NUFORC Home Page
Web Report Indexes : by Event Date | by Location | by Shape | by Posting Date

National UFO Reporting Center
Sighting Report
Occurred : 9/1/1999 21:30 (Entered as : 09/01/99 21:30)
Reported: 10/12/1999 10:31
Posted: 3/21/2003
Location: Black Rock City (near Gerlach), NV
Shape: Fireball
Duration:45 sec. - 1.5 min.
Horizon to horizon cluster of slow-miving, fragmenting fireballs with colorful trails

to be honest, i didn't look at the time, but it was a few hours before midnight 9/1/99. i was particibating in an event called burning man, in the black rock desert northeast of gerlach nevada, approx. 80 miles due north of reno. i was out on the playa, talking with a guy named scott at pyro camp (one of the very remote, outlying camps out on the playa, southeast of the man, near the train tracks. he was trying to recruit us to help rig the man with explosives for saturday's burn.). i was talking to him, facing what i thought to be westnorthwest, when i noticed what i thought was a firework above his head. after i lost track of what he was saying and tuned in to what i was seeing, my jaw dropped open... it was just above the mountains to the north of black rock city. this "display" was moving in a northwest to southeast direction (my best guess). what i saw was about 3 lights, eventually becoming 5 to eight chunks of "stuff". i didn't see any actual shapes, just big points of light, but there was one "main" leading chunk, with the others being various smaller sizes, trailing behind and slightly off to either side. there seemed to be fewer at first, and it sort of slowly crumbled into more pieces as it flew across the sky, some fizzling out, some new ones breaking off from the main chunk. minus the mountains to the north and south, from horizon to horizon this event lasted at least 45 seconds, maybe as much as a minute/minute and a half. the colors i saw (i would consider this very accurate, with me being so far away from the light of camp, and with well-adjusted night eyes, and the fact that i used to do color correction for a pre press company) were this: the chunks were a orangish-white, and each had an orangish glow and a "vapor trail" that seemed to be a somewhat greenish color closer to the chunks and turning to a darkish purple towards the tail ends. the trails had a kind of billowing sheet-like quality to them, slowly expanding, cycling thru the colors mentioned, then fading out. it seemed that by about halfway through my observation many citizens of BRC had noticed it too. people were yelling and cheering and clapping and hollering. i remember myself yelling "take me home" a few times. another feature i remember is a kind of black smoke just behind some of the chunks. i kept asking myself "is that smoke? how can i be seeing smoke in the night sky?" the moon was due to rise shortly thereafter, so it may have been illuminated by the not-yet-seen moon. it sort of looked like the smoke coming out of old coal trains, only not nearly as thick or opaque. very subtle. and then it was gone. over the mountains. i never saw a deviation in directon, or any other lights etc coming to meet it or break away, other than what i am pretty sure to be a faint shooting star that happened to cross right through the heart of this thing/things, about 3/4 thru my time of observation. there did seem to be one chunk that dropped quickly away from the others at about the same time, but i wouldn't swear on that. there was no sound whatsoever. this WAS NOT a meteorite. and in my opinion, it was going too slow and covered too much distance to really be some sort of booster rocket, the more i think about it. it really had about the same relative speed, if not slower, as a satellite seen in the sky right after sunset. to me it seemed to be powered, given the length and distance of my observation. i would think something such as a booster casing re-entering orbit would die out much faster, and be coming in at a much sharper angle. this seemed to have a constant altitude to me, although how high i couldn't even guess. it seemed low enough and slow enough to not be really burned by atmospheric friction, in which case it must have been powered in some way to maintain its altitude, yet on the other hand, it seemed very high up and thus moving at a greater speed, but i would think if that were the case, there would be one of those atmospheric pressure waves or whatever they are called leading it, like i have seen when the shuttles re-enter orbit. i just remembered one of the theories i head around BRC the next night... a hacker was bringing down satellites, one by one. if it was man-made, my guess would be a satellite, not a booster rocket, unless it was one that had been caught in a semi-stable orbit for some time and was taking it's own damn sweet time coming back down. maybe iridium investors doing some insurance fraud? all in all, it was absolutely amazing. and what fuels my suspicions more than anything is the fact that i haven't heard any "official" explanation anywhere about it. i would think that something so spectacular and witnessed by so many people would have quite a few news stories or talking heads or scientists or nasa geeks or SOMEBODY talking about it. c'mon, at least give us a good cover-up story! and that's all i have to say. bug - denver, colorado