A UFO streak of light flying through the starry skies over the mountains of the Eastern Sierra.
Can you tell me what this is?
Last spring I was shooting the clouds over the Sierra Crest from the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, doing long exposure shots of 25 seconds to capture the light of a waxing crescent moon lighting up the clouds that were clinging to the crest of the high Sierra peaks near Mount Whitney. I did not see what ever caused this streak of light while the shutter was open and the camera was exposing. However, as soon as the exposure was done and the image popped up on the rear camera LCD I instantly thought, “What the heck is that?”
I looked toward the west where my camera was aimed within two or three seconds after seeing the image on my LCD and noticed a very bright singular light source, brighter than Jupiter continuing to rise into the sky (from my perspective / vantage point). Within another two or three seconds after spotting the moving light source — which was moving slowly; much, much slower than a meteor, — suddenly faded out over the span of a second or two, like someone hitting a dimmer switch vs. a light switch.
The 100% view shows no aviation navigation strobe lights, which clearly show up as a string of dots during a long exposure, nor does it show any sort of fragmentation like a larger fireball breaking up.
Last fall I also by sheer chance managed to photograph the Trident Missile that was launched from Vandenberg AFB on California’s southern Central Coast.
This definitely didn’t quite look like that other previous photo — though I think the speed of the moving object in this instance we more similar to a missile than a meteor. Through social media, I asked if anyone knew if a missile had been launched out of Vandenberg. A friend that subscribes to their public email service said no missile launch was announced. It could have been a secret military missile launch, maybe from a submarine off the California coast? I dunno… maybe some science or military guys (or gals) can chime in with an answer. For me, it remains unidentified.
(Side note: I’m a huge fan of watching and listening to the f-18 Navy jets that fly out of the nearby China Lake base, and constantly buzz (loudly) around this part of the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley, and I’m nearly 100% certain it wasn’t one of those since there was no sound and those aircraft are still using red navigation strobes at night.)
UPDATE: Thanks to many suggestions, I’ve checked whether it was the ISS; nope, it was over North Australia. I’ve checked some of the satellite tracking web sites, and nothing showed up for that time in that part of the sky. I’m still convinced it’s not a plane, as I’ve captured hundreds of planes over the years flying through my images. The navigation light colors and flashing pulses are a pure dead giveaway for what the object is; a plane – pure and simple. This ain’t that.
Meta: 3/11/2016, 8:50:02 PM
80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 110mm
Exp. 25.0 s at f/5.6
If you like this post , I would greatly appreciate it if you’d consider sharing this with your friends using one of the Social Media sharing buttons located at the top or bottom of this post. You can also sign up to receive free updates by email when future posts are made to this blog.
Gary Crabbe is an award-winning commercial and editorial outdoor travel photographer and author based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, California. He has seven published books on California to his credit, including “Photographing California; v1-North”, which won the prestigious 2013 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal award as Best Regional title. His client and publication credits include the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, TIME, The North Face, Subaru, L.L. Bean, Victoria’s Secret, Sunset Magazine, The Nature Conservancy, and many more. Gary is also a photography instructor and consultant, offering both public and private photo workshops. He also works occasionally a professional freelance Photo Editor.
Image ID#: 160311a_DVA-0135