|Occurred : 8/6/2018 21:00 (Entered as : 08/06/18 21:00)
Reported: 8/9/2018 9:01:58 PM 21:01
Location: Buhl, ID
|A tiny white elliptical object, illuminated by the sun at -6 magnitude at first, was observed 20° upper left of Venus at dusk.
I am a PhD former chemistry professor, age 56, avid amateur astronomer since age 13 who knows the night sky and where and when planets are visible and can recognize constellations even from a few stars. Other witnesses include both of my children (experienced sky observers—son has seen other UFOs of different shapes recently; I have not) and several teenage and adult friends of my daughter present at the youth rodeo event we were all attending Monday evening.
I had brought my 7x50 mm binoculars to better see events and to check to see if I could tell what phase Venus was in, and if I could see any of Jupiter’s moons.
Sunset was at 8:53 pm, and I started to look for Venus to the west right afterward. A couple of minutes before 9 pm, I saw what I thought was Venus much higher (about 40° altitude) and further south than expected. It also seemed much too bright, maybe magnitude -5.5 or even -6.
I looked at this strange ‘Venus’ through the binoculars and found not the partly illuminated planet, barely resolved at the low magnification I was using, but instead an elliptical bright white object in its place.
(I would later compare the object’s horizontal dimension with the spread of Jupiter’s moons, and found the object to be slightly broader).
The object’s long dimension was horizontal, and the right side had a brilliant white glint that always remained the brightest as high-altitude sunset progressed and the object began to turn yellow, then orange.
I found the real Venus about 20° to the lower right of this object’s position a little after 9 pm, and Jupiter about 40° to the object’s left, about the same altitude as the object above the horizon about 9:10 pm.
I discerned no net movement of the object as Venus got lower after sunset, but it did start to take on a distinctly yellowish hue about 9:10 pm, then much more orange at about 9:14-15. It had also faded to about the same magnitude as Venus by then (-4.3 or so). It rapidly faded from naked eye sight at 9:17 pm, presumably from the sun setting at its rather substantial altitude.
The sighting was not over, though, as I was able to find the object, probably +4 magnitude in the still dusk-illuminated western sky with my binoculars. It was now brownish-gray, only slightly brighter than the sky behind it, but now the right brightest spot had a faint pure white light that reminded me of a white LED. At random intervals I noticed very faint white sparkles as if other white LED lights were flashing on and off all over the now rather non-descript ellipse. The slightly mottled appearance it had when most brightly illuminated by the sun, with the very close odd dark halo on the left, was no longer apparent.
I was able to find it fairly easily over and over despite not being able to see it with my naked eye because it stayed in the same exact spot where I had seen it, neither moving with the wind, nor moving with the night sky. The last time I saw it was close to 10 pm, and it seemed much smaller and fainter at that point, but still hovering in the same spot with the faint white light on the right side still going on and off, but now almost too faint to see. Object overall magnitude was about +6 or fainter at that point, and only its larger size compared to the pinpoint stars could distinguish it from them. I tried to find it again after 10 pm, but was unsuccessful. I tried to find it again at the same time period of 21:00 to 21:30 on Tuesday August 7th, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary, under almost identical observing conditions.
Sky conditions were cloudless with some smoke from distant fires visible near the horizon. I was downtown in southeastern Buhl at the rodeo grounds, and there were a lot of bright lights both in the arena and the spectator areas, so my nighttime vision wasn’t fully dark-adapted. So light pollution was a problem, but not terribly so as the arena was to the east and the object was to the west south west. My son confirmed the shape and overall appearance of the UFO.
I considered the possibility that it was a weather balloon, but long dimension is usually vertical with the real ones I’ve seen in the past, and the slight prevailing westerly wind should have moved it from its starting point to much closer or even overhead. I concede the balloon explanation may fit, but too many strange aspects just didn’t fit a mere weather balloon, hence my willingness to make this report.
The fact that the object remained illuminated by the sun for 24 additional minutes after local sunset should prove useful in determining its altitude, despite it being about 40° above the western horizon rather than overhead—I was very careful to note the exact time it started to rapidly fade from naked eye visibility. I personally don’t know to calculate the UFO’s altitude from these observations, but I suspect it was over ten miles up at minimum.
((NUFORC Note: We will attempt to establish whether the object might have been a high-altitude balloon. PD))