Please Identify a UFO for me
February 25, 2005 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Last summer when I was in NYC I was doing the tourist thing and I was on the Empire State building and saw three objects fly overhead which I can't identify. I managed to get a photo so hopefully someone here can help.

You can look at the photo here and obviously it being Flickr you can get the highres version I uploaded. In the photo you can see two orange dots. As I said in the main question I saw three objects but only managed to photograph two of them.

Now my first thought was that they were weather ballons because they're brightly coloured, but I don't know, do people set off weather ballons in groups of three? Also another suggestion I've heard is that they could be afterburners from military jets?

Hope someone can help!
posted by daveirl to Science & Nature (27 answers total)
I'd guess meteorites. Of course, I wasn't there and couldn't monitor the speed and/or if they disappeared, moved, or whatever. We did pass through some nice clouds of rock last year as I recall though ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 4:42 PM on February 25, 2005

I doubt afterburners.

My guess would be balloons from some sort of even that was happening downtown ... you can see helium balloons, even small ones, for quite some distance, and it's hard to tell distance unless there's another object behind them with a known distance ...
posted by SpecialK at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2005

I doubt they were meteorites wackybrit, I've seen loads of them in the past. These moved relatively slowly and were visible until I lost track of them because of the antenna on top of the building, I went around to the far side of the building but couldn't see them again.

BTW the time on the Photo while it says 6:36 GMT is actually 6:36 EST
posted by daveirl at 5:21 PM on February 25, 2005

How do I get the hi-res version? I can barely see two very small orangish dots on the linked version.
posted by caddis at 5:42 PM on February 25, 2005

Thanks, I needed to create an account to see that. Even in hi-res it is tough. Balloons? UFOs? Who knows.
posted by caddis at 5:51 PM on February 25, 2005

Satellites, perhaps, with the sun hitting them at just the right angle. You see these quite a bit at night, I imagine they are sometimes visible during the day. They move at - what appears to be - a slow, even rate.
posted by rotifer at 6:03 PM on February 25, 2005

Could they be just regular balloons? I can't really get a sense of the scale. Unless someone has direct knowledge of what these are, the image isn't going to help much...there's very little detail even in the original copy.

On preview: good idea rotifer. They could be Iridium satellites, which are tracked by several sites on the internet. Check the schedule of iridium flares for that date, time, and location.
posted by odinsdream at 6:06 PM on February 25, 2005

what day was it? i'm thinking a balloon release for Gay Pride, or one of the pretty-much-weekly parades in the summers.
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on February 25, 2005

Could you describe the motion a little more in depth? It looks like lens flare to me, however if you saw it with your naked eye then it could also be a flare from the glass. Did you see a linear type motion? How about speed and direction? Did you watch the object/phenomena vanish?
posted by sled at 6:33 PM on February 25, 2005

(how do you view pic's in high res?)
posted by Quartermass at 6:38 PM on February 25, 2005

To view them in high resolution you need to create an account and sign in.
posted by caddis at 6:53 PM on February 25, 2005

You can follow the link Matt gave to get directly to the high-res version. Here it is again.

The Iridium thing is an idea but I was under the impression that you only get one Iridium flare at a time and that they only last a few seconds. These were visible for around 15-20 seconds.

sled: The movement was linear. They moved almost directly downtown. (That's almost directly South in NYC isn't it?) I didn't get to see it vanish because they became obstucted by the antenna on top of the building and when I moved around to the other side of the building I couldn't get a fix on them again.

I completely understand that the scale thing is a huge problem! For anyone wondering about the date and time, I'm almost 100% certain the EXIF data on the photo is correct so that would make it September 19, 2004 at 6:36pm EST.

I'll have a look at Heavens Above to try and rule out the Satellite possibility.
posted by daveirl at 7:06 PM on February 25, 2005

Bugmenot has passwords, so you don't have to register, but you do have to log in. I didn't find the high-res much more detailed, though. They're little orange dots in both pictures.
posted by duck at 7:14 PM on February 25, 2005

I agree, they had to be run-of-the-mill balloons that got loose.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:20 PM on February 25, 2005

I'm guessing balloons. What's the prevailing wind up there? That should help.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:55 PM on February 25, 2005

No parade is required to have balloons in NYC. The city has wild whirl-winds blowing around, that tower well above the buildings. When you see one on the street, look up! Often you will find stuff swirling around way up higher. Balloons get released by their children all the time. Mylar balloons especially catch the sun and reflect it back well beyond what would be reasonable in such a small object.
posted by Goofyy at 12:30 AM on February 26, 2005

I used to work in the Empire State Building, and it would regularly rain (or snow) upwards, due to the strong updrafts from between the buildings. And most of the paper airplanes and other flotsam we sent out the windows went southbound, so I'd bet on that as prevailing winds.

My bet's on balloons.
posted by anildash at 12:54 AM on February 26, 2005

OK thanks everyone, I guess regular balloons is the most popular theory here and is the one that makes the most sense.
posted by daveirl at 3:33 AM on February 26, 2005

No parade is required to have balloons in NYC.

What an odd phrase.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2005

No parade is required to have balloons in NYC.

I just wanted to say, I had to read that like 7 times not to think you were assuring us that in NY, the parade police are flexible, and even if you don't have balloons, they'll allow your congregation.

posted by mdn at 3:40 PM on February 26, 2005

whoa, didn't see fff, there, somehow, I swear. weird.
posted by mdn at 3:41 PM on February 26, 2005

[waves hello]

i still don't understand it. someone please explain.

posted by five fresh fish at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2005

fff: the phrase looks like it says, "it is not a requirement that a parade must have balloons", but it really means "parades are not a necessary precondition for the presence of balloons".
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:30 PM on February 26, 2005

Thanks, Mars. Reading it the latter way didn't even occur to me, and I was still confused.
posted by bingo at 10:02 PM on February 26, 2005

Sorry to be a party popper, but I'd like to add that balloon releases are bad news for environment. They are often mistaken as jellyfish by sea turtles and other creatures. Ingesting them leads to GI blockage and a miserable death.
posted by piskycritter at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2005

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