|Occurred : 5/3/2013 21:45 (Entered as : 05/03/13 21:45)
Reported: 5/8/2013 7:51:55 AM 07:51
Location: Burlington, WA
|3 brightly lit amber/orange orbs moving S-SE spotted in night sky over Skagit County, WA. by multiple witnesses.
On Friday, May 3rd, 2013 at approximately 21:45 hrs, while traveling westbound on Hwy-20 between the cities of Sedro Wooley and Burlington in Skagit county, WA, I witnessed three unidentified flying objects traveling south-by-southeast over the east end of Burlington proper. In addition to myself and my companion - in whose truck we were traveling at the time - the event was witnessed by several other people.
About 1 mile west of District Line Rd we looked up and witnessed three large amber/orange orbs overhead at about 15 degrees to the right of our due-west heading on Hwy-20, moving right-to-left on a straight and level course and approaching the roadway about 1/4 mile ahead of us. Rather than appearing as merely radiant "light balls" without definable edges or borders, like one might expect a bare, bright bulb to appear at a distance at night, these objects had an appearance more like that of a translucent sphere, like a ping-pong ball, that was being intensely illuminated from within. While the light emanating from these orbs was indeed bright enough to somewhat obfuscate the object within, they were still recognizable as appearing solid and spheroid. In addition, the intensity of the illumination seemed to slowly, rhythmically, and very briefly dip very slightly, or negatively "pulse," at a frequency of approximately once every second, though not in sync! with one another. This was not a sharp, sudden dip, but a smooth, analog change, again, very brief. We immediately pulled over to better observe this phenomenon and were quickly joined at the side of the road by several other witnesses who had also pulled to the shoulder and exited their respective vehicles. The objects were moderately large - to scale: about the size of one's thumbnail when held at arm's length - and were arranged in a scalene triangular pattern with the two objects that were closest to one another - the span between them approximately equal to the width of three fingers held at arm's length - leading the group, and the single remaining object trailing at approximately 4-5 that distance behind the first two. All three objects were at approximately 400-500 feet and were moving relatively slowly at about 35-45 kts. The objects maintained their heading, speed, and relative position until they were almost directly over Hwy-20, at which time the trailing orb q! uickly accelerated to a rate of travel roughly 2.5-3 times tha! t of it' s original speed, without changing its heading, until it was approximately the same distance away from each of the two leading orbs that they were apart from one another, and resumed its original speed, pacing its two fellows and forming a rough isosceles triangle. The three objects then continued to travel together, remaining equidistant and still on the same heading, until they were approximately 20-25 degrees to the left of Hwy-20, (or 340-345 degrees to our original, due-west heading) at which time the trailing orb again began to move relative to the two leading objects, this time in a slow arc to the right (westerly), while ascending slightly, in a standard-rate, or "two minute" turn, and at about 45 degrees into this turn began to quickly grow dimmer until at about 60 degrees into the turn, while still moving, it vanished completely. The remaining two "leading" objects continued on for only a moment more - maybe 3-5 seconds - before the westmost orb! began its own apparent standard-rate turn, this time to the left, while maintaining its speed and elevation, which brought it in a swinging arc behind its fellow, until at approximately 50-55 degrees into the turn it again resumed straight and level flight, this time traveling almost exactly due east. It continued on this heading until it was almost due south of our position at the side of the road (or about 270-275 degrees to our original, due-west heading) at which time it also began to quickly dim in intensity until it, too, vanished. The remaining orb, which did not deviate from it's speed or heading during the entire event, continued on its south-by-southeast track for approximately 5-10 more seconds until it, too, dimmed and vanished, though it seemed to do so at about twice the rate of its fellows. The entire event was about 60-75 seconds in duration.
It bears mentioning at this point that when the latter two orbs dimmed and vanished they were at a position in the sky where, from our vantage, they were moderately back-lit by the "skyglow" illuminating the night sky directly above the city of Mt. Vernon, WA, which at that moment was behind, and in line with, the position of the objects we were viewing. The net effect of this was to provide enough light value contrast to easily silhouette any unilluminated objects of that size, and there was none. The objects seemed to not only dim and cease emanating light, but to in fact disappear altogether. I feel fairly confident in this assessment as several onlookers, including myself, commented that we could clearly see much smaller, finer objects silhouetted, such as the telephone and power cables and small tree limbs in the same viewing field. I would also state at this point that I was in combatant naval aviation for years and have had extensive aircraft and attitude r! ecognition training, and as such I am confident that what I saw was not an aircraft in the traditional sense: There was no evidence of red or green right-of-way lighting, nor was there any anti-collision strobes or navigation lighting visible. There was also no sound whatsoever discernible above the ambient ground traffic noise. Several attempts were made by my companion and others to photograph the objects, albeit with less-than-ideal cell phone cameras, and while other lights and heavenly bodies were evident in the resulting photographs, no one could get a shot of the objects in question. I am not qualified to speculate as to why this was, though it did seem strange that such large and brightly lit targets were not visible to the cameras.
Several minutes later two fast moving aircraft approached from the southwest at approximately 1k-1.2k ft and entered the airspace above Burlington, WA, and after having overflown the town split in a "Y" commenced large, half-rate turns in their respective CW and CCW circles over the township and surrounding county. They continued to circle overhead for 12-15 minutes and then turned to the southwest and departed the area. It was speculated that these may have been EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft dispatched from NAS Whidbey Is., WA, located in Oak Harbor, WA, several minutes to the southwest by air. But again, this is only speculation as identification of specific aircraft at that altitude at night with the naked eye is nearly impossible.