|Occurred : 8/31/2004 21:10 (Entered as : 08/31/2004 21:10)
Reported: 8/31/2004 8:31:17 PM 20:31
Location: Bellefonte, PA
|An odd, luminous cloud over Central PA
This is the sort of sighting that I'm sure has a rational explanation... I'd just like to know what it is.
Tonight my girlfriend and I were leaving our apartment in Bellefonte PA and heading towards State College, about 15 minutes away. As we topped a hill, we noticed an odd disturbance in the sky. I thought at first that it was the twin landing lights of an airplane, flying through thin clouds (there are numerous flight paths over central PA). There were two elongated, grey-white luminous bands, surrounded by a gently glowing white haze, something like this: . . . . . .
. . === . === . .
. . . . . .
where == are the bands and the periods are the haze. Anyway, I thought it was an airplane over some clouds. But I soon realized that it didn't appear to be moving. It was not very bright, and it reminded my girlfriend of a comet. Indeed, aside from the funky geometry, it DID look like a very bright comet (like a milky star, as Hale-Bopp looked, at its brightest magnitude, for example). But unlike a comet, it was moving very slowly across the sky (we parked the car to watch, and I tracked its movement against a church steeple). It moved from the southwest to the northeast, roughly, and its speed resembled that of a slow cloud: perhaps one degree of sky per minute. Several planes flew overhead during this time, and I was able to compare them both in terms of motion and appearance. There was no resemblence at all. The object was gray and nebulous; the planes were clear and their red and green lights were perfectly visible. Stars were also visible overhead and all around the object; although there were clouds on the horizon, the sky above was very clear.
As we watched the object for approximately three minutes, it very slowly began to disperse and fade. The parallel luminous bands became splotches, and finally the whole thing degenerated into a slightly luminous cloud approximately the visible size of my thumb held at arm's length.
The past-full moon was just rising, though it was mostly obscured by clouds to the south east. Those clouds and the moon were purple and yellow, generally, and I did not have the impression that the object was illuminated by moonlight (though I can't be sure). As the object faded and became more cloudlike, we drove to a darker spot to watch it, which we did for perhaps another 8 minutes. I telephoned by brother in Louisiana, and asked him if he could see it (I was hoping to decide if the object was in space, in orbit, or in the atmosphere). He could not see it, but reported strong light pollution.
By this time, the object had faded to the point that I would not have noticed it, had I not been looking. It was still perhaps 10 degrees from directly overhead and very dim, visible to the west and drifting east. My girlfriend and I continued our trip to State College, and when we arrived, clouds obscured the sky. The clouds cleared perhaps 20 minutes later, and there was no trace left of the object.
I have no reason to believe this was anything other than some odd weather or astronomical phenomena, but neither of us has ever seen anything like it. Any ideas?
((NUFORC Note: Result of earlier missile launch. Please see: