The truth is out there: Scientist offers theory on weekend UFOAliens may have landed in Humboldt County Sunday night.
By John Driscoll
By John Driscoll
Anything’s possible, of course, but it’s far more likely that a brilliant flash of light at about 7:30 p.m. had origins on Earth.
Whatever it was, the light was seen at least as far south as Shelter Cove, and was especially bright in the Orick area. Witnesses described the light as lasting for 2 to 3 seconds, and motorists pulled off roads in some areas to get another look.
”All of a sudden it just lit up like it was daylight outside or something,” said Arcata resident Candis Danielson.
Danielson said a trailing light came down in front of her following the flash that she saw while driving north near Stone Lagoon outside of Orick. She said it was definitely not a shooting star, which is a meteor.
Mel Nordquist, operations officer with the National Weather Service in Eureka, said at least one meteorologist saw the light. But he said there was no meteorological event that would explain it; for example, there was no reason to suspect lightning.
”We don’t take measurements of that sort of thing,” Nordquist said.
He suggested it could have been a blown transformer or a meteor, but doubted it was a showing of aurora borealis, or northern lights.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Lloyd Coker said no electrical problems were reported in the area that night.
”Whatever it was I can’t imagine it was our equipment,” he said, especially since it was seen both in Orick and in Garberville.
The most convincing theory on the light’s origin came from College of the Redwoods astronomy professor Jon Pedicino. He said students in McKinleyville, Willow Creek and Garberville reported the sighting.
He guessed the light came from a chunk of space junk pulled from its orbit into Earth’s atmosphere.
The reasoning rings true.
Space debris includes stuff like rocket bodies and pieces of satellites. An incredible amount of the debris hurtles around Earth, slowly losing speed before succumbing to gravity. According to a NASA website, some 9,000 piece of space debris orbit the earth.
Man-made space stuff is generally made of exotic alloys, Pedicino said, which exhibit colors when burned in the atmosphere. Since the stuff is in orbit until just before reentry, it slips into Earth’s atmosphere in a shallow trajectory, Pedicino said, which prolongs and brightens the burning and almost always burns up the debris before it strikes the ground.
That’s unlike most meteors, which enter at a sharper trajectory, generating a quick, white streak across the sky.
”It happens all the time,” Pedicino said.
A 2001 BBC report chronicled one of the more impressive sightings. Bright streaks that lit up British skies that December were believed to be from pieces of a Russian rocket.
”It happened to be our night last night,” Pedicino said.
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