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

4,712 responses to “Lights in the sky

  • Overhead@Banora point approx 7pm edst 2 nov 16 – Have just seen something fly on about 60 degree angle with trail of smoke. Flew higher than clouds til it was out of sight. We are under flight path of coolangatta airport but it was not an aeroplane, no noise and smoke dissipated within 1 minute. Also no planes seen on flight tracker. Looked like a rocket shape???

    • Ali, Thanks for a good report, and congratulations on checking flight tracker! It may have been a fireball, but not the same one as David (above) saw.

      • Hi, do fireballs fly upwards towards the atmosphere? Its got us stumped. Even sussed out nearby military bases in case it was from them.. but from my research the cloest is down near newcastle… i also have photo of the smoke trail too if that would help to identify what it was my family saw?

    • Try flightradar24 its a great app tells you the flight details what fliggts are in your area and flights that are in emergencies such as sqawrk 7700 ive seen these as well and they didnt ahow up on my flight radar very odd

  • In Bossley Park at 2000 hours on the 28/10/16, looking directly north about 45° up, what seemed like streaks of light shooting across the sky to the south west, moving very quickly and happened about 9 times, each about 9 seconds apart. Each were only visible for a second. I think they may have been solid objects as the light was strongest at the front and then faded into a tail.

  • Hi my name is mike liverpool 22.00 hrs west of liverpool seen ball of light moving slowly east over manchester changing colour from blue to red then green 22nd october 45 degrees east of liverpool going up and right slowly over 30 minutes it seem to clime higher an keep changing colour 22.25 hr it is about east south east of liverpool still moveing

  • Forgive the poor descriptions.

    Just witnessed in Perth WA an intensely bright white (like magnesium burning) large object (fist size not accounting for distance) with a bright blue centre appear to burn up for 3-4 seconds pass south of Perth from a SE direction moving W, moving quickly across while falling slowly. From where I am sitting looked like it was over Rockingham heading towards Rottnest (generalisation). Time was at approx 0255 hrs 19th oct. at the end appeared to “break up” into 4-7 pieces that burnt out in about 1 second each. I’m sure it was there longer however it came over from an obstructed view from my position. Clear night, very light and thin cloud cover – can see moon /stars but don’t know any names.

    Beautiful sight, no idea what it was. First thought was a burning satalite

    Addit to post – roughly 30 degrees

    • TJ, it sounds like a bright meteor, called a fireball if bighter than Venus (Venus is prominent in the west for a couple of hours after sunset) and a bolide if it breaks up. ‘Fist-size’ sounds too big, however. You might want to report it to Fireballs in the Sky.

  • At Abbotsford (Sydney) at 1200 hrs. Saw a pinpoint bright white irregularly flashing light with a period of 0.25-2 seconds. Clear bright sky. Looked very distant. Direction about 165 degrees true, elevation about 20 degrees. Observed for about 7-8 minutes. The period was short and it was very persistent, and really bright, even in full daylight. Couldn’t really tell its movement, but it looked pretty steady. I guess it’s most likely to be a distant plane or reflective balloon, but I’ve not seen anything like it before. Would be interested to know if anyone else saw it and and suggestions as to its origin.

  • I was in my room looking out side my window in Brisbane Australia, it was a clear night and there were some stars out, and i saw a red circle light that was maybe 80-100 meters or more south east in the air. It was maybe 5-8km away from where i was looking. It was quite a large red circle light, and it was really clear to see. At first i thought it was the headlights from a aeroplane. It was moving slowly torwards my direction, then all of a sudden it blew up into a massive cross, like it was massive. Then it disappeared and i havent seen it since. This all lasted about a minute or 2. Anyone know what ive seen?

  • About 20.41 EDT (Sydney) on I noticed a star in the west which seemed brighter than usual and also brighter and irregular shaped rather than the usual round point of light. I took a photo to get a closer look and that confirmed the shape was definitely not usual. it was certainly very bright as the camera setting was to quick to capture any surrounding features. I observed it over about ten minutes and it was not moving relative to the rest of the sky. About an hour later I couldn’t see it(as perhaps it had set below the horizon) I will check again tonight to see if it is still there. Any ideas what star/ planet I may have been looking at?
    -direction approx. 240 to 250 deg www
    -altitude approx 20 degrees.
    -time approx 20.41 edt.

      • Michael, Yes that is Venus. Its the ‘evening star’ at present. It sets at 9:52pm AEDT tonight (Oct 14, 2016), and a few minutes later each night (at least for the rest of the month). The ‘irregular’ shape is not real – just a result of it being very bright and your eyes not being perfect optical devices! Through a telescope, but not on your camera, you would see that it is a gibbous disc. Check its position every 15-minutes or so and you will see that it is moving – more precisely that Earth’s rotation is causing it to set.

  • Yesterday in Maryland I was driving south on interstate 295 (BW parkway) between the columbia and ft meade exit. I saw a bright light in the sky that disappeared after a few seconds. Today, on the same hwy but further north I saw the same thing. A bright light, almost like an ill-formed star, in the sky after like 2-3 seconds it disappeared. On both days the sky has been sunny and blue, very few clouds (no clouds where the object was).

    • Tonight at about. 724pm I saw something similar in State College, PA. I couldn’t tell the shape, but it was a clear sky, nothing really close. It lasted about 3 seconds

  • At 0552 the morning of 4/10/16 I noticed as I was driving into the city an intensely bright red light located close to pennant hills Rd. There was a dark smoke trail and it was not falling in a straight line, it was zig zagging down. It looked fairly large in size, however the light extinguished fairly high off the ground and went dark. From where I was, I would guess the light was just above the golf course that borders the M2 and Pennant hills Rd.

    • Tom, This one sounds just like an emergency flare. They are very bright (as you’d expect) and hang below a small parachute (to keep them high and visible for as long as possible) which would account for the swinging. I assume they have use-by dates, and it’s school holidays at present…

  • Tonight I saw a red ball of light in the sky moving very slowly from my Norah Head home. Its direction was over towards Noraville Toukley North West. It was crazy. The night is clear, stars are out. And it seemed to move slow. It was not flashing at all… I have never seen anything like it before. I am hoping someone else had seen this also.

  • Between 7.30pm and 8.00pm Thursday 29/9/2016 was fishing on the beach at wallabi point. There was massive thunderstorm out at sea but was clear overhead. Infront of the thunder clouds I saw 4 bright orange lights appear. They appeared one at a time from south east to North East and had the same distance between them. Looking about 45degrees out facing east out to sea. After the 4 light where there for about 5 seconds they just turned of/ disappeared then a couple minutes later it happend again in the same place. It seemed like they where a few km out at sea. They didn’t move and they where like a street light but really orange.

    • Saw the same lights for the second time at Coomba Park on Wallis Lakes near Forster seen by three people exactly as you have decribed the second sighting was last night 29th September

  • There was a glowing oval in the sky this evening right next to Castle Hill (adjacent to the top left if looking from Pumlico) in Townsville, Queensland. It happened at 6:35pm and only lasted about 20 seconds, but it was the craziest thing ive ever seen. It was moving around so quickly and changing colours! Blue, green, yellow and pink and it was kind of blurry-like it didn’t have a defined edge. And the it was gone. It was really large compared to the cars driving up the hill so it couldn’t have just vanished, but it did. Im never ever going to forget that thing.

  • Ulladulla NSW
    6:15am approx
    viewed North (tending to North West)
    45° in the sky
    30 seconds duration of observation
    Moving East
    Clear sky
    I saw a bright light in the morning sky, it gradually got brighter (very bright) then as it moved East it faded to nothing. I thought it may have been the ISS but the ISS was not supposed to be seen over Australia at this time(?)

  • I was travelling in an easterly direction on Bong Bong Road, Horsley NSW and noticed two bright white flashing lights in the south at about 30 degrees. It was moving downwards and then vanished. The time was 4.55am and it lasted for about 10-20 seconds. The lights were larger than any lights I have ever seen on a plane or helicopter. The sky was clear and all the stars could be seen.

  • I was in india it is 1 year ago.
    A orange light had a tail like a comet was seen by me .
    It was at an angle of 30 degree in the west direction during day time.
    It was seen only for 2-3 min and was going from n to s.

  • Friday 10.00pm saw laser like lights arcing axross townsville.creating lighting like affects to clouds also fire balls streaking through clouds.who is trying to make rain?affects whole atmousphere.

  • At around 6-7pm my friend said he seen an object in the Australia South West direction 30 degrees up from Northern NSW before dipping below horizon bright, flaring, Was it an asteroid ? Meteor ? Or something else ?

  • At about 11 til about 1 am and could be later, in Gosforth Newcastle upon Tyne on 20th September observed flashes of fast moving trails of white mist way above sky seemed to move real fast and in different places, no noise

  • At around 1950 in Townsville massive flare/ bright flash to north west of Townsville Qld definite not aircraft as whole sky went white. No chance it was lightning the sky literally looked like a led light.

  • 04:30 Thursday 15 September 2016
    Object , bright shinny , 2mm round
    Straight line , north to south direction
    Very fast , say 1. To 1/2 min to cross sky
    Very high

    I thought it was ISS , but it seems ISS travals W to east .

  • At around 10pm WST Last night over Perth, WA we were looking towards the west. A stationary object with bright flashing lights which kept changing colours appeared. With the naked eye it just looked like flashing lights but with binoculars you could see lights in a v shape with about 6 lights on each arm of the v. It was very clear when the v was red lights. The lights changed colour red, blue, green yellow. More than one colour showed at the same time. It was positioned about 45 degrees from the horizon looking west from West Coast Hwy. it was about 5 fists south of the moon and about 25 degrees lower than the moon. We watched till about 10.30 and it hadn’t moved.
    We asked Perth Observatory what it might be but they could see because of cloud cover. We had some clouds in the sky and a few stars but this was incredibly bright. And either large or close.
    Anyone know what it was?

    • Christine, At that time there was the planet Saturn in the approximate position you describe. It is not uncommon for bright planets to colour flash as you describe – Venus is usually the culprit. The v-form may be due to poorly collimated or partially defocussed binoculars. If it was something astronomical its motion in just 30-minutes at such a high altitude above the horizon may not have been obvious. I’m surprised you didnt notice Mars which was very red and between Saturn and the Moon (and a bit to the left). If it wasn’t Saturn or Mars I don’t know what it was.

    • I see the flashes, all the time. Sometimes 10-20 per night. Usually 90-0° towards north, though can be east or west. I’ve been stargazing for 40 years and these things have appeared last cpl years, only. Sometimes they take off at impossible speeds, leaving a trail of light then appear instantly back where the first flash was seen. Others they seem to be almost dripping and there is obviously huge increases in voltage going on. This is not planets, rockets, satellites, space stations, shooting stars, ball lightening etc, all of which, I’m familiar.. This is something else. They seem to appear when I look for them. Which is to say I can feel when I am or aren’t going to see them. Sometimes they seem just metres above the ground. Very strange.

  • – Jaboticatubas, MG – Brazil (22 km from International Airport Tancredo Neves)
    – 9:30PM
    – looking at West
    – high up you looking at 45°
    – Saw object during 5 seconds
    – west and after, North
    – Fully clear
    – No another astronomical object (like Moon or Venus or any other astronomical object)
    – Small red light moving very faster in direction to west and TURNS to north more faster before disappeared

  • Kaneohe, Hi, USA
    8:00 pm
    Facing north, looking almost directly upward

    My son and I were playing in a neighborhood playground, and as part of the game, he instructed me to look up.

    I saw a small, pin of light, no tail, no sound, no visible deviations. It went from about 45 degrees NE to about 45 degrees SE in a straight line. To estimate speed, it went 90 degrees across my cone of vision in about 10 seconds.

    I’ve seen comets, “shooting stars,” planets/satellites but this was like nothing I had ever seen. Simply a small dot going very fast, in a straight line.

  • This was in the summer of 2002 or 2003 when I was a preteen. I was outside of Denver, Colorado looking up at the Stars. If my memory serves me correctly, these were the first lights to appear and first appeared just above the south horizon. As darkness set in they rose pretty high to maybe 60 degrees above the horizon. The two lights were in a perfect vertical line. They looked very distant, like starts or satellites. Most the time they stayed still, but then they started moving in tandem higher into the atmosphere in a straight vertical line. The lower light would then move up and down underneath the upper light. This went on for maybe 5-10 minutes. Then, suddenly, an equally sized light from above them came shooting towards them at an angle. It came from above and to the left of the lights. It looked like a missile and was headed straight for the lower light. I gasped as the missile hit exactly the lower light. I expected to see an explosion. However, even though the middle light aligned with the lower light, it passed through and continued on its descent fading out high above the horizon. In my mind I thought the middle had missed and was too far behind the light to make the collision. I don’t think the lights moved much after that, and I had to go to bed.
    I’ve mostly forgotten about it until something in the news jogged my memory. My thoughts were it must be some government missile test (scary). Any insight is welcome.

  • Last night around 3am it was clear, I thought looking east above the horizon that it was a partial lunar eclipse of the moon. Until the orange light became like a ping pong size through my camera of my phone, and was moving up, and down, then left and right.
    It was a clear view and I videos it. Camera picked up what looked like a dancing light which changed shape with more than one small group of lights amongst the bigger Ball. It had no tail, just like a ball dancing in the Dark Sky. I went inside as was cold so I don’t know how long this ball was moving erratically in the sky. If it was a planet, I don’t think it would be been moving in all directions!!
    Anyone else see this on the Gold Coast?? Queensland Australia??

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