A correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor recently caught some mysterious looking objects on video in Virginia. An astronomer at the University of Virginia had a hard time identifying what the objects in video might be. However, checking the Open Minds archives, they do look very similar to the Silver Surfer UFO video from 2010 that turned out to be the Red Bull Air Force skydiving team using flares that created smoke trails as they jumped.
On September 8, Lisa Suhay and her 9 year old son were driving home from the grocery store just before dusk when they spotted a bright “flare” in the sky. She says the flare “began to shoot away leaving a very bright trail.”
Suhay writes that she and her son were already planning on doing some night sky watching that evening, excited by the recent news of a sighting of a large fireball that had outshone the moon. They pulled over to get a better look at the strange tails in the sky, and Suhay captured the objects with photos and a video using her cell phone.
The video shows some strange looking contrail-like objects, however, Suhay says with her naked eye she could see, “irregular black shapes appearing in the sky with orange coronas that flared around the leading edge and bright trails of white light behind them.”
She says it also appeared that the objects were “falling up,” and some were changing course. She says the event lasted about eight minutes and left her a bit baffled as to what she just witnessed. She suspected that it could be debris from the launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) at NASA’s nearby Wallops Flight Facility from the night prior.
To get some help identifying the objects, Suhay contacted Dr. Edward Murphy of the University of Virginia’s Astronomy Department and Observatory. After looking at the video and photos provided by Suhay, he responded:
From the way these are moving and the fact that two actually seem to go right at each other from opposite directions, and their speed, it isn’t likely to be a naturally occurring event but more likely some sort of very fast, high atmosphere craft. Probably military but I can’t really say.
So the event remains a mystery. However, the objects in the video are very similar to a video taken in December of 2010 that also left people scratching their heads. The man who took the video dubbed it the “Silver Surfer UFO,” as it reminded him of the trails the Silver Surfer comic book character left as he surfed the skies. The video made the local news, and had people searching for answers.
Bill Nye the Science Guy told NBC in LA that it could have been Sea Monkeys. An answer which also left people baffled. Finally, having seen the story on TV, the Red Bull Air Force came forward saying that they had actually been skydiving using flares at the time the video was taken. They had their own video of their sky dive, and sure enough they were the cause for the mysterious smoke streaks.
In order to confirm that it was skydivers Suhay saw, I called a couple of local skydiving companies. The only one I could get in touch with was the Virginia Sky Diving Center, which has a nearby facility in Virginia Beach. They were not aware of any skydiving events using flares on September 8. I also asked them to look at the video, but they could not say for sure that the objects in the video were skydivers.
I still have a few emails to local skydivers out there, so I will update this page if I hear from any of them. Until then, the mystery continues.
Read Lisa Suhay’s full account of the sighting here.
UPDATE 9/17/2013: Skydive Suffolk has responded to an email notifying us: “We did do a smoke jump on Sept. the 8th at Suffolk Executive Airport.”