|Occurred : 6/16/1999 23:40 (Entered as : 06/16/99 23:40)
Reported: 6/18/1999 01:41
Location: Courtenay (Canada), BC
|Object first thought to be a satellite stopped its forward motion, turned some circles, possibly had an "engagement" with another craft then moved off vertically. It remained visible in the same part of the sky for approximately half an hour, at which time the original observer left. Two other witnesses - family members - saw the unusual motion of the first object.
Notes on an unusual occurrence in the night sky 16-17 Jun 1999. I stepped onto the patio at the back of the house for a smoke and was admiring the display of stars. The sky was very clear ; it is often cloud covered to some degree here in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. I located Ursa Major to find Polaris, as I normally do, and found it with no problem. I used the memory trick;d been taught in Navigator;s school; and followed the arc of the Big Dipper;s ;handle” to Arcturus then tried to “speed on to Spica” but wasn’t so sure it was visible. A bright reddish planet was in the western sky – I took it to be Mars, but it may have been Venus. Turning counterclockwise towards the south and then continuing to approximately south east, I spotted a fast moving object apparently at great altitude. I immediately thought “satellite” and watched as it proceeded from southeast to northwest. The object was marginally brighter than the stars around it and about the same diameter. As I watched the “satellite” it stopped and began a counterclockwise rotation describing a circle perhaps the size of the tip of my finger held at arm’s length. It turned for about 3/4s of a circle, stopped and reversed direction – moving clockwise for about half a circle. Thoroughly fascinated, I wanted to get some parametric data on the object’s location. I extended my right arm fully with my thumb and little finger spread as close to a straight line as I could get them. To the left of the curious object was a star noticeably brighter than most of the others around it. With my left eye closed and my thumb just touching the bright star the object was almost exactly a splayed hand spread away from, and in line with, the bright star. To fix the azimuth I dropped my arm to about 45 degrees and noticed that with my thumb on the vertical middle member of the house’s upstairs window my hand filled most of the gap between the house and a small tree in the neighbor’s yard. I noted where I was on the patio using the BBQ and a separation line in the concrete as references. I was approximately one pace away from the leg (on my left) on the back of the BBQ about a foot west from the line on the concrete. I planned to come back later and attempt to get fairly accurate azimuth. For the time being I estimated it to be about 130 degrees true with reference to Polaris. Raising my arm back to the object I estimated its elevation at about 70 degrees (from the horizontal) . Trying to get more detail on the object I looked a few degrees to the right of it to use my peripheral vision. Another quite faint object, reddish in color was moving somewhat erratically side to side below and slightly to the left of my first object. It was proceeding towards the first object. The first object appeared to be moving away from me, that is almost straight up, and it was getting dimmer. I checked my watch and noted the time was 23:40 (Pacific Daylight Time). When I looked back up I thought I saw faint reddish beams of light flash between the two objects. They occurred rapidly – there were perhaps 3 flashes. Both objects continued to move away from me during the “exchange” for lack of a better word. I stuck my head in the door and asked for somebody with good eyes to come have a look at something interesting. The family was watching a video at the time. My wife joined me on patio and I used the bright star as a reference point to steer her line of sight toward the objects. She saw the first one that again stopped and dipsy-doodled around some more. It did not move far, but at that distance it must have had incredible acceleration. She watched for a while and commented on its unusual motion. The second object was all but invisible at this point. I thought I perceived a vary faint golden ring, or halo, flash around the first object a few times. I again tried to use peripheral vision the get a better look, but it was so faint I thought I may have imagined it. I saw this perhaps half a dozen times. I mentioned it to her, but she did not seem to see it. The diameter of the flash would be about the size of a looney (Canadian one dollar coin) held at arms length. I thought maybe something was causing a reflection from my eyeglasses – so I moved my head around slightly – looking at stars near the object- but the only place the halo occurred was around the object, centered on it. My wife went back in the house and a few moments later I saw a meteorite sparkle from east to west overhead then wink out. I was getting a little cold, so I went to get a jacket. Shortly afterwards I saw an aircraft’s red strobe and saw the red and green nav lights as it winged from south to northwest and I heard the jet engines, faintly but clearly, as it passed to the west of me. I noticed it was about 3 minutes after midnight. Our eldest daughter came out and I located the object for her – she was not sure she was looking at the right thing. The object was now a little fainter than the surrounding stars and seemed to be continuing to move vertically away from us. It jinked a little but not as much as before. My neck was sore by now so I went in and scribbled a few notes to later record the event in detail. This is the account of what we saw. I have never seen such an amazing thing in the skies before. I am a 45 year old man still actively serving in the Canadian airforce as an Avionics technician with 29 years military service, holding the rank of Sergeant. I got interested in astronomy – primarily identifying constellations - while undergoing Air Navigator training in 1977. I did not complete the Nav course, but using the stars as navigation aids is an interest I’ve kept ever since. I have the equivalent of a college diploma as an Electronics Engineering Technician. I have been married to my original lovely wife for 23 years. We have 2 daughters, 20 and 17, and share our home with Ollie the bone-head dog. I have spent most of my career working on the flight line on fighter aircraft (CF-104s, CF-5s and CF-18s). I was a Quality Assurance Rep at a defence contractor’s plant for 5 years and have worked at 19 Wing Comox as the Avionics Shop supervisor for 4 and a half years. I am a computer software power-user (my 4 Gig hard drive is full) and an avid flight simulator pilot. I have about 20 hours back-seat time in CF-18 Hornets. I have instructed courses in the military on Theory of Flight, Inertial navigation and Automatic Flight Controls . I received two Suggestion Awards for designing/building technical improvements to the CF-18 and its ground Test Equipment. 1 I later measured the distance from my eye to my spread hand to be about 2 ft 3 inches (or about 70.3 cm). My spread hand from thumb to tip of little finger is 9 inches. Using this data it should be possible to compute the apparent distance of the object from the bright star. 2 I later approximated this angle and used a protractor to arrive at the 70 degrees elevation.