Friday, September 25, 2015

Preliminary investigation report - Armidale, NSW - 21 September 2015


Date:         Monday 21 September 2015
Location:  Armidale, New South Wales
Time:         Sighting one - 2120-2135hrs
                   Sighting two - 2130-2150hrs
                   Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC plus 10 hours.)


Two sightings were initially reported to the "Lights in the sky" blog site of the Sydney Observatory. Details as recorded there were:

Sighting one:

"Two orange circles were observed over block. The lights came together and then drifted apart. They were very close but no other outline of an object could be seen. It is hard to determine how high they were as they were clearly seen and bright but the movement made this confusing.

The lights went up and then down again, together and then apart. The lights then went straight up and started to travel away from our block in an Eastward direction towards Coffs Harbour. We watched the lights until they faded away. We took a picture with the iPhone but it is not clear due to the darkness. These lights were seen by three adults and 5 children. We all thought it was very odd. The sky was clear and stars were visible."  (Kim.)

Courtesy of Google maps

Sighting two:

"At around 2130 I went down my back steps and glanced to the West and noticed what I thought were 2x helicopter lights in the sky above the University of New England. They were amber in colour and slowly moving towards the east along the northern edge of town. Each object remained a constant distance about 50m from each other north to south. What drew my attention to them was their color brightness and zero flashing. As they got closer and were passing overhead about 100m they did not make a sound. I called my partner and son to check it out and they were amazed at what they saw. The irony is that my video camera was not charged and mobile phone was dead.

To the west again a plane was flying very high as we saw the beacon flashing and heard the engine of that aircraft. It was flying south to north. We watched the two lights for about 15 minutes as they made their way to the east and disappeared over the horizon. They remained constantly at a distance from each other, did not make a sound and were bright. It was a clear night with the Moon setting in the west and as the lights passed stars in the background no silhouette or shape between the 2 lights was evident." (Greg.)

Courtesy of Google maps

Sighting one:

In addition to posting on the Sydney Observatory site, Kim also emailed directly to Melbourne researcher, Paul Dean. Paul asked me to contact Kim and I sent him an email asking a number of questions. I have received no response as at the date of this report.

Sighting two:

I contacted Greg by email and posed a series of questions:

Q1 What was their apparent size compared to the full Moon on the horizon? Were they star sized?
A1 "They were a little larger than a star, like headlights of a car. What got my attention was their brightness."

Q2 What was the total duration of the sighting?
A2 "Approximately 20 minutes."

Q3 Did you watch them continuously?
A3 "Yes, for the first couple of minutes. I raced inside to grab a video camera to film it. Unfortunately it had a flat battery. When I returned after about 30 seconds, I watched them continuously until they were out of view on the horizon to the east travelling towards Ebor from Armidale."

Q4 Did each, or any of them vary in brightness at all? If so, how?
A4 "No, they remained the same intensity the whole time. The only time their luminosity got less as they moved further away."

Q5 When you say they disappeared, did they simply got out or disappear behind something?
A5 "They just simply went beyond the horizon where I could not  observe them any more."

Q6 What were the weather conditions like at the time?
A7 "The weather conditions at the time were prefect. There was no wind and zero clouds in the sky. It was a very clear night about 10 degrees Celsius."

Q7 Is the video you took able to be electronically forwarded to me to view?
A7 "Yes."

I then  later spoke to Greg by telephone and clarified a number of points, including whether or not he had ever seen a hot air garbage bag or a Chinese Lantern. He had not, and in fact asked me what these were? I ascertained that Greg lived in Erskine Street (see map above.)

Weather details
I obtained the relevant weather details from the Bureau of Meteorology's website, see the screen capture below:

At 2100hrs the temperature was 9.1 degrees Celsius; relative humidity 74%;wind speed was 9km/hr from the north-west.

At 2130hrs temp was 9.3C; 75%rh; wind speed 7km/hr from the west-north-west.


I checked Air Services Australia's WebTrak secondary radar coverage. It does not extend to Armidale.


The night sky is as shown in the screen capture below. The Moon was in the western sky.

Courtesy Heavens Above website

1. Given that the times of the two sightings are different, and that the behaviour of the two sets of two lights are different (constant distance apart - Greg; and varying distances - Kim) it appears to me that we have two separate sightings of two sets of two lights, not two observations of the same set of two lights.

2. Greg in Erskine Street viewed his objects initially in the west-north-west, then overhead, then going eastwards. We do not have Kim's exact location, but he described his lights as heading eastwards.

3. At 2130hrs, the wind speed was 7km/hr from the west-north-west. Therefore, Greg's objects were travelling exactly from the direction the wind was blowing from, and heading in the same direction as the wind was blowing to, i.e. to the east. It could therefore be argued that Greg's objects were wind borne ones. All that can be said for Kim's objects is that they were heading in the same direction as the wind, i.e. east, and therefore it can be postulated that they were also wind borne.

4. The colour, brightness, size, shape, lack of sound are all consistent with either hoax hot air garbage bag balloons or Chinese lanterns. For those who have not seen a video of these devices, here are four Youtube videos which are very educational.

5. The durations of 20 minutes for both sightings is also consistent with the light wind speed of between 7 and 9 km/hr.

6. Hoax hot air garbage bags may appear to "flicker" or "pulse" when seen at close range, but when viewed from a distance, the amber/orange light appears steady.

7. For a report from Cairns, Queensland of multiple orange lights which appear to have been either hot air garbage bag balloons or Chinese Lanterns, dated four days earlier, click here.

8. For a report of orange lights from Armidale, NSW date exactly one year earlier click here


My view, based on the details provided above, is that there was nothing inconsistent with either hoax hot air garbage bags  or Chinese lanterns.

They have been reported from Tasmania to Texas.

These are quite often launched by bored teenagers; particularly on warm, calm evenings. These individuals then track sightings via local media and community Facebook pages, for fun.

I welcome comments from blog readers.

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