Calgary residents looked up to the sky to see something completely mysterious on Saturday, but one man solved the mystery and identified the object as a plane flying through the night.
Karina McConnell was at her home in Radisson Heights Saturday night when she noticed something strange in the sky.
“I noticed something in the sky and I looked up and we started shooting because I didn’t know what it was,” McConnell said. “It was going really slow to be a meteor, in my opinion, but it definitely looked like a meteor.”
McConnell captured the mysterious object as it moved across the sky.
“(It was) very strange, certainly not something you normally see,” she said.
And McConnell wasn’t the only one looking up at the sky on Saturday night, several people also described seeing the “shining body.”
Julian Redwood-Henry also captured a video of the sky – and the luminous object – from his home in Thorncliffe.
“The sun had just set and there was a lot of smoke in the atmosphere,” said Robin Foret, former president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. His telescope happened to go out on Saturday evening and saw the object drifting next to it.
Foret said what looked like a fireball was actually a plane surrounded by smoke from the bushfires.
“The sun was setting and there was a plane flying in the sky and the sunset was lighting up the porthole in a very unusual way,” Forett said.
People are familiar with the jets from an airplane where there is a white stream in the blue sky. This was truly illuminated in a way that was truly emanating from the sky and seemed quite unusual, not unlike a fireball.”
He said the giveaway for finding the object’s true identity was slow-moving.
“A fireball, of course, would spread across the sky very quickly and this object was moving at the pace of a jet at that altitude,” Forett said.
The smoke from the burning forest fire causes the red sunset and the moon to rise, Foret says, adding that it was easy to confuse the plane with a meteor because it was dark enough that the plane could not be easily seen.
“I could see the plane in front of it. It wasn’t dark enough until the plane was gone.” I imagine if it was a little darker and you couldn’t see the plane and only saw the porthole lit by the sunset, it might make you think there was no plane in front of it.
This is a similar phenomenon to the International Space Station, Foret said.
“A lot of people have seen the space station flying overhead. When we see it we see it from the sun that set hours ago and it picks up the space station at that particular altitude as it moves through the sky. It’s the same with the jet,” he explained. “If it’s dark enough that you can’t see the plane but you see the jet, all you see is what looks like a fireball but if it’s going very slowly, it’s not.”
While it might be disappointing that a mysterious celestial body was just an airplane, Foret said anything that makes people look up in the sky and wonder what they’re seeing is a good thing.
“Anything that inspires that curiosity for what exists,” he said. “Once we see something, we want to understand what it is, and as we try to understand what it is, we learn more and more and more.
“That’s the wonderful thing about astronomy – every time we discover something new, we come up with ten new questions that we don’t know the answers to.”
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