|Occurred : 4/14/2011 21:00 (Entered as : 04/14/2011 21:00)
Reported: 4/15/2011 10:52:44 AM 10:52
Location: Banning, CA
|Meteor-like object seen to accelerate and ascend.
At approximately 2100 hours I went outside and looked west into a clear evening sky. Visibility was excellent. There was a ¾ moon overhead. I was looking WSW and saw, approaching from the west, two sets of lights which I assumed were transiting aircraft as this area is a busy air traffic corridor. Flight separation between the two was approximately 2000 ft. I quickly discerned that the lead, faster moving object was NOT a normal aircraft. It appeared to be a slow moving meteor. There was a bright light emanating from the nose and a whitish orange fan-shaped "tail" coming from the aft of the craft. The movement was steady to slightly accelerating. I figured the craft was at 2-4 thousand feet AGL.
This strange craft overtook the other set of lights which was, by all appearances, a small general aviation craft such as a Cessna 172. I say that by the pattern of the anti-smash lights and the familiar drone of the engine and also the approach path as it appeared inbound to the local airport.
I continued to observe the "slow meteor" as it approached and noticed the fan-shaped tail took on an orange to greenish hue. If my guess to altitude is correct I’d estimate ths corona-like tail was 2-3 hundred yards in length. The fan shape of the tail was oriented vertically and the width of this plume was narrow. The color was something like mixing a sodium vapor lamp and the color of copper being burned. There was no pulsing or flashing.
After 10 seconds of watching, and as it approached it seemed to accelerate and begin ascending. Then the nose and tail lights extinguished. I SAW the object at CPA (I was facing due South at its closest point of approach). It was no more than a mile to the south of where I stood. It was small, dark and obloid, or, football shaped.
Suddenly it emitted a brief puff of hazy orange light and accelerated to an incredible speed while slowly ascending. It was out of eye-sight within a quarter second after that.
It made no sound. This was unsettling to me as I would have expected to hear it as this mountain pass area traps and funnels noise quite readily.
The total sighting lasted 20-30 seconds. I have to assume that the general aviation pilot saw what I saw and I’m writing this in hopes of corroborating stories. If it WAS a meteor I’d like to report an ascending meteor.
A little background on myself: I was a Naval Aircrewman for 21 years. I flew in several airframes and have thousands of flight hours of experience. I’ve seen many strange things while flying and my share of meteors. I am not taken to having flights of fancy. I was fatigued but sober and otherwise in a calm state of mind.
((NUFORC Note: Missile launch from Vandenberg AFB at 21:24 hrs. (Pacific). PD))