MUFON Report 124374: Commercial airline pilot videos "2 objects circling" [Starlink Flares / Racetrack Illusion]

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
[UPDATE:] Summary Video:
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VmrRGln1XA

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https://v.redd.it/7ka5woqkdni91

MUFON report #:124374

Date of Sighting: 2022-08-12

Date of Report: 2022-08-18

Long Description of Sighting: Who: I am an airline pilot with a major airline in the United States. I am a former military pilot. When: August 12, 2022, over a 35 minute period from approximately 0055-0130 ET (0455-0530 UTC). Where: At the first sighting we were approximately over the city of Wilmington, NC. At last sighting we were approximately over Richmond, VA. We were traveling almost due north and the objects were directly in front of us. It was impossible to tell exactly where the objects were; in the 35+ minutes we were watching them they never seemed to get closer. Narrative: We took off from St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands for a 4-hour flight to Washington Dulles airport. We departed at 2202 ET and landed at 0148 ET. At roughly 0055 ET I began seeing slow pulses of light in the sky directly in front of us (to our north). The pulses would last usually 8-10 seconds each and had gaps of darkness lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to over a minute. They were slowly moving from left to right. The pulses would be gradual (start very dim and grow into a bright light about the brightness of Venus, and then fade away). As an airline pilot, I am positive I was not seeing other airliners. Very few civilian aircraft can fly above 41,000 feet, and the objects were about 10 degrees above the horizon from our perspective. I was not able to tell the distance of the object from our aircraft, but in the 35+ minutes we watched, they never seemed to get any closer even though we covered about 250 nautical miles in that time. For this reason I believe they were in either the upper atmosphere or in space. After a few minutes of watching, the Captain (who until this point had been very quiet) asked me if I was seeing the lights. I said yes and we started discussing what they could be. I started filming and taking photos at this point. We began seeing 2 lights at a time, often at different altitudes, but always moving generally from left to right when the pulse was at its peak. At one point we watched 2 lights flying in “formation”, almost side by side. When I looked very carefully, I could see the lights even after the pulse faded, but it was very dim and would sometimes fade away completely. When the pulse was dim they lights seemed to be traveling to the left. For a brief time we saw 3 objects at one time. At no point did we see a strobe light or navigation lights on the objects. The best way to describe what we saw is 2-3 aircraft circling in left hand turns with their landing lights on, which means that they were only clearly visible when the lights were facing towards us. Because we were flying towards Washington DC we discussed the possibility it was fighter aircraft flying circles over the city due to a security threat. This was clearly not the case however, because we were 300+ miles from DC when we spotted them, and they never seemed to get closer as we neared the city. They also were far higher in elevation than modern fighters can fly, and there would be no reason to have their landing lights on in that phase of flight. Additionally, fighter aircraft have their landing lights mounted within their landing gear which would have been retracted, and therefore could not have been visible. As a former fighter/attack pilot I am extremely familiar with capabilities of modern aircraft, have trained in CAP (protecting locations from aerial threats) and I am 100% we were not seeing military aircraft or flares. I have spent a lot of time wondering if they could have been a train of Starlink satellites, and the light pulses were sunlight reflecting off the satellites. I don’t think this is the case, for the following reasons. We spotted them in the middle of the night; 5 hours after sunset, when it is less likely to spot satellites. We also saw the pulses an estimated 80+ times, and we only stopped seeing them due to us descending into the clouds. From looking online, starlink trains are typically 40-60 satellites. The sighting also lasted 35+ minutes, which is far longer than a satellite train. I believe it was the same 2-3 objects the entire time, and they were flying in circles. Lastly, the objects appeared to be flying in circles, which is not characteristic of satellites.

This is my first sighting. I have 4 videos and several photos. Unfortunately, they were taken from my iphone, at night. You can see the pulses, but the relative motion is difficult to make out. In one video I filmed my displays, which shows my altitude, and location.

Dropbox link to original videos uploaded to MUFON:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/pm3ei8nuln1io6h/AADkZGstR--4OGKoQ65Ysy02a?dl=0


Hmm, what could this be?
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
For this reason I believe they were in either the upper atmosphere or in space.
Content from External Source
my guess

Article:
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https://uk.flightaware.com/live/flight/UAL1445/history/20220811/2045Z/TIST/KIAD/tracklog
12510m = 41043 ft.

The flight was performed uncharacteristically late that day, so the pilots would be unfamiliar with what they were seeing. They started seeing the lights from the time their track turned north.

I suspect the apparent motion was an optical illusion caused by changes in brightness, which were themselves caused by atmospheric factors.
 
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Duke

Active Member
Won't venture a guess as to what they saw, but the report is a damn sight better both grammatically and technically than most submitted to MUFON and/or NUFORC.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
The flight was performed uncharacteristically late that day, so the pilots would be unfamiliar with what they were seeing. They started seeing the lights from the time their track turned north.

I suspect the apparent motion was an optical illusion caused by changes in brightness, which were themselves caused by atmospheric factors.

What do you think the lights are? Sorry, it's not clear from your post.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
Should be easy enough to work out what was there given all the information available, and lots of landmarks like this one from the 4th video (is that Richmond?)

1660932376791.png
 
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Easy Muffin

Senior Member
overlay-file1.jpg
This is a merger of three different frames from the file1 video taken at 15-second intervals. It uses the two bright dots on the right as alignment anchors so they appear as single objects, although each one is really three discrete points on top of each other. If they were stationary objects then the dot on the left should also fall into the same place every time, but it moves about and shows up in a different place in each frame, forming a triangle in the combined overlay.
So these objects seem to move relative to each other.

Should be easy enough to work out what was there given all the information available, and lots of landmarks like this one from the 4th video (is that Richmond?)
1 and 2 show the ND so it's easy enough to locate them, 5 is 50 km or so southwest of Richmond.

file1- https://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=35.1493333&mlon=-77.9345398&zoom=8
file2- https://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=35.63265133&mlon=-77.89812469345&zoom=8
file3 - don't know, possibly between 2 and 5
file5 - https://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=37.037961&mlon=-77.834377&zoom=8 (roughly)

All fits with the statement and the times we see in the videos.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
. If they were stationary objects then the dot on the left should also fall into the same place every time,
Wouldn't there be some change due to parallax, what with being taken being taken from a moving plane? I guess not if they were stars/planets...
 

Easy Muffin

Senior Member
Wouldn't there be some change due to parallax, what with being taken being taken from a moving plane? I guess not if they were stars/planets...
The dots on the left should fall along an extended line then, no? Not a triangle pattern.

Hasn't Dubhe been mistaken for a UFO before? I think that would have been in a northerly direction for them.
I wouldn't categorically rule it out yet but the person that submitted the statement doesn't really strike me as someone who'd be stumped by a bunch of stars.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
From the MUFON report:
"I believe they were in either the upper atmosphere or in space."

Would orbital mechanics rule out the latter? Or is it possible that three satellites in a geosynchronous orbit with an inclination more or less matching the plane's course (almost due North between Wilmington and Richmond)would stay ahead of them for that long, at something close to the same elevation above the horizon?

Wish they'd thought to ask if any other planes were seeing the lights...
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
When UFO proponents go all hair-on-fire frantic about the possibility of lights in the sky meaning that "they" are coming from another planet, has anyone bothered to ask them just why a vehicle that has crossed vast interstellar distances would have any need for lights?
:)
 

Ravi

Senior Member.
From the MUFON report:
"I believe they were in either the upper atmosphere or in space."

Would orbital mechanics rule out the latter? Or is it possible that three satellites in a geosynchronous orbit with an inclination more or less matching the plane's course (almost due North between Wilmington and Richmond)would stay ahead of them for that long, at something close to the same elevation above the horizon?

Wish they'd thought to ask if any other planes were seeing the lights...

Satellites were my first thought, although I would not know myself how certain satellites, in certain orbits, catching the sun, would look like from a plane in motion. But, if the position, direction, time and other things are precisely known, perhaps certain satellite orbital path from that night might be a lead? This would perhaps be possible to model using Mick's software?
 

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
Satellites were my first thought, although I would not know myself how certain satellites, in certain orbits, catching the sun, would look like from a plane in motion. But, if the position, direction, time and other things are precisely known, perhaps certain satellite orbital path from that night might be a lead? This would perhaps be possible to model using Mick's software?

Something recently that I have seen (both on the internet as a UFO sighting and in my own satellite observations) is a Starlink batch repeatedly flaring. It looks like a normal satellite flare at the same point in the sky, but rather than just happening once it happens maybe 30 or 40 times in succession. I wonder if that is what these pilots have seen, but assumed it was one or two objects, when in fact it was 40 objects?

Here's two videos of Starlink trains flaring...

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cycLZQtM8HU&ab_channel=MovieVertigo


Source: https://youtu.be/lddEt9OGVBw?t=92

Here's a Reddit post of a witness seeing something similar...

https://v.redd.it/3xppf659gmh91

I'll look into the date / time / locations and see if I can tie it up with the flaring Starlink says
 

Ravi

Senior Member.
@flarkey I would say, very possible. Also remembering how many Starlink satellites (2.3k, on top of all the others) we have orbiting.

EDIT
I just read on wikipedia:
Polar orbits
SpaceX released a new group of 10 Starlink satellites on 24 January 2021, the first Starlink satellites in polar orbits. The launch also surpassed ISRO's record of launching the most satellites in one mission (143), taking to 1,025 the cumulative number of satellites deployed for Starlink to that date.[82][83]
That is pretty much NS or SN direction.
 
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Easy Muffin

Senior Member
I took a closer look at one of the videos over the weekend (file3 I believe) but only got round to uploading it now. This is part of the original video, slightly better stabilised, contrast enhanced and sped up by 500%. Might want to watch this on a large screen.



Check the bottom right at :10, seems like there are at least two objects that follow each other? There's what appears to be a third one above the other two a few seconds later as well.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
Check the bottom right at :10, seems like there are at least two objects that follow each other? There's what appears to be a third one above the other two a few seconds later as well
I see the two bright ones, but on a touch-screen pinch-and-zoom device you can freeze it and see a dozen or two stars just twinkling away, as is their wont. Much easier to see in the portion where the sky is dark when the camera is pointed up away from the glow.

Dubhe seems a likely candidate, with most of the rest of Ursa Major hidden in the glow from the ground. Here's a portion of a frame with adjusted contrast.
182CAE54-E73C-433E-8C20-F7A8B0AEDCD1.jpeg
 
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flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
So taking the information from the geolocations in post #7 I'm going to take the position from video 2 as 35.632N -77.898E, altitiude is 12000m / 39000ft. The date &V time from the original MUFON report 12 August 2022 0505hrs UTC. The plane is heading NNW or so, and objects are slightly right of dead-ahead, so we'll assume they are directly north.

Putting that location into in-the-sky.org (unfortunately it doest allow me to enter altitidue), we can see that there was indeed a batch of Starlink satellites moving left-to-right (from the observers PoV). These are in the right part of the sky, and moving in the right direction to be the objects in the video.

The red colored satellites in the image below are illuminated by the sun, but are very faint. This means that they could be candidates for flaring. They appear to be spaced between 15 sec - 45 secs apart, which again fits in with what the pilots saw.
Screen Shot 2022-08-22 at 15.09.51.png


I think I need to find evidence that these are flaring satellites, and work out how to filter out satellites that are not illuminated by the sun.
 
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Easy Muffin

Senior Member
I see it too, @Easy Muffin. Faint. but it is there.
Good, so I'm not seeing things!

I see the two bright ones, but on a touch-screen pinch-and-zoom device you can freeze it and see a dozen or two stars just twinkling away, as is their wont. Much easier to see in the portion where the sky is dark when the camera is pointed up away from the glow.

Dubhe seems a likely candidate, with most of the rest of Ursa Major hidden in the glow from the ground. Here's a portion of a frame with adjusted contrast.
Looks like stars show up when you boost the contrast, yes. Unfortunately it also brings out all sorts of image noise. Just to be clear, I was talking about the objects in the bottom right. If they're real then they move way too fast to be stars.

Your Dubhe suggestion put me on a promising path, I think. There's a triangle arrangement of lights in the bottom left - the brightest of these forms the top, I think that's the one you mean? The other two are fainter but can be seen throughout the entire video which leads me to believe they are stars too as opposed to random noise.
Anyways, I went with your suggestion that the one on top is Dubhe, took a screenshot and checked if the other two fit with knows stars. Well...

1.jpg

I'd say they do. I'm also pretty sure that I can spot at least the upper of the two stars that continue the constellation to the east in parts of the video but it pops in and out of view. That might simply be because those two stars are fainter (magnitudes are Dubhe=1.8, Merak=2.3, Phecda=2.4, the missing two are 3.7 and 3.8)

The flaring object is circled in red. Put the above image on top and we get...

2.jpg

@flarkey Any way to find out how long that train took to pass through? We could probably work out some probable times for the different locations since we know the flightpath.
 

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
So our friend Ben Hansen has posted another (long) video that describes 'racetrack' UFOs that were seen from planes flying over the Pacific in recent weeks. It reminds me of this thread, which suggests that they could have been Starlink satellites flaring.

Others have already suggested it could have been Starlink flares... Hat tip to Twitter user @letseathay

Source: https://twitter.com/LetsEatHay/status/1578220707036954624?t=ryTGEo_fTaxEf8C-hANe8Q&s=19


Screenshot_20221007-201052_YouTube.jpg

But can we gather any evidence or analysis that confirms it to be Starlink, or that rules Starlink out.... ?
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
They have the look of
But can we gather any evidence or analysis that confirms it to be Starlink, or that rules Starlink out.... ?
Sure seems consistent with a satellite. Here's a partly stabilized crop:



The flickering and colors are very similar to a bright start like Sirius. So something bright and moving in space would look like that.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Regarding "circling", that can be shown to be inaccurate by stabilizing the video and then compositing frames at 1-second intervals.
2022-10-08_08-38-41.jpg

If it were circling, the dots at the end would be closer together than the ones in the middle, like this similar composite of a flashlight on a bicycle wheel:
2022-10-08_09-53-51.jpg
 

Rory

Senior Member.
If it were circling, the dots at the end would be closer together than the ones in the middle, like this similar composite of a flashlight on a bicycle wheel:
2022-10-08_09-53-51.jpg

Not sure that's the best example, being as the dots on the right aren't that close together.

I understand that's because of differing levels of glare but, still, probably a little too easy to challenge as a demonstration.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
the lights on the right are almost 3 times as close as in the center

True, measuring from their centres. I was thinking the believer is more likely to focus on the distance between their glares rather than the centres, and therefore not find it convincing.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
True, measuring from their centres. I was thinking the believer is more likely to focus on the distance between their glares rather than the centres, and therefore not find it convincing.

You can see it clearer in the sensor reflections,

2022-10-09_08-04-58.jpg

Here's the source video


 

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
Another video. These 'racetrack UFOs' are becoming quite common. Thanks Elon.

Source: https://youtu.be/M7dMCJH8NpM

At 0m27s is that the stars of the pan of Big Dipper - Phecda, Dubhe & Merak?
Screenshot_20221010-081623_YouTube.jpg
1665393440714.png

The video says the flight is Southwest 549, which was about 100 miles SW of Springfield Missouri at the time...

Screenshot_20221010-082937_Flightradar24.jpg
 

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flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
KML of the Flight Southwest549 is attached,

I've tried to line up the view of Springfield Missouri in the video with the kml track in Google Earth to get a more accurate Lat Long and Time. I have come up with: 19 Aug 22 - 05:34 UTC 35.179267° N -93.969778° W . Altitude is 37,975 ft.

1665393051675.png

1665392480310.png

Plugging this data into In-The-Sky.org to get the historic satellite predictions.... it shows that there were visible starllink satellites illuminated by the sun in the right part of the sky (near the star Merak of the Big Dipper) and moving in the same direction as in the video (Left to right from observer's perspective) . Unfortunately it doesn't allow the user to input observer's altitude, so there'll be a small error in any prediction.

https://in-the-sky.org/satmap_planetarium.php?latitude=+35.179267&longitude=-93.969778&timezone=+00:00
(you'll need to set the date & time & view on that link if you wanna see an accurate prediction)


1665392568970.png
1665395007566.png

This graphic even seems to show the same 'staggered' alignment of the objects as seen in the video.

1665401967283.png

So yet again it appears that the observation of 'Racetrack UFO' matches with predicted Starlink satellite passes that could provide a flare. It shows that these sightings are identifiable when enough and accurate information is given, or can be determined from a little investigation, with the right tools, and some knowledge about what is actually out there. The habitat of the UFO truly is the low information zone.
 

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flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
I've been thinking about this and why the particular Starlink satellite is flaring and how wecan further demonstrate why it is flaring at that moment in time. Simply - they are flaring by reflecting the light from the the sun using the satellite chassis as a mirror, not their solar array. The chassis always points towards directly down towards the earth as it orbits in order to broadcast its radio signal (internet) to the closest subscribers

Source: https://phys.org/news/2020-05-spacex-theyre-starlink-satellites-visible.html
1665433732947.png


Bearing in mind reflection theory, the suns's position which should therefore be directly on the other side of the earth of the satellite as the axis. (This was initially proposed by Reddit user danse-macabre-haunt). I have checked this on In-The-Sky.org using the example above and in the stitched image below which lets us see through the ground it confirms that the sun is almost directly below the horizon in line with the flaring satellites.

1665433108946.png
https://in-the-sky.org/satmap_planetarium.php?latitude=+35.179267&longitude=-93.969778&timezone=+00:00
(you'll need to set the date & time & view on that link if you wanna see an accurate prediction)
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
This graphic even seems to show the same 'staggered' alignment of the objects as seen in the video.

1665401967283.png

So yet again it appears that the observation of 'Racetrack UFO' matches with predicted Starlink satellite passes that could provide a flare. It shows that these sightings are identifiable when enough and accurate information is given, or can be determined from a little investigation, with the right tools, and some knowledge about what is actually out there.

Looking at the angular speed. We see Dubhe and Merak in the video (the last stars in the big dipper, on the right).
They are 5.3743 degrees apart.


2022-10-21_14-36-48.jpg

In this frame, they are 441 pixels apart
2022-10-21_14-39-10.jpg
The (evenly spaced) lights are the UFOs at 1 second intervals. 10 seconds is 145 pixels

2022-10-21_14-41-27.jpg

So, in 1 second it does 14.5 pixels. We know 441 pixels is 5.3743 degrees, so in 1 second the UFO travelled:

14.5 * 5.3743 / 441 = 0.177 degrees per second.

Overlaying the in-the-sky view over this, we see STARLINK-3190 oves 780 pixels in 60 seconds. 780/60 = 13, just a bit less than the 14.5 pixels, and coming in at 0.158 degrees per second. Very much in the ballpark. And of course, it's parallel to the direction.

2022-10-21_14-55-32.jpg
 
Very impressive work here. Sounds convincing. I used to observe Iridium satellite flares, as well as flares from geosync satellites like Superbird A. Both could be predicted, once the geometry of the arrangement was known.

It ought to be possible to see these flares from the ground, although they would be close to the horizon. Has anyone tried to anticipate a good time and location to view them, then set up to take videos?
 

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
Very impressive work here. Sounds convincing. I used to observe Iridium satellite flares, as well as flares from geosync satellites like Superbird A. Both could be predicted, once the geometry of the arrangement was known.

It ought to be possible to see these flares from the ground, although they would be close to the horizon. Has anyone tried to anticipate a good time and location to view them, then set up to take videos?

I was a long time Iridium spotter, and am still a regular Starlink and ISS spotter. I have considered trying to pre-empt this 'new-AP' but havent been able to find a clear night recently. I also suffer from light polution to the North and West. But I would be interested in trying to predict and spot them. The in-the-sky.org site is probably the best tool we have for this.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I have considered trying to pre-empt this 'new-AP' but havent been able to find a clear night recently.

Would I get good footage from where I am (on Tropic of Cancer in Baja California Sur)? Low light pollution and usually clear nights.

If so, tell me a time and date and I'll see what I can see.
 

flarkey

Senior Member.
Staff member
Would I get good footage from where I am (on Tropic of Cancer in Baja California Sur)? Low light pollution and usually clear nights.

Hmm, not sure. You might be too far south to see exactly the same 'phenomena' that the airliners have seen. I'm still trying to fully understand the orbital geometry. The easiest thing to do is to work out where the sun is over the horizon at a particular time using an app or webiste such as Heavens-Above.com and look towards this direction close to the horizon. You could try and use the planetarium view on in-the-sky.org (you need to set your location manually for that one) and see when there are Starlink satellites towards the direction of the sun (Mick's video shows the idea behind this).
 
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