NNE when this occurred.

    We have both been researching to find a logical explanation for this for the past couple hours with no luck.

    Would love to know what they could have been!
    Thanks for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2012 #2
    UFO! When you say it moved a large distance, was it changing speeds or accelerating at a high rate? Just for giggles check out www.keshefoundation.com. Maybe it was an airspace violation from another nation.

    BTW similar sightings were seen over the great lakes recently matching what you described.
  4. Aug 16, 2012 #3
    I was at the esq lagoon and watched the same light. I would love to have an explanation for this. At first i thought i was a satellite or slow meteorite? But then it started doing small circles , dimming and it went really bright at one point.
  5. Aug 16, 2012 #4

    Jonathan Scott

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    Gold Member

    I've seen something similar which turned out to be a helicopter, but when it was quiet enough I could hear that it was a helicopter too, and obviously it was much closer and slower than I had initially thought. It was much quieter than expected, but I think that was because sound was being deflected upwards by the atmospheric conditions. I presume that the light I could see was some sort of headlight or searchlight, as normally I'd also see navigation lights as well for any form of aircraft.

    I've also seen a helium party balloon (the shiny sort) do a convincing impression of a UFO, but that was relatively soon after sunset.
  6. Aug 16, 2012 #5
    Unless you saw something extraordinary like an unexplanable acceleration....i would assume it was a helicopter. I'm a private helicopter pilot in school for my commercial liscense and i commonly forget to turn off my landing light. I also fly small circles when i'm surveying a spot to land or making room for other traffic. The dimming and turning really bright for a minute could be him turning towards you and his landing light was aimed directly at you for a moment. I've also seen instances looking south along the Salt Lake valley where airliners with their bright landing lights turned on in a pattern at Salt Lake International appear to not be moving. Distances, haze, smoke, celestial lighting, and city light glow can affect one's perception of crafts in the night sky. A helicopter at a distance of more than 20 miles making a turn at that distance would appear stationary or barely moving. You also would have a hard time seeing his Nav lights or strobe at that distance.
  7. Aug 16, 2012 #6
    there was no helicopter sound at all. I have never seen anything like it before. It looked very far away and at one point it got as bright as a full moon.

    Could you see a helicopter light like that and still not hear it maybe?
  8. Aug 16, 2012 #7


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    Staff Emeritus
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    2018 Award

    Avreilla and Masontile, I don't understand some of your description. For example, you say the objects were about as bright as the North start, but not as big? That doesn't make any sense as the apparent size of the star is a direct result of the brightness since it is effectively a point source.

    Also, how far above the horizon were these lights? Did they come straight over the top of you or stay near the horizon while moving?

    How could you tell how high they were?

    What kind of circles did they appear to make? Verticle ones? Horizontal ones?
  9. Aug 17, 2012 #8
    Yes....most of a helicopter's noise is projected down and to the rear.....at night its nearly impossible to tell how far away a light in the sky is.....but 5 miles for a small helicopter, 5-10 miles for larger turbine helicopters....you will not hear them unless they are in a decent and causing what they call blade slap and it is really quiet around you.
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