|Occurred : 5/5/2003 21:22 (Entered as : 05/05/03 21:22 pm)
Reported: 5/5/2003 8:18:57 PM 20:18
Location: Jacksonville, FL
|Triangular formation of lights observed in a telescope, moving from west to east.
While observing M-44 (an open star cluster in Cancer) earlier this evening with a 60 mm refractor, I noticed a triangular grouping of lights that moved directly across this large cluster, from west to east, as I watched. Luckily, I was able to sweep the telescope across the sky so as to follow this group for several minutes until it moved into trees to the east.
At the time, I was using a wide-field, low power ocular [25 X, approx. two degree field of view] on a telescope with an altazimuth mounting, so it was realtively easy to observe and track the object(s) as they moved across the sky. I live in an urban location (Jacksonville) with a good bit of background sky glow. In addition, this evening there was a waxing crescent moon in the sky, and some light haze and clouds, so that there is no chance that I would have noticed this phenomenon had I not been using a telescope.
What I observed appeared to be three, point-like lights, perhaps no brighter than fourth magnitude stars, moving together in a tight pattern that resembled a foreshortened isosceles triangle. The long axis of the group was approximatley three quarters of a degree. While watching the grouping of lights move across the sky in the telescope, I was impressed by the fact they seemed to move in perfect fromation, keeping the same visual aspect and reminding me of nothing so much as the three illuminated corners (running lights) of a solid, trinagualr object seen from an oblique perspective.
Curiously, as I followed this group of three lights in the telescope, there was no observed occultation of stars as it passed in front of them, despite the very strong visual impression (illusion?) that I was watching a dark, solid object move across the sky. As for direction and duration, the group was moving from west to east, and traversed the distance from Cancer to the vicinity of Ursa Major (obscured by trees) in less than two minutes. [These are actual compass directions; in a telescope's star diagonal, east and west are, of course, reversed.] If I had to guess, I'd say that I was observing a cluster (?) of satellites. I an pretty well used to seeing individual satellites in binoculars and -- ocasionally -- in a telescope, and these objects had all of the characteristis of such. Also, depending on their height (if they were indeed satellites), the timing of their passage relative to the location of the day-night line for my location seems to indicate that they should have been visible. Pretty darned impressive, whatever they were!
((NUFORC Note: We suspect the witness may have witnessed the three U. S. Navy NOSS satellites, but we have not been able to confirm that fact, yet. PD))