|Occurred : 7/31/2012 22:15 (Entered as : 07/31/12 22:15)
Reported: 8/3/2012 9:11:18 PM 21:11
Location: Wallula, OR
|Three lights -- red/red/white -- easily identified as three separate aircraft, as one had flashing navigation strobe lights.
Observed three lights in formation -- red/red/white -- while at a new observatory site in Washington. The site is located at about 1600 feet in elevation in the Wallula Gap hills south of the Columbia River, just north of the Oregon border.
We were setting a North-South line in the now empty observatory in preparation of setting the large telescope mounting into the observatory. We were done with our work at about 10:15 PM and came out of the observatory building to notice the ‘lights’ floating along to the north of us: two bright red lights and one while light with flashing running lights.
They were equally spaced and moving slowly. I laughed and noted to my friends “look a UFO”. I commented that any non-astronomer would likely comment that the object(s) were a UFO.
We watched for about a minute as the object moved to the west. They did not keep perfect spacing, so the object was not something solid and made us think they were three separate aircra! ft.
Then, the lights turned and headed north, and it was easy to see they were likely three aircraft moving in formation, one after the other, as you could see them form a nice ‘arc’ of lights as they moved in their turn.
The interesting aspect was the front two craft had steady red lights, while the trailing craft had a white light and running strobe lights as normal aircraft do. So, whatever craft the red lights were, they did not have normal strobe lights, which is maybe why they had a trailing craft to make sure they were not mis-identified by other aircraft.
((ADDENDUM FROM ORIGINAL WITNESS))
The aircraft were at two-three miles away. They were moving slowly, much like small fixed wing aircraft or helicopters. Because we were on a hilltop they were at eye level elevation. We were looking north and they were due north of us. They were traveling west at first and we saw the port running light in the last aircraft blinking as well as the white light, and then as they turned north, we could see both the port and starboard running lights in the last aircraft. Both of the advance aircraft just had red lights and no blinking running lights.
Yes, all three of us, all astronomers with extensive experience observing celestial objects thought they were aircraft and also mused how others without experience in observing moving objects in the sky could be convinced they were UFO's and or 'baffled' by the formation. I have seen much more startling formations of lights in the night sky in the form of aerial tankers refueling jet aircraft as well as formations of satellites in orbit around the earth. I have seen much more 'baffling' formations. These were clearly aircraft moving in formation. The thing we questioned was why the front two aircraft did not have normal running lights and only bright red lights. Perhaps you could find that out and let me know. I like to report these types of events to my students so they can be better observers of celestial objects, moving or not.