|Occurred : 1/26/2011 00:30 (Entered as : 01/26/11 00:30)
Reported: 2/9/2011 11:11:19 PM 23:11
Location: Gila Bend, AZ
|Formation of Yellow Fireballs tracking location and perspective during 80 mph interstate travel, possible fighter intercept at end.
I was travelling by car (Mercury Grand Marquis) en route to Yuma, AZ late at night to conduct work at the Yuma Proving Grounds the next day, on I-8 heading westward at ~80mph.
Just west of Gila Bend (just past the Pima St west exit on I-8, and just north of Gila Bend Air Force Auxilliary Field, which has one North-South runway only), I first noticed two large lights in the distance, at my 10 oclock, ~30 degrees elevation, likely 5-10 km distant (distance difficult to discern). At first I thought they may be towers, but as time progressed and I continued travelling, I noticed that the formation maintained perspective relative to my vehicle, and continued to do so throughout the two segments of the event.
During the first segment of the event, the lights appeared to be fixed horizontally with respect to each other, and were constant in shape, size, intensity and color (dark yellow, almost orange, plasma-like glow appearance). There were no beacons, landing lights, nav lights, running lights, or similar usual secondary emmiters observed which are typical for most aircraft observed in US airspace. The angle separation between the two lights from my perspective was perhaps 5 degrees, and did. The pair of lights continued to track me in perspective for several minutes. After several minutes, a third light slowly turned on (time constant of several seconds from dark to full brightness), to the right of the formation of two lights (the geometry of which was still unchanged relative to my moving vehicle). The third light was perhaps separated by 10 degrees angle from the other two, and slightly less luminant (but similar in color and shape). It stayed on for ~30 seconds.
At this point, I began to reach for my Motorola Droid so I could snap a photo. When I did this, the lights all went out, so I left the phone alone.
Approximately 30 seconds after this (~5 minutes into the event), the two lights came on again, at a similar azimuth relative to myself (my ~10 oclock), but this time much closer in appearance (perhaps 1km distant), and higher in elevation (~45 degrees). I am still travelling I-8 at this on a roughly constant azimuth of ~260 degrees true at 80 mph. The relative geometry of the two lights is slightly different, appearing now with a slight slope (~10 degrees) downward from left to right. The two lights have a distict plasma-like appearance, and I could see what appeared to be a thin almost smoke-like trail above each light, illuminated by the glow. I thought at this point briefly that they might be flares or incendiary parachute rounds (having seen such rounds shot at Yuma myself), but neither would explain the unchanging perspective and movement over such a duration of time. Then, the third light turned back on again, this time to the left of the formation of two lights. ! It appeared at one point to rotate about its vertical axis, as the light diminished and was occluded partially by whatever structure was with it, and then became full again. I could not discern structures on either object (my instinct tells me there were two objects, as opposed to three that three lights might suggest...the two larger lights being member to a single object), as it was a very dark night, and the moon had not yet risen...00:54 rise time, half moon for that date. I scanned through the FM band on my radio while observing, and found no unusual signal. The third light eventually went out again (~ 1 minute later), and the two lights remained, and continued to track perspective for several more minutes. By this time I had probably travelled ~15-20 miles from Gila Bend. There were no vehicles near me travelling in my direction, but there were other vehicles travelling east bound that would have noticed the phenomonae, if possible to view from their perspective! (probably unlikely though, as the relative angle would be ~4 ! oclock t o an east bound driver).
The lights suddenly went out. I continued to observe in their direction, and noticed in the far distance (not close, 10 – 20km distant) two flashing aircraft beacons (one following the other, moving fast, changing perspective). They appeared to travel towards me (north), and then turned west-ward and flew back south again, receding into the distance. This seems to me to have been an attempted (and failed) intercept.
After the event concluded, I noticed that the formation had been flying roughly in front of the very bright southern star Canopus, and serves as a good indication of the constant true azimuth of the formation as seen from the I-8 interstate relative to me.
Being a pilot myself, this whole event intrigued me very much, as I have never seen anything like it. I have done a lot of work on many military bases around the country, live near Davis Monthan AFB, and hence have seen a large variety of aircraft and munitions in both night and day. I have never seen anything like this. The only possible conventional explanation I can dream up to explain the phenomenae is perhaps two slow flying aircraft (helicopters or light prop aircraft perhaps, that could cruise at 80 – 100 knots) that could hang a flare from their aircraft, turn off all running lights, and fly formation along the interstate for the entire distance, maintaining near perfect perspective to me, with a third aircraft moving relative to the two, dragging a third less intense shorter duration flare. This seems outlandish.