|Occurred : 12/1/2001 22:20 (Entered as : 12/01/01 22:20 PM)
Reported: 12/2/2001 12:04:42 AM 00:04
Location: Richardson, TX
|This encounter consisted of a brief sighting of several fireballs and related streaks seemingly flying in formation.
On the evening of December 1, 2001, my mother (54) and I (35) were walking our dogs when we observed an unusual aerial phenomenon. With the exception of some high, thin clouds, the sky was clear; major constellations, such as Orion, were plainly visible. As we were walking north on Yale Road in Richardson, Texas, between its intersections with Blake and Linda Lanes, we observed a formation of two large fireballs in the sky to the north, perhaps twenty-five to thirty degrees above the horizon, apparently accompanied by several smaller streaks of light. They moved across the sky from west to east, at a speed similar to that of an airplane; I got the impression that they were quite distant. One of the two larger fireballs was slightly higher than and ahead of the other; the smaller streaks, which were very faint, lay between and behind the two. Another thin streak seemed to lead the leading fireball a small distance. I got the impression that the fireball was attached to the thin streak leading it. No such phenomenon was observed for the lower, trailing fireball. The entire formation was moving at a very slight angle to the ground, only a few degrees at best; it seemed almost parallel to the ground. We observed it only briefly before it passed behind some trees and was lost. The presence of nearby streetlamps also affected our ability to view it more clearly. We heard no unusual sounds during the experience.
During the sighting I noticed at least one aircraft pass nearby, so there may have been other sightings of this phenomenon as well.
The large fireballs themselves each consisted of a large, luminous head trailed by thick contrails of smoke or vapor. The were primarily white, but toward the end of the sighting seemed to sputter briefly red/orange, then green. The other, faint streaks may have been smaller fireballs.
Let me stress that I am certain that these were not conventional aircraft. We live relatively near both Dallas Love Field and the Dallas/Fort Worth airport (one of the busiest airports in the world), so we see planes constantly, and are familiar with their night-time appearance. Neither do I believe that they were alien interstellar craft. I thought at first that they were some sort of burning objects being towed by small aircraft, given the faint streak I saw preceding one of the fireballs. However, I saw no running lights that would indicate the streak was an airplane.
At the moment, I believe that the most likely explanation is that we saw a large meteor in the process of breaking up. The annual Leonids meteor shower occured just two weeks ago. In this scenario, the fireballs were portions of the meteor that included low-density icy or organic materials (common to the Leonids, which are fragments of Comet Swift-Tuttle, if I'm not mistaken), while the faint streaks were smaller, rockier fragments. This would explain the impression that they were flying in formation. The sputtering and vapor trails would have been caused by outgassing as the objects burned up in the atmosphere. However, this explanation fails to explain why it was moving so slowly, or why it passed across the sky at such a shallow angle. I do know a small asteroid has been observed to do this before bouncing out of the atmosphere (in 1974), and that there is theory that hundreds of mini-comets burn up in the Earth's atmosphere daily. Clearly, I prefer to consider this a natural phenomenon.
Other possibilities -- that this was indeed several planes towing burning objects (but why?) or we witnessed some sort of government experiment. The latter theory seems overused an unlikely. Why test something near a major population center. I suppose it could also have been a satellite burning up in the asteroid, or even the space shuttle, except the next shuttle mission is on hold for the moment.
No, I'm not an astronomer, though I am very interested in astronomy. I am a technical writer with degrees in history and anthropology, and I worked for more than five years as a professional archeologist.
((NUFORC Note: We suspect the witness is describing the re-entry event that occurred at approximately 2120 hrs. (Mountain) on Saturday, December 01, 2001. Please see following URL for details: <http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast03dec_1.htm?list49634>. PD))