|Occurred : 7/27/2012 22:00 (Entered as : 07/27/12 22:00)
Reported: 7/28/2012 11:32:28 PM 23:32
Location: Tacoma (northeast area), WA
Duration:90 to 120 seconds
|Red-orange slow moving fireball, inconsistent speed, moving north to south, dimming and finally going out.
My wife (educator), daughter (nine years old) and I (technical writer) arrived home at Dash Point, WA between 9:30 and 10:00pm on July 27th, 2012. The sky was mostly dark already, with just a trace of dusk light near the horizon and the moon (a bit more than half) rising in the south over the top of Indian Hill in Northeast Tacoma. No house or yard lights were on when we arrived home.
As we got out of the car (all car lights off) I noticed a bright reddish-orange light off to the Northeast, moving roughly from North to South. We see a lot of air traffic over Seatac from our home in Northeast Tacoma, but what caught my attention was the obvious fact that this was not an airplane. The light was neither blinking nor steady, but looked most like the fireball flickering of shooting stars I’ve seen in the past. But there were many aspects of this object that were unlike any shooting star I've ever seen. First, the speed at which the light moved across the sky was MUCH slower than any shooting star I’ve ever seen before. The speed was also inconsistent. At times it moved at about the speed of a distant/high aircraft, then it appeared to slow down, then to speed up again, all the while moving in the same direction. As it moved southward, the brightness of the object was also variable, sometimes getting brighter, sometimes dimmer. This variation in brightn! ess appeared to be a change in the object itself and not the effect of any clouds between us and the object. The color was also unusual, that being an intense reddish-orange. Most shooting stars I've seen in the past were whitish, bluish or greenish in color.
As we watched, the object continued to move to the south, until after a minute or so, it gradually began to grow steadily dimmer and dimmer. A few seconds after the dimming began, what had looked like a fireball took on the appearance of a bright ruby-red point of light, continuing to grow dimmer until it finally winked out completely, much as you might see when a glowing bit of firework cools and goes dark. As the object grew dimmer, it also appeared to slow down.
The motion of the object the entire time was roughly in a straight line from north to south. While the speed and brightness of the object varied, the direction didn’t seem to change.
I’ve seen thousands of aircraft at night, I’ve seen dozens of shooting stars, I’ve seen a couple of comets, and I’ve seen reflected sunlight off the passing International Space Station and a couple of orbiting space shuttles. This didn’t look quite like ANY of those. In terms of the brightness and nature of the light, this looked most like a fireball shooting star, but most like a distant satellite in terms of its slow speed, except that the speed seemed to vary, sometimes nearly stopping.
I have a theory, but that’s all it is. It might have been a satellite falling out of orbit and breaking up. This would seem to explain a) why it moved in a relatively straight line, b) why it moved slower than any shooting star I’d ever seen, and c) why it initially appeared as a fireball in the sky and not the steadier reflection of light off a coherent satellite or spacecraft, but then grew dimmer and dimmer and finally winking out. But that’s just my best guess. The whole thing took about 90 to 120 seconds from when we first noticed it the light to when the object went completely dark.