|Occurred : 5/24/2002 05:50 (Entered as : 05/24/02 05:50)
Reported: 5/24/2002 5:38:47 PM 17:38
Location: Oregon City, OR
|Bright, non-circular object hovers far above Oregon City OR at dawn, 2002/05/24
After carrying trash out for pickup, I started watching a jet passing S-N nearly overhead, a little to the east. Dawn was imminent and the sky was bright and clear with an intermittent light high cloudiness. The jet was in sunlight, I was not. I was noticing the contrail was made by four engines (wing-mounted), a little more unusual to see these days. So, probably a large airliner or military transport. As I was working this out, I noticed a steady bright spot just east of the contrail, approximately due east of me. Only Venus or maybe Jupiter would shine so brightly, but this was roughly 40 degrees above the horizon and perhaps just a tad larger than Venus at its best. Besides, it's been all over the media that all the bright planets are currently grouped in the west just after sunset. I noticed the object did not seem to move, so it wasn't an airplane or satellite (Later I checked with the Starry Night planetarium program, and no bright planets or stars were in that part of the sky. Any satellites that showed up in the program were moving much too fast.) I noticed the contrail was drifting eastward, toward the object, which appeared stationary. I ran in and grabbed a pair of 20x50 binoculars. By the time I returned, just a few minutes (3?) had passed but the contrail was now east of the object, drifting and spreading. I had the impression the object was much higher altitude than the contrail, but did not witness the one cross the other. The object had not moved. If it were moving as a star or planet, it would not have moved far enough in the short time to be noticeable, however. I leaned against my car to help steady the binocular image. Focus was consistent with a very distant object. It was still small, but not a point source, and appeared to be somewhat rectangular, or possibly a cylinder if it were oriented roughly NW-SE and pointed down about 60 degrees toward the northwest. It was bright white, I assumed by reflection of the coming Sun, but there were two much brighter round spots on the north, lower-facing side. These were so bright they must have been bright lights or direct specular reflections of the Sun. The light was not colored, appearing white. I watched it for a total time of at least ten minutes, during which time I did not perceive any motion, neither gross translation nor wobble nor spin. Angular size was very small, perhaps 5 arcminutes. I returned about an hour later, after the Sun had risen, but between the bright sky and a slight overcast, was unable to reacquire the object. If I had to guess, I'd say the jet I saw was roughly 20,000 feet altitude (did not appear to be on approach to PDX, of which I see plenty), the high thin cloud layer at roughly 25,000, and the object high above the clouds at 45,000 feet (which would make a 5 arcminute object around 65 feet long). Surface winds were still, but according to the weather service winds flowed west to east at 40 knots up at 37,000 feet, slower at lower levels (surface calm, 5,000' < 10 knots; 10,000' 10-20 knots, all W to E). Witness is a licensed pilot, amateur astronomer and space educator, familiar with most things in the sky.