Friday, February 20, 2009

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's … a UFO?


Object in sky has observer stumped


     That suspicion crossed David Kent's mind when he spotted a bright turquoise ball in the sky Wednesday night from his Hockinson home. Kent saw the object travel across the sky before disappearing a few seconds later. He quickly dismissed the UFO idea, though.

"I don't believe in that stuff," Kent said.

Experts don't believe what Kent saw was a UFO either, but said it's likely space debris or a fireball, otherwise known as a brighter-than-normal meteor. The National Weather Service didn't have reports of anyone else seeing the object.

Jim Todd, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's planetarium manager, said that based on Kent's description of the object, he believed it could be pieces of broken satellite. But Todd hadn't heard any other reports and said he was simply offering conjecture.

"It may have been something very natural: A shooting star, Venus or a plane in the distance," Todd said. "A blue color is characteristic of broken up space debris."

While an amateur astronomer in Spokane this week spotted the remote comet Lulin, which is passing Earth over the next few weeks, Todd said it's doubtful that's what Kent saw.

"Lulin is very faint because it's far, far away," Todd said. "And it doesn't move as fast as this person described."

Kent, who lives off Northeast 184th Street, said he was on his deck at about 9:30 p.m., when he looked south toward trees and saw a vibrant ball passing east to west. At first, he thought it was a plane, but realized it was too big to be one. He also dismissed it being a shooting star.

"I see falling stars every once in a while, but they drop off quickly," he said. "This was a pretty big sized ball."

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