Mystery solved: Object in sky identified
by Heather Hoch - May. 18, 2009 09:25 PM
The Arizona Republic
The mysterious UFO hovering over Arizona Monday has been identified. It isn't a weather balloon and it doesn't carry aliens.
The object was actually a massive 4,000-pound research balloon released from a NASA organization used to measure gamma ray emissions in high altitudes, according to Bill Stepp of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas. The balloon was launched Sunday morning at about 7:30 a.m. from Fort Sumter, N.M., and was grounded at about 9 p.m. Monday just south of Kingman, Ariz.
Stepp said the balloon usually floats at an altitude of 130,000 feet, so on a clear day it can be seen for about 170 miles. He said the balloon has raised concern from Albuquerque to Phoenix. “It's something unusual,” Stepp said. “People just don't know what it is.”
Sightings all over Arizona Monday afternoon had several residents wondering what exactly the object was.
Marshall Valentine works in an office off Scottsdale Road and Acoma Drive and said he and about five other co-workers spotted the object high in the sky around 2 p.m. He said the object stayed in place for over an hour.
“It looks like someone blew a bubble in the sky and it stayed there,” Valentine said. “A plane flew under it and it looked like it was a mountain higher than a plane flies.”
Similar descriptions of an unidentified flying, clear orb were also reported out of Sedona.
Jennifer McCoy, who runs the UFO Store in Sedona with her husband, said a local resident told her about the object in the sky at about 2 p.m. She said she went into the parking lot and saw the object in the cloud line. It was about the same time Valentine spotted the object over Scottsdale.
McCoy said the object “looked like the gigantic bubble from the Wizard of Oz.” She also said it stayed in one place for a while.
McCoy said she thinks some people will be skeptical of her report because “it's just the UFO Store seeing a UFO,” but McCoy said the other reports out of both Scottsdale and Sedona give the sighting some credence.
Though for a while the balloon was an unidentified flying object in the eyes of many Arizonans, the NASA research balloon was always accounted for.