UnIdentified Lunar Object...? Mar 12, 2005 2:53:08 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Mar 12, 2005 2:53:08 GMT -6
Joe's Mysterious Lunar Object
Ok...ok, at great risk of losing credibility, considered a kook or mis-interpreting things...I'm going to share with you what I observed when I trained my scope on the Moon, May of 2002.
Now, I have been observing the moon since a child, with various assortments of optical equipment, in all seasons and all elevations in the sky. I have studied it during the day, all through the night and all in-between. I have observed Lunar Occultation’s of planets and stars, marveled at both Solar and Lunar eclipses, and spent many hours digitally imaging it. So I think I am quite familiar with our closest neighbor.
During the 5 planetary alignment of spring 2002, I was set up by the lakefront, at my usual post by the Copernicus statue. The weather was pleasant and the skies quite free of clouds, I anticipated this evening’s observational session. As usual, people would come up and see what I was doing. I showed them the planets and answered questions.
After observing Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, I trained my 4.5" reflector on to the waxing moon at about 6:30/7:00 pm. Located in the southwest, the Moon was a familiar face to gaze upon, with just the slightest tinge of twilight blue sky behind it. Using a medium powered eyepiece, the lunar disk almost fit inside the field of view with a generous open ring of sky around it. As it was a half Moon, the glare was not overwhelming and viewing was quite comfortable.
Using no filters I started to concentrate on the terminator, examining the sunlit mountain peaks peeking from the darkside, and enjoying the shadows. I had been observing the Moon for about 10 minutes when from the left came this object, not round, but rather oblong...almost like a fuselage of an aircraft. Cool I thought, as watching aircraft transit across the face of the Moon is always a treat. It was lighter in color than the background sky, but as it started to enter the limb of the Moon, I lost it for a second, but soon regained it. Now the color against the bright surface of the Moon was darker...almost black. I continued to watch it exclusively as it drifted across until it came upon the terminator and into the darkness once again...changing to a lighter color once again. I thought nothing odd about this as objects alter their characteristics against different different colored backgrounds. The time is took to transit across the full face of the moon was about 10 seconds. I tried to follow it past the Moon by nudging the scope in the direction of the objects travel, but lost it.
Excellent!... I didn't know what I saw, but it could have been a high flying plane or satellite. Never caught a satellite crossing the Moon before! It wasn't an object in low atmosphere, as it traveled much too slowly. And we all have caught birds, planes and clouds passing in front of the Moon while at our telescopes...and the event occurs quite quickly. The object left no contrail nor heat inversion phenomenon.
Satisfied on this rare, but unknown treat, I continued my observation of the Moon, and again concentrating on the terminator.
About 15/20 seconds later, I once again catch an object approaching from the left, and on the same latitude of the Moon. Remarkable I thought, but it looked exactly like the object I viewed before and with the same time of travel. The color of the object was the same, including the contrast change. At midpoint, I rushed to place a higher-powered eyepiece that I had on the eyepiece tray. Doing so, I was disappointed that in the commotion of the change, that I had lost it. But no. Nudging the scope a bit, I caught up with it again, just as it was crossing the terminator, heading into the darkness. The size of the object did not change with the higher magnification, but the Moon did. The object was still an oblong squat object transiting across in about 10 seconds.
Wow...I couldn't have caught two of the same within half a minute. I now kept the higher magnification eyepiece in the focuser and slewed the scope back to the left, and this time...beyond the limb of the Moon, with it just to the right of the field of view.
Simulations of the Object Observed
Object entering the field of view
Object entering the brighter background of the Moon
The Object at mid-Transit
Object passed the terminator and observed against the darkness
Quite excited now that I may catch this object (s) once again, I waited. 15/20 seconds later, I'll be damned that the object reappeared in a instant...popped into view in the blackness of space in the eyepiece. I trained on it once again and followed it across the face like it did twice before. It behaved in similar fashion, light, dark and then light again with the change of the contrast. I followed it to the right, to the right to the right...and then poof, it was gone! Knowing now my new mysterious friends habits, I slewed back to the left an waited. But this time, I got stood up. It did not re-appear. I waited some more, eagerly anticipating the object, but nothing. The show was over. Damn!
I do not know what this object was, but I think it behaved like an object orbiting the Moon. As it just popped into view from the darkness and vanished in the dark on the other side is interpreted by me as the object re-emerging into the sunlight and back into the Moon's shadow. If it were a satellite, I should have been able to follow it for quite some time after it passed the moon. Could it have been a string of satellites, perhaps, but if this thing was indeed in orbit around the Moon, it must have been HUGE in order for me to see it in my modest optical equipment.
I must classify it as an Unidentified Flying Object, as I do not know what it was. It had no lights, no visible exhaust, no alteration of flight/travel pattern, but instead had a predictable routine.
There...I have said it and witnessed as I post it. Make what you wish out of it, geese returning south, U2 spyplanes, satellites etc... I have read other accounts of astronomers observing similar events...so I wonder what the object is.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
If you wish to renounce your memberships...I understand...sigh...