|Occurred : 7/4/2013 22:15 (Entered as : 07/04/13 22:15)
Reported: 7/5/2013 10:36:19 AM 10:36
Location: Auburn, WA
|5 orange'ish/amber light sources apparently unconnected to normal air traffic in our area were observed over a period of 40 minutes
My wife and I were watching the fireworks last night. Where our house sits relative to the fields and lakes around here where folks launch their fireworks we can only catch the highest bursts, and those only through gaps in the trees. We do have a relatively unobstructed view of the southern approaches/departures to SEATAC. I’m a private pilot (single engine land, ground school for IFR; ‘haven’t flown in years, though), and do enjoy watching the SEATAC traffic when I get the chance.
During the fireworks, at between approximately 10:15 and 10:45, we saw 5 orange’ish/amber lights not apparently connected to the usual approaches and departures (departures were to the south at SEATAC last night), not associated with any other lighting typical of the aircraft we see around here, and not apparently connected to the fireworks, moving from low on the horizon west (True bearing; magnetic variance is ~17 degrees east) of us to various headings and elevations. Each light was a discrete, constant point source. I am not familiar with any aircraft lighting systems that have a single orange’ish/amber constant light. No sound was associated with the lights. There were no apparent trails indicative of an exhaust plume. The lights all appeared to be the same size, shape, color, and initial intensity, though their directions of flight were varied. We had a commercial jet pass farther to the south of us than the first pair of lights we saw, sometime between the appea! rance of the fourth and fifth lights as part of its departure from SEATAC, and we could just make out the sound of its engines.
The first two lights we saw appeared to be moving together from west of us to east-southeast. They were climbing together but not apparently connected to the same structure as they moved toward and a little southward of our house. They seemed to shift position a bit with respect to each other, and were likely no less than 100 ft apart from each other while we could see them approaching. One of them started to pass in and out of the thin broken stratiform cloud layer we had last night before we lost sight of them from our vantage point at a window on the west side of the house. Given their trajectory and distance from us, their speed seemed to be somewhere around 120-180 kts, but we couldn’t see any aircraft structure to get a really confident estimate of distance, and their shifting position made speed estimates from looming difficult.
The third light we saw appeared a few minutes after we lost sight of the first pair. This second light appeared identical in every way to the first two (i.e., size, orange’ish/amber, discrete, constant point source). We noticed it starting from a little bit north of where the first two came from, westward of our house. It seemed to be climbing at about the same rate as the first two at first, but to the northeast. We lost sight of this light when it passed into the clouds and to the north of our house. It seemed to increase its vertical speed as it was entering the cloud layer, and perhaps turning to the north, since its headway to the east slowed down considerably as its size and intensity wained (we could see it climbing through a large gap in the clouds).
The fourth light appeared in the same area of the horizon as the first pair a few minutes after we lost sight of the third light. It appeared to follow the same trajectory as the first pair. It was otherwise unremarkable.
The fifth light appeared in the same area of the horizon as the third light a few minutes after we lost sight of the fourth light. The fifth light was climbing at a considerable rate to the north, perhaps north-northwest, and was out of sight much faster than the other four lights.