Shortly after 9:00 pm local time on Friday evening, November 14, 1997, residents of the U.S. Pacific Northwest witnessed what one person described as "the most bizarre thing I've ever seen... like something out of 'Star Trek.'"
Several brightly luminous objects flew in formation across the night sky, from west to east, reportedly visible from parts of British Columbia to as far south as Sacramento, California.
Radio and television stations in the Seattle, Washington metropolitan area were flooded with calls. The Seattle-based UFO Reporting Center Hotline took more than forty calls in one hour. By 11:00 pm, the three network TV affiliates in the Seattle area, KOMO, KING, and KIRO, all featured the sightings as their lead news story.
On Saturday morning, CNN showed a brief video clip shot in Seattle which showed several large, luminous objects with very long trails of glowing debris arcing over the city.
According to the Associated Press, the phenomenon was the result of a Russian rocket breaking up and burning as it entered the atmosphere from orbit. The AP quoted Milt Maas at the National Weather Service in Spokane as saying that pieces of the rocket fell harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean off the Washington coast. However, other pieces clearly flew eastward over land, and there was some speculation that debrise may have fallen in eastern Washington.
CNI News received more than a dozen email reports from people who witnessed the extraordinary aerial show, and additional mail from people with theories on what it was.
Some agreed with the "official" story that an aging Russian SL-12 (Proton) rocket, used for launching satellites, came down more or less as previously predicted by the U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs, which tracks all of the thousands of man-made objects (including numerous fragments of defunct rockets and satellites) currently orbiting the earth.
A writer named Dave reported that "an excellent video of the lights was recorded by a Vancouver, B.C., TV station [and] was shown on the local news (KING 5 TV, Seattle). It looked exactly like the films of the demise of Space Lab over Australia years ago. Definitely man-made debris re-entering the earth's atmosphere."
Other writers pointed out that the annual Leonid Meteor Shower is nearing its peak (the actual peak date is November 17) and that this year is predicted to be one of the most spectacular meteor showers in the past 30 years. Occasionally, so-called bolide or fireball meteors create a display similar to that seen on Friday night. But it would be highly unusual for a group of bolides to fly across the sky in perfect formation, as was reported.
Several witnesses commented that the luminous objects seemed to be moving very slowly. One witness estimated the speed at 200 miles per hour. Several commented that there was absolutely no sound. One witness contacted the Art Bell "Coast to Coast" radio program Friday night to say that he had seen a triangle-shaped object. However, nearly all witnesses reported a group of bright, moving lights.
"These things were flying in formation.... straight across the horizon, but low. My wife thought it was planes at first, flying in formation here in the valley," one witness wrote.
Another writer reported: "My friend called me from about 10 miles south-east of Everett (Washington). He saw what he described as a 'circle of white lights.' At least 6 or 7 lights, maybe more. It appeared as if they were attached to something. They were not blinking and not rotating. Entire circle of lights was about the size of thumbnail at arm's length. It was decending 'very quickly' in a nearly vertical fall. He watched it until he couldn't see it any longer because the trees in his yard blocked the view. Total duration of sighting was perhaps 30 seconds."
Yet another witness in Aberdeen, Washington said he was alerted by a phone-call from a fellow worker at 9:07 pm "that there was a 'really low flying aircraft outside'.
"I moved to an exterior landing which just happened to be facing north and couldn't believe what I saw," he said. "A large group of mixed-size objects, red-orange in color, were traversing the sky from west to east approximately 30 degrees above the northern horizon. Most of the smaller objects appeared to be 'spark like' in appearance and slowly winked out... Two red-orange colored objects larger than the rest appeared to lead the smaller objects. Approximately fifteen seconds before it passed from view, a third large sized object appeared to break out... ahead of the two large objects.
"I have seen dozens of meteors in my life and this was most emphatically not acting like any meteor I've ever seen," this witness wrote. "It maintained a constant speed and a slightly downward course."
Noting that the local KOMO-TV news was reporting the cause of the phenomena as "space junk," this witness added: "If that's the case, 'something' in the space junk ejected before impact and you and I will never know the truth about this one."
Some witnesses clearly were not buying the official explanations.
Mary, a resident of Wenatchee, Washington, wrote: "I thought at first I was seeing a reflection of traffic [in the window], because the lights I saw (four of them) were not moving that fast, and there was a definite formation. I told my husband to look, and he and my son ran out in the parking lot, just in time to see them disappear over the plateau, moving east... It is pretty ridiculous to expect anyone who saw it to believe it was ANYTHING that plunged into the Pacific, or anything as random as meteors. There was definite formation to it, and... SO LOW OVER THE LAND...
"I could SEE these objects passing between me and the hills," Mary insists. "I could SEE that the objects were between us and towers. It was BELOW the mountain top, IN THE VALLEY. It was no optical illusion, as I had PLENTY of time to watch it, resume eating my dinner, look up again and watch some more, before I decided that it was not a plane, not a reflection, not a fireball.
"I don't chase aliens or UFOs, and there is absolutely no reason for me to make anything like this up," she added. "Why is it so hard to expect government or media to tell the truth, even if the truth is 'We just don't know what it was'?"
Original file name: CNI - Seattle lights.final
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