|Occurred : 10/18/2004 22:30 (Entered as : 10/18/2004 22:30)
Reported: 10/19/2004 7:34:02 PM 19:34
Location: Des Moines (east of), IA
Duration:approx. 1 min.
|Seen from 29,000 ft-- two "stars" stared moving, parallel to one another, and abruptly stopped 15 sec. later. Faded out.
I am a first officer for a regional airline. I fly an aircraft called a Do328 JET. I flew a one-day trip on the said date, from our hub to Des Moines, and back the next morning. It was approximately 10:30pm, and we were flying our 32 passenger regional jet westbound at 29,000 ft. It was an absoutely clear sky-the overcast was below us, and we could only see stars above. I had turned down the cockpit display lights to look at the night sky. It's amazing how many stars you can see with the clounds below you blocking out all the ground lights. The aircraft was on auto pilot, as it always is in cruise, and we had approximately 30 minutes remaining until our destination. I was focusing out my side window (right side of the aircraft). Our cockpit windows are curved, so the visibility is great. You can see up, down, forward and back just by looking out the side. Anyway...I was focusing on the night sky. I have seen quite a few shooting stars lately, so I was looking up at the night sky in hopes of seeing one on this night. I noticed that if you use off-center viewing, which we are told to do at night- you can see many more stars than the normal "bright" ones. It is amazing- millions of them. Anyway, I slowly started looking toward the horizon, and I stopped on two stars that were staggered kind of horizontal from one another. One was "higher" than the other, and they were staggered. I have absolutely no idea why my eyes stopped on these out of all the stars in the sky. They were not the brightest, by far, nor were they the dimmest. Just two average stars. And they were stars- not airplanes, not lights colored any different than any of the other million stars in the sky. I looked at them for probably three or four seconds (estimating of course)and to my complete amazement, the one in "front" (the "higher" of the two) started moving. And not gradually- there was no gradual acceleration- it was like someone flipped a switch, and this "star" started moving. And a moment later, the star behind it did the same thing. As if it was saying, "wait for me!" The two stars moved at rapid pace across the sky- I looked over at my Captain to get his attention, but he was updating his company manual, using a personal light that we each have built into our side panels. I looked away for only a second, but decided not to bother with him. I looked back up at the sky, and they were still there, moving across the sky. Two lights, that looked absolutely IDENTICAL to an average star, travelling as a pair, still staggered, just as they were before they started moving. The total distance the moved was from approximately 20% above the westerly horizon, the direction we were travelling, to just aft of straight above our aircraft, which is a huge distance. My point is, it's not like it was a night illusion where you stare at a light and after a while it appears to move. This was not like that. The lights moved almost half was across the sky. And to reinforce what I was watching, the two light came to a complete and SUDDEN stop. No deceleration, no gradual change. They went from a fairly rapid pace to a complete and obvious stop. The entire episode lasted, if I had to estimate, 20 seconds. At this point, I was still staring at the "stars" wondering what exactly I was seeing. I didn't want to take my eyes off of them again. They were now stationary, and straight up from us, in relation to the sky. As I stared, BOTH lights went from their "normal" brightness, and slowly faded out to nothing over the course of approx. another 10 seconds. They both faded out int the exact same manner, as if controlled by a dimmer switch. I realize this is a very wordy explanation for a sighting (or whatever you want to call it), but it was absolutely abnormal. I see aircraft fly by us daily, day and night. This was not in the normal operational altitude of a jet. It was, to use a general term, definately up in "space." It absolutely blended in with the stars, and originally was stationary. Why did I choose to look at these two particular stars out of the millions available? I have no idea. That's what really intrigued me- I thought, after it happed- holy cow- I've never really spent any amount of time really looking at the stars....and I spend a minute or so doing it tonight and I saw THAT????? It was an extremely odd sight. The very mechanical staring and stopping, the fading of the lights simultaneously when all the other stars around them did not change, and especially how the second light started to move in the exact speed moments after the first one. That's what really did it. Aircraft that approach us head on, with a relative closing speed of close to 1,000mph can take minutes to pass us on a clear night. These two lights covered almost half of the entire night sky in probably 15 seconds or so. And the fact that I took my eyes off of them, and came back and they were still there proved to me that it was no illusion. I was not scanning the sky hoping to see something odd--I did not imagine this. It was very very odd. I hope this is helpful to anyone interested. Thank you.
((NUFORC Note: Source of report elects to remain totally anonymous. PD))