It's NOT Aliens
November 14, 2018 6:46 PM   Subscribe

On a recent flight from Phoenix to Detroit, I saw an unusual phenomenon on the ground. Can the sleuths of Metafilter tell me what it was?

I was on a redeye flight direct from Phoenix to Detroit Metro Airport on Monday morning. Our flight arrived about 40 minutes early, around 5am EST. About 15 minutes prior to landing, I saw out the window a LARGE orange rectangular object on the ground. Photos are here, here, and here.

Pertinent information:

The flight path for that flight runs very roughly along the route of US 12 (Michigan Avenue). I checked the onboard flight tracker when I saw it and according to that we were somewhere roughly south of Lansing/Jackson.
I was sitting on the starboard side of the plane, looking out to the south/southwest.
It was still full dark.
The photos aren't very good, but it was very clearly a large stationary orange light on the ground with sharply delineated outlines (the haze around the object is from the camera, it didn't look like that in person).
I'm crap at estimating size, but it was big. Several city blocks large, maybe more.
In addition to not being aliens it was DEFINITELY not a reflection. You can see from the progression of the photographs that it remained stationary as the plane moved, and I checked to make sure it wasn't a reflection at the time.
It appeared to be flat on the ground.
It appeared to be artificial light. It looked a bit like someone had put an enormous LED monitor flat on the ground and lit it with orange.
The lights appeared artificial and there wasn't haze or movement to suggest that they were flames, although I can't rule that out. (i.e. it didn't flicker like a fire)
I'm not sure why one part is lighter than another.
Southern Michigan is pretty rural, so the nearby lights suggest it was adjacent to a small town. I speculate that the straight line of lights might be a bridge, but I can't identify the town based on the visible landmarks.
It was NOT aliens.
posted by Preserver to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There is what looks to be a massive greenhouse operation on the southwestern edge of Coldwater that matches much of your description.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:05 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by humboldt32 at 7:15 PM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

That's it! I saw it on Google maps but couldn't see that it was a greenhouse.

Must be very annoying for the neighbors.

Thanks Mefites!
posted by Preserver at 7:19 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Venus. No other object has been misidentified more often than the planet Venus.
posted by krisjohn at 11:49 PM on November 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

Huh. I've stayed in a hotel in Coldwater before. I didn't notice it, but I was on the other side of town.

Coldwater has signs entering the town boasting of "the cleanest water in the state of Michigan". I wonder if that's related to the greenhouse, or if it's just a coincidence.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:50 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I still can't get over how BRIGHT it was. I mean, HELLO light pollution.
posted by Preserver at 7:46 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

You will probably want to avoid the Netherlands. The view of these things landing at night at Schiphol is remarkable. There's acres and acres of them. I knew what you were asking about without even having to click on the images.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Here's a news story from this week about a similar greenhouse glow in eastern Washington state.
posted by tacodave at 4:08 PM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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