On Tuesday April 22, 2014 between 9 and 9:15 p.m., I was returning from dinner with my friend “G”. We had had a tasty Middle Eastern repast while talking about many things, though principally we spoke of friends and relatives who had recently passed. Thus I chose the word “repast” carefully. We took our time with eating and even split a dessert which prolonged our conversation suitably. In the interests of full disclosure, we each had one scant glass of red wine with our food. Those of you who are familiar with dining in Manhattan are quite aware of how scant a glass of wine can be! So we were in no way inebriated as we left the restaurant, nor had our conversation included anything about UFOs.
We walked to the corner of Avenue A and East 10th Street which is pictured above. The photo was taken twenty days later than the actual event took place. Thus the trees in Tompkins Square Park and on the street are much leafier than on the night in question and the sky was darker then. As I looked down 10th Street that night I saw an orange light above the Christadora Building on Avenue B. It was a dull, brownish orange color which seemed somewhat ovoid in shape. The trajectory was steady and traced a clean arc from our point of view. I pointed it out to “G”.
Me: “Look at that orange light over there.”
G: “It’s a plane.”
Me: “It has no navigation lights. They are red and green. It has no white light. It is all orange. Unblinking.”
G: “Yeah, you’re right. It’s probably a Chinese lantern. I saw one in Brooklyn.”
At that point the light had gone out of sight behind the buildings on the north side of East 10th Street.
I have reproduced that portion of our conversation as verbatim as I could, to give an indication of the time the object took to traverse the arc crudely pictured above. The light moved behind the trees in the distance not in front of the trees. My Photoshop skills and time are both limited. 🙂
Turning around, I then pointed out a plane, replete with navigation and blinking lights in the western sky. “G” nodded, and added that she was sure the orange light we saw was a Chinese lantern. I remain unconvinced of that as a certainty.
Which brings me to the issue of several problems in the identification of UFOs. UFO stands for unidentified flying object, not flying saucer, not extra-terrestrial craft. As a careful watcher of the sky, I try to turn the “UFOs” I see into “IFOs”- identified flying objects. Thus I immediately refuted “G’s” assertion that the steady orange light was an airplane.
As can be seen in the illustration above, an airplane and a helicopter never have a single steady brownish orange light. “G” is a very creative and bright woman, but she is not a sky-watcher. To most of the general public, especially those living in urban and suburban environments, the wonders of the night sky are mostly obliterated by light pollution and are therefore less interesting. The fact that “G” initially assumed that the light was an airplane, points up two big issues for UFO researchers. Those issues are a lack of interest coupled with a lack of knowledge on the part of the general public.
Another issue is the increasing number of possible causes for a sighting which now include satellites, drones, Chinese lanterns, and hobby unmanned models. Could the orange oval light have been a satellite? The steady trajectory and unwavering light of the sighting points to a “yes” answer here, but two other factors need to be considered. Firstly weather and visibility conditions. Frankly I doubt that lower Manhattan has the sky visibility conditions which would allow for satellite viewing given the amount of light pollution. But the weather history shows that at 9 p.m. the sky above Manhattan was fairly clear. See here: http://www.wunderground.com/weather-radar/united-states/okx/history/2014-04-22?date=2014-04-22
The second factor is whether or not there was a satellite traveling from the southeast to the northwest around 9 p.m. over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Looking at the available data on the Heavens Above satellite charting website (http://www.heavens-above.com/AllSats.aspx?lat=40.7265&lng=-73.9815&loc=East+Village&alt=5&tz=EST) the only satellite that was of anywhere near sufficient brightness (4.3) to be seen and in the correct sky position at nearly the correct time was the Cosmos 2441 at 8:58 p.m. The two factors here that make a satellite questionable is the slightly earlier time (our sighting was between 9 and 9:15 p.m.) and the lower visibility available in Manhattan. Right now I think that this is the most likely possibility. I invite knowledgeable readers to comment on the visibility of satellites in the denser NYC metropolitan area. My distance vision is pretty good but not extraordinary and this light was more than clearly visible.
What about the other possibilities? The unwavering path of the the light and the unflickering steadiness of the light and to some extent the direction the light traveled point against a Chinese lantern. Chinese lanterns are relatively flimsy contraptions. They must be very light in order to be held aloft by a flame. A wind strong enough to carry a lantern at such an unwavering speed would likely cause it to flicker. No flickering was observed. Right after the sighting I noted the wind direction by holding up a wet finger tip. Predictably the very mild wind direction was from the west (Prevailing Westerlies). I realize that my wind test was primitive and that the air direction above the city could be different than the direction at ground level. At the time of the sighting there was no readily perceptible wind at ground level. The two factors that point to a Chinese lantern are the color of the light and the appearance of the light being lower than a satellite.
Drones and orbs are both very murky areas for different reasons. I was googling the navigation light requirements for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and came up with this somewhat frightening site: http://diydrones.com a site for do it yourself drones. The very idea that anyone with college freshman engineering skills can go out and build and fly their own drone has more horrifying implications than I can list in the current post. That being said I’m sure there are some responsible individuals building and flying drones, but that begs the question, ‘Should they be?’ Could the orange light G. and I saw have been a drone? Not if the owner of the drone was following the FAA rules below, but who knows?
The FAA rules are as follows:Unmanned aircraft flight above 18,000 feet must
be conducted under Instrument Flight Rules, on an IFR flight plan, must obtain ATC
clearance, be equipped with at least a Mode C transponder (preferably Mode S), operating
navigation lights and / or collision avoidance lights and maintain communication between
the PIC and Air Traffic Control (ATC). Unmanned aircraft flights below 18,000 feet have
similar requirements, except that if operators choose to operate on other than an IFR flight
plan, they may be required to pre-coordinate with ATC.
I have seen four things I believe to be orbs over the course of the last thirty years. None of them were high in the sky above, but rather close to the ground, and none of them were photo anomalies or artifacts. I may deal with these orbs in another post another day. Right now in terms of orbs, I point to Chris Holly’s blog piece on orbs as one point of view. You may need to scroll down to the article titled “When It Comes To Orbs Size Does Matter.” The views and conclusions expressed on Ms. Holly’s blog do not mirror my views exactly (really though, whose views exactly mirror anyone else’s) but this article is worth a read. She has clearly given the subject much thought.
“I remember leaving dinner and getting ready to hail a cab. It was a clear, beautiful Spring evening. We were having a casual conversation and Fahrusha pointed out something in the sky. I turned around (my back was towards the location of the object), looked up to where Fahrusha was pointing, and witnessed a amber/orange colored object that was somewhat round yet somewhat undefined shapeless, floating in a slow but unclear direction in the sky. My first response was that it was an airplane, even though I knew it didn’t look like an airplane, it was too much for me emotionally to think about, after such an evening of speaking about friends and family members passing, that we were witnessing the appearance of a U.F.O. Fahrusha pointed out it could not have been an airplane (because it did not have the proper navigation lights), my next response was that it was possibly a Chinese lantern (as I saw one the night before, laying on the sidewalk, in Brooklyn.) Even still, the object was not high enough in the sky to be an “airplane”, and too high in the sky for any type of paper lantern to have floated away while keeping a steady light. Then, at that moment, I had a flashback (Fahrusha, I didn’t tell you about this), of being about 10 years old, with my parents, and driving along a dark and winding road, and strangely enough, coming back from dinner, which lead to the house where we lived in upstate NY. I remember being in the back seat of the car and looking up in the sky and seeing an unidentifiable, strangely lit object traveling across the sky. I was so afraid of what I saw, that when we got home, I asked my mom to call the local airport to see if they had any planes flying in the neighborhood that late at night (they didn’t). Fast-forward to this night in April, and I am thinking about the D.I.Y. drone possibility, and, again, the shape and lighting and movement of the object was not in unison with that of a man made drone…. I can not identify the object floating in the sky, but I can say that we are not the only beings traveling through the gigantic universe we inhabit.”
“G” wishes to remain simply “G” because she is a fairly well known creative personality in New York City.
In conclusion, identifying the “unidentifieds” is not always easy. This sighting remains in my mind unidentified, though it is quite plausible that it has a prosaic explanation, but that is not certain. The message in this all is simply that U is for unidentified, nothing more and nothing less.
Fahrusha is a professional intuitive who has a lifelong interest in UFOs. Her views have been featured in Filer’s Files and on the Kate Valentine UFO show. Your comments on this post can be left by clicking “Leave a Comment” at the top of the page. She can be reached at email@example.com.