Lights in the sky

Sydney Observatory often receives reports from the public about mysterious and unexplained sightings in the sky. Many of these are fireballs, which are small rocks from space hitting the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burning up brightly as they reach the denser parts of the atmosphere about 30 or 40 km above the ground. Others turn out to be aeroplane vapour trails, ‘dump and burn’ manoeuvres by Air Force aircraft, satellites, weather balloons or even exploding rockets or rockets venting fuel.

We invite you to report your observations here at the bottom of this page. Other people may wish to comment on your observations if they have seen the same object or seen something similar at another time.

When leaving your observations please give as much detail as you can including

– Where you were – reports without a location will not be posted
– The time
– The direction you were looking (north, east, south, west or in-between)
– How high up you were looking (horizon is 0° elevation, half way up is 45° and directly overhead is 90°)
– How long you saw the object
– The direction the object was moving
– Whether it was clear or cloudy
– Whether you could see the Moon or Venus or any other astronomical object
– Describe what you saw

We welcome reports from around the world, however we are unable to respond to international reports.

Thank you

4,721 responses to “Lights in the sky

  • there was a bright light on 14 january in the sky as i looked about 80 degrees i saw, a bright light (which wasnt clear at the time, until it came about 50-60 degrees) and it was moving from West to East.can you tell me what it was?

  • melbourne, vic

    13th of jan, approx 5:00-5:30 am

    i was sitting in my backyard facing s/se with a friend (who didnt witness) when i sore a light so bright that i first caught site of it through some mesh roofing to my right at an angle of 30-35degress. it was heading in the same direction i was facing with pace, from my right to centre. due to its angle, brightness and the apparent close appearence it had i thought it was a helicopeter. realizing it was not due to no noise, i lent forward to see more clearly and sore the brightest thing ive seen in the sky, it was white/yellow with purple coming and goin, it was beautiful. it lasted for about 3-4 seconds then dimed out quickly. the intensity and the angle of its trajectory made it seem as though it was only 400-450 metres away..
    i watch the stars and see the usual.. it left me speechless, and cursing that my freind missed it..

  • Might be possible that something moved between me and the star? I’ve seen plenty of meteors enter the atmosphere and from what I’ve experienced they last at most a few seconds. This took about 30 seconds in total.

  • Hello Ben. It is hard to know what it was that you reported on 12 January. One possibility is that it was a meteor coming straight towards you and so it did not move across the sky as usual for meteors. It flared up as it was burning up in the atmosphere and then disappeared just as you saw. You definitely did not see a star “die” – when a massive star goes supernova at the end of its life it becomes bright for days, weeks or months and not the few seconds that you saw.

  • Hello Janet. Indeed you saw the International Space Station. And there is nothing wrong with doing so. According to the Heavens Above website on 14 January 2008 as seen from your location the ISS moved into the Earth’s shadow at 9:47 pm when 19° above the horizon. Incidentally, the “Big Dipper” is a Northern Hemisphere constellation. Maybe you meant Orion, which is known to some Australians as “The Saucepan”?

  • I went into my garden in Coburg, Victoria at 9.50pm and looked up at the stars. I saw an object that looked like a star but was brighter than the others (maybe twice as bright as the other brightest star in the sky). The object was in the NNE of the sky and when I first noticed it, it was about 75o above the horizon. The object caught my attention because it was moving steadily ‘downwards’ towards the NNE horizon. I watched the object for about 15 seconds before it faded (quite quickly) from view when it was about 15-20o above the horizon. The sky was clear and the ‘Big Dipper’ was visible near the path of the object. I assumed the sudden fading was due to the object losing reflected light from the sun when it moved into the earth’s shadow. However, it did not look like a satellite. It was much brighter and the light was ‘starlike’ rather than dull – like satellites look. I hope its not the ISS that JD saw – I don’t want to look up and see a space station!

  • Yarra Valley, Victoria

    13th January, 2008 at approx 10pm

    The night was clear, my lounge room blinds were open, the windows face an easterly direction. At approx 10pm I sighted what appeared to be a very bright blue fire ball, the size of a basketball, with a black trail. It was seen at a 45 degree angle, travelling in a N/NE direction and visible for 3 to 4 seconds. I almost expected it to cause an explosion or fire when it hit the ground, however as far as I know this did not occur, nor did I hear any sound. At first I thought it must have been fireworks, but it was too large and bright, so I wonder if this was a meteor that I sighted?

  • I saw that meteor too! About 10.45pm — the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life.
    I was inside at the time (live in the Yarra Valley) when I saw through the window a massive fireball in the southern/sthEast sky (southern cross was just to its right). A bright yellow flash with a bluey tinge. Lasted 2 or 3 seconds. It must have been very bright as I was able to see it clearly even though I was looking outside from within a brightly lit room. Was definitely very large. If most meteors I’ve seen were likened to the size of a marble, this one was about the size of a cricket ball.

  • Veronica, Tim & Peter: Well reported. The three of you must have seen the same meteor or fireball last night (13 January 2008), judging by the time and the colour. Note though that a meteor does not become a meteorite until it lands and hits you on the head (or foot, or on your car roof or your house roof). Unless it is actually seen to land (and that is extremely rare) there is no way of knowing if any remnant of the original meteoroid survived the trip throught the atmosphere.

    JD: Almost certainly you were looking at the International Space Station. There was a pass last night at that time. There is another good pass coming up tonight (14 January 2008) at about 9:46 pm summer time. The ISS will be moving west to east.

  • I was in the car last night (Sunday 13 January 2008), in Cranbourne, when I saw (sometime around 10:40-45pm I think) a large yellowish flame with a greenish tinge, which I initially assumed was fireworks, however I believe it was a meteorite. I think it was in a NNE direction that I saw it. I saw it for about a second or 2 max, before it disappeared (no apparent explosion or impact with the ground, as far I could tell, I just saw it (falling) and then it disappeared.

  • Sunday 13th Jan. Bridport North East Tasmania. Approx 10.30pm. Looking NNE saw a short greenish streak with a short tail flash across very low, approx 25 degree elevation and lasting maybe 1 sec. First thought it was a firework but there was no noise and the colour and general look of it was different. Travelling NNW and a couple of seconds after heard and felt a light thump. Clear sky.

  • I was driving from the town of Donald in Victoria and was 15 km outside Charlton. I saw a huge green meteorite with a really fast and very low trajectory fall to the ground.

    My car clock isn’t accurate , but it was about 2245 hours.

    I am an amateur astronomer and this was by far the largest meteorite I have ever witnessed. Totally awesome people.

  • Object details..

    Sighted North Coast of Tasmania

    Direction of travel South to North

    Time 927pm 13 January

    Twice as bright as any visible star, on a continuous heading of South to North, the object seemed around twice the size and intensity of any visible star, and journeyed from South horizon to Northern Horizon (over Bass staright) in less than 2 mins.

    Object had small tail for a period, with a constant glow, and did not alter course.

    Seemed lower (ie closer) than satellites that are visible to the naked eye, and travelled at much higher speed.

    Glow visible for entire journey to Northern horizon by naked eye at twylight.


  • – Northern Beaches, Sydney
    – Around 1 or 2 A.M.
    – Looking south
    – Probably about 45° up
    – Lasted for about 20 – 30 seconds
    – It didn’t appear to be moving in any direction.
    – The sky was clear.

    – I looked up and noticed a star in the sky that was brighter than any other in the sky at the time. It seemed to be twinkling more than your average star and I suppose this is what drew my eye to it. Then to my astonishment it began to fade. Over a period of about 15 seconds it gradually appeared to grow more and more distant until it disappeared altogether.

    There were no clouds in the sky, so I have counted that out as a possibility. At the time, I thought that I might have just witnessed the death of a star, but after a bit of searching for information I haven’t seen such an event listed in any space event calendars.

    Anyone have any ideas on what it might have been?

  • Tonight I saw what can only be described as the biggest shooting-star I’ve ever seen! It looked so close, so colourful, with a big round fiery type front, and a trailing bluish tail. It’s was super-fast, but amazingly beautiful.

    I caught a glimpse for about 1.5 seconds and couldn’t believe my eyes, before it vanished behind the roof of the house, and appeared to give off an after-glow . I just hope someone else saw it?

    Spotted in Kingsgrove, Sydney @ approx. 1-2am, 11/01/08.


  • Hello Kristen. Almost certainly you were looking at the bright planet Venus which is currently visible in the morning sky before sunrise. Have a look tomorrow morning, it will still be there. Also on the following mornings for the next two or three months.

  • This morning I viewed what looked to me like a star 20 times brighter than a normal star from Melbourne,Florida.Looking south east It was as bright as could be and lasted from when I saw it at 5:40am until the sun came all the way up .. I cant find any information on what this was but am extremely interested to find out! Please someone help

  • Hi John. I do not know what to make of flashing lights in the sky seen over intervals of several minutes. They do not sound astronomical or due to spacecraft – possibities that spring to mind are helicopters, military aircraft or drifting/spinning weather balloons, but I don’t know what they were. Your more recent observations though could be Iridium flashes as at this time of the year 10 – 11 pm seems to be the best evening time for them – check out the Heavens Above website http://www.heavens-above.com/ for predictions for your area.

  • Following up on our sightings of 29 December and 1 January, we observed (from Bathurst) nothing on 2,3 and 4 January, however on 5 January we observed a similar flashing light now about 3 hand widths above Aldebaran (approx 75 to 80 deg).
    Time was 10PM and the light flashed (varying degerees of brightness)about 10 times over several minutes then stopped.

    On 6 January there was no flashing from Taurus area, but at about 10.15PM, we did see 2 very bright flashes about 20 seconds apart from the SE sky at about 45 deg – then no more.

    Reading about Adam Mills’ sighting of 3 satellites together, reminded me of a recent siting.
    On the night of either the 30th Dec or 1st Jan between 9.30 and 10PM, we observed (from Bathurst) a grouping of 3 with the front two close together (2nd the lower) with a 3rd following about 2 fingers behind.
    They travelled from south to north at about 25deg in the eastern sky.

    Nick, can you comment on the flashing light above Aldebaran (seen 29 Dec, and 1 and 5 Jan, and, what might the 2 flashes of 6 Jan in the SE sky be ??

    Thank you

  • Hello Adam. You must have been looking at satellites, still illuminated by Sun. The Heavens Above website http://www.heavens-above.com/ lists the following satellites as visible from Sydney between 10 and 11 pm on Tuesday 1 January 2008: Resurs 1-4 Rocket, Cosmos 1697 Rocket, Cosmos 1825, Cosmos 1833 Rocket, Helios 1B rocket, Chunghua 1, Cosmos 2221, Cosmos 1980 Rocket, MetOp-A, Cosmos 1441, Cosmos 1315, Meteor PRIRODA, Cosmos 1328 Rocket, Envisat, Cosmos 1220. The sighting of three at once sounds intriguing – they could have been US Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellites that always travel in threes and may not be listed on Heavens Above as their trajectories are unpublished.

  • At about 10pm last tuesday night (January 1), my girlfriend and I saw a whole lot of moving lights from the top of the highest hill in Sydney Park. We were lying on our backs, looking pretty much straight upwards. The lights were about the size of stars, moving one at a time in a number of directions. Mostly they moved slow, but some moved faster. Over the course of nearly an hour, we saw at least te of these lights – all of them were isolated, except just before we leave we saw three all moving in the same direction (south-west) at once. After about a minute, their trajectories appeared to get “wobbly” before they disappeared entirely.

    One in particular stood out for being much faster and brighter than the rest. It was moving south, and it had a tail like a comet. It only appeared form a few seconds before disappearing. I’m not sure of the exact time we sighted this one – we were too busy being fascinated by the spectacle to check our watches.

  • Very accurate description John. I tried several nights later too on the 30th and 31st (observing from Hill End nr Bathurst this time) but no result. I will try again tonight. Something is floating around up there. Quite obviously not an aircraft if we can both see it at the same spot and we are so far apart!! Thanks for your contribution too.

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