Four members of the crew of a DC-8 aircraft on a night flight from Lima, Peru to Mexico, D.F. reported sighting two bright lights which appeared to increase their angular separation with time. At the greatest angular separation the lights appeared to one of the observers to be connected by a body which had a suggestion of windows. Protuberances from the main "body" were reported. The object appeared to fly "in formation" with the aircraft for about two minutes and then was lost to view behind the wing of the aircraft.
It is suggested that the sighting may have been the result of the reentry of fragments of the Agena from Gemini II.
During a regular flight of a DC-8 commercial airliner from Lima to Mexico City four crew members reported an interesting sighting to the left of the aircraft. Here is the description given by the captain.
Two very bright lights, one of which was pulsating; from the two lights were two thin beams of light (like aircraft landing lights) which moved from a V initially to an inverted V finally. At one point the object seemed to emit a shower of sparks (similar to a firework). There appeared to be a solid shape between the two white lights, which was thicker in the middle and tapered outwards. There was also a strip of light between
the white lights (not very bright and yellowish in color). Much like cabin lights of an aircraft.
The chronology and circumstances of events are given below:
Time: Winter 1966; 0803 GCT; 0238 local time.
Position of aircraft: Latitude 6°S; Longitude 81°42'W.
Moon: Almost full moon, high in the sky behind the aircraft.
Heading of aircraft: 318° magnetic, 324° geographic (36°W of N).
|0 min.||First sighting. Two lights, 70° left, about 10° above the horizon. Estimated separation of the lights about 1/2°|
|4 min.||Lights now about 90° to the left, brighter than the full moon, separation of the lights estimated at about 9° or 10°. A suggestion of "windows" between the lights. Shower of sparks from more northerly light.|
|5 min.||"Pacing" the aircraft|
|6 min.||"Pacing" the aircraft|
|7 min.||Object lost to view behind the left wing.|
Suggested explanation of the sighting:
The apparent "pacing" of the aircraft by the object for an estimated two minutes is a puzzling feature of the sighting. Also the captain's sketch is suggestive of some kind of a craft. These add up to the intriguing possibility of an intelligently guided craft which, in the words of the aircraft's captain, "is a craft with speed and maneuverability unknown to us."
In a discussion with the captain, who has had some 26 yr. of flying experience, I asked his opinion of the following possibilities:
|Explanation||Evaluation by Captain|
|Reentry of satellite||Possible|
The Agena from Gemini II (see Plate 20) had been predicted to reenter at 0730 GCT at latitude 21 N, and longitude 134 E (NE of the Philippine I.). This is some 33 min. earlier than the sighting and about 1/3 of the of the earth's circumference away. NORAD has made a calculation of a reentry of a fragment or fragments from the Agena which would have a much smaller drag coefficient than the Agena proper. The final computer predictions to represent an extended reentry of a low drag fragment in the vicinity of the aircraft are shown in Table 3. It is noteworthy that during the last two minutes from 08h 04m 30s to 08h 06m 21s the object is dropping almost vertically from 26 km. to 10 km. The aircraft was presumably flying at about the latter height.
The closest approach of the Agena and the aircraft is about 250 statute mi. The rapid deceleration of the reentering fragment
at the end of its journey is consistent with the impression of the crew that the object was pacing the aircraft since it could have appeared close to 90° on the left side of the aircraft for some minutes during its final descent into the atmosphere. The time of the sighting was given by the report of the crew as 0803 GCT. It is not known whether this time was near the early or the late part of the event. Also there is some uncertainty as to the exact geographical location of the aircraft during the sighting. With these uncertainties it seems that the proposed explanation of the sighting as due to the reentry of the Agena from Gemini II is reasonable (but not proven) so far as the relative paths of the aircraft and the predicted reentry are concerned.
|NORAD Computer Predictions for Extended Reentry of Low Drag Fragment of Agena|
|Date||Hr.||Mm.||Sec.||S. Lat.||E. Long.||Ht.(km.)|
|30 Dec. 1966||08||00||30||4°.498||268°.218||81.|
|01||30||6 .390||271 .476||74|
|03||30||9 .264||276 .572||43|
|04||30||9 .558||277 .106||26|
|05||30||9 .577||277 .142||15|
|06||21||9 .577||277 .142||10|