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

4,773 responses to “Lights in the sky

  • 5:50am, traveling in westerly direction in car from Revesby station to panania station, over my shoulder and to the right a massive white light spiral of light, visible at a 45degree elevation for a few mins, witnessed by all 4 people in car.
    closest things i have found online is failed russian misile, but i think this was somthing else.

  • We were about 10km North of Gympie at 5.50 am this morning. When we saw the white object to our south with the spiral of smoke/cloud appearing to be coming out of it. It travelled in an easterly direction. The sky was clear and the moon was nearby in the sky. We observed it for 1-2 minutes before it disappeared behind a hill.

  • Oxford falls, Sydney’s Northern Beaches
    between approx 5:49am – 5:52am (called my brother at 5:50 to get him to have a look)
    First sighted when looking west. Watched it for several minutes travel across the entire sky in a north-easterly direction. In the sky where I first sighted the object were clouds and at first all I saw was a bright circular light. The light appeared to be traveling through the clouds and initially I thought it might of just been a helicopter however this light seamed quite different, dispersing light evenly through the clouds in a 360 radius and with no flashing lights or noise. I followed the object as it continued north/east into clear skys. As it left the clouds, it looked as if the clouds were still moving with it until it was fully visible in clear skys and I could see what looked like spiral clouds around the center light.
    The moon and a planet (venus?) were both visible.

  • June 5th Saturday morning 5.45am roughly. Woke up, saw to the nor-nor-east and only about 30 degrees high, what I thought was a beautiful spiral cloud over the moon and was about to get my camera when I realised it was moving east and downwards. Woke my wife but by then it went behind the silhouette of a tree and was gone. She didn’t see it, and we went back to sleep convinced I’d dreamt it until we heard it on the news. Photos make it look small but it was as large as the moon, with a glow around it much larger again.
    Narooma NSw. Maybe lasted a minute or so, but I only saw it as it came into the window frame, so it could have been going on for longer.

  • Hello Everyone,

    Thanks for all your wonderful reports. And thank you for answering the questions posted at the top of this page – that’s most helpful.

    At present our best explanation for what you all saw this morning (Sat June 6, about 05:50am) is the result of a rocket launch.

    The SpaceX company from the USA launched their Falcon 9 rocket at about 04:45am (Eastern Australian Standard Time). The rocket reached orbit about 10 minutes later – it doesn’t take long to get to space. If they were going for a Low Earth Orbit (which has a 90 minute orbital period) that would put the rocket over Eastern Australia about an hour later – i.e. around 05:50am.

    If you go to their web site you can see a video of the launch (http://www.spacex.com/updates.php). This shows the rocket spiralling while in orbit.

    Do you remember the failed Russian missile in 2009 that left a spiral in the sky? This may be a similar phenomenon. A spinning rocket venting fuel leaves a spiral cloud of vapour behind it, like water out of a spinning hose.

    Keep those sightings coming in!

    Update – June 7, 2010:
    Phil Plait, author of the former “Bad Astronomy’ blog has posted a good summary of the event at his new site.

    Even better, and I have been waiting for this, the Heavens Above site now includes the Falcon-9/Dragon spacecraft. Simply define your ‘Current Observing Site’, then click on the ‘Falcon-9’ link. This link shows when you will next see it passing overhead.

    The Heavens-Above site even allows you to look back in time: Click on the ‘Prev.’ link to see where it was on the morning of Saturday June 5, 2010. Ignore the passes prior to June 5 – these are dummy passes resulting from the automated nature of the program! Click on the ‘5 Jun’ link to see the spacecraft’s path across the sky.

    Best of all, there is a ‘Ground Track’, showing clearly the path of the spacecraft over Eastern Australia at 05:50(EAST) on the morning of June 5.

    Update – June 18, 2010:
    The web site space.com is quoting SpaceX founder Elon Musk as saying “I heard people in Australia thought UFOs were visiting 🙂 The venting of propellants, which is done to ensure that an overpressure event doesn’t produce orbital debris, created a temporary halo caught the sun at just the right angle for a great view from Australia. I thought the pictures looked really cool.” See the article.

    Update – July 12, 2010:
    Spaceflightnow.com has reported that the Falcon9/Dragon rocket burnt up in the atmosphere after its orbit decayed. This happened on Sunday 27th June, 2010.

    Andrew Jacob – Acting Curator, Sydney Observatory

  • any info on the light this morning around 5.40 am the oblect was similar to the spacestation with a large swirl of light (clockwise) around it ..moving northwords at a fair pace.?( I am on the south coast NSW)

  • This morning while doing my newspaper delivery run at 5:45am, I was standing on Karina Crescent, Belrose when I saw a bright spiral in the sky that was rotating anti-clockwise. It was travelling about as fast as a helicopter, perhaps even slower.

    It had a bright point in the centre that was smaller than the moon, but the spiral itself was much larger than the moon. It was only a one lined spiral, not lots of lines.

    This lasted for about 30 seconds.

    I phoned my sister who was on her own newspaper delivery run on Hews Parade, Belrose. She saw what I saw for about 15 seconds.

    It was moving in a NNE direction towards Narrabeen/Collaroy.

    When we got home, we googled “strange lights in the sky” and saw pics of the exact same spiral light that was seen over Norway on December 9th, 2009, Russia 2006 and China 1988.

    Any idea what this was?

  • About 5.50 AM this morn 5th june 2010 we saw a big bright white object leaving a wide bright spiral of light (wife, daughter, and self). Seen from Queanbeyan NSW. Looking up at about 35 -40 degrees and toward the north east at about 40 – 50 degrees east of true North. It would have been about 5 to 10 degrees wide. It spiraled around and fell to the horizon. the bright dust it was leaving fell with it. It was all over in about a minute.

  • – Where you were – near Gundaroo NSW

    – The time – 5.45 am Saturday 5 June

    – The direction you were looking (north, east, south, west or in-between)- north east

    – How high up you were looking (horizon is 0° elevation, half way up is 45° and directly overhead is 90°)about 22.5 degrees

    – How long you saw the object – about 1 minute

    – The direction the object was moving – moving east diagonally down to the horizon.

    – Whether it was clear or cloudy – misty/foggy

    – Whether you could see the Moon or Venus or any other astronomical object – Moon was overhead.

    – Describe what you saw – was in bed looking out the window at what looked like the moon through the fog, then realised it had a large spiral halo, woke up my partner who saw it too, went to the window and realised the Moon was overhead. By the time I managed to get the video camera out it was dissappearing behind trees and over the horizon. I’ve just noticed that the sun has just come up at about the same point that this phenomena went down on the horizon.

  • Today-5th of June @ around 5:50(that’s am) – saw a bright, white/yellow light in the sky. It was surrounded by a glowing spiral and moved across the sky in about a minute from West to East. I thought it was a sky beamer at first, but a) the bright spot in the middle was too bright – it looked more like a really bright star b) it did not have any reflections from the light beam c) when it went behind the clouds, it went behind the clouds d) we were able to see it in the clear sky as well.

    Most interesting was the spiral around it.

    I have never seen something like this before and it was really fast.

  • Where you were:
    West Wyalong, NSW, Australia

    – The time
    approx 05:45 – 05:50

    – The direction you were looking
    approx North East.

    – How high up you were looking
    45″ then down to the horizon

    – How long you saw the object
    approx 30-40 seconds, however i noticed it while it was low in the sky and it could have been around for longer than that.

    – The direction the object was moving
    In a North East direction following some straight line (wasn’t moving around in differing directions) at a constant speed.

    – Whether it was clear or cloudy
    Not a cloud in the sky

    – Whether you could see the Moon or Venus or any other astronomical object
    The moon was very nearly directly above

    – Describe what you saw

    A very bright spec larger than what a star is with a bright white spiral trailing out from it. I only saw it for a very short time before it moved down beyond the horizon.

  • Four of saw 3 greeny/Blue lights at appr 9.45pm on the 28/05 they appeared to be traveling above the water off coogee/maroubra in row going very fast we couldn’t hear any helicopter noise or see a wake from a jetski or boat, we could see the swell in the glow of the lights they went around malabar headland and we lost sight of them on the horizon to the south was an orangy red glow which disappeared a few minutes later

  • On Friday night whilst observing the beautiful full moon looking nth east from Balgowlah towards Manly I saw what appeared to be a giant falling star with a silver stream following. It was glowing silver white and traveled fast heading downwards. It was one of the most amazing things i have seen and am not sure if it was a meteorite or a big star or space junk or??? Can anyone shed some light on what it may have been or if anyone else saw it. It happened around 6pm.

  • Hi, anyone see the fireball, out to the east, heading south from Sydney around 5:30 Friday 28th May. I saw it from the car whilst on the M4, how bright would it have been (magnitude) if it saw it in full monnlight and saw it strongly cosindering the peak hour traffic glare? Any other reports?

  • On the 1/ 11 /10,i went into my garden .As i looked up to the sky,i saw an orange ball traveling aceoss the sky.It was not a shooting star it looked too big to be one.Afew seconds later another one followed and then another.they traveled west and slowely faded.They all took the same path..i couldnt belive it..

  • At approximately 6.00 pm 15/5/2010 in Singleton NSW we observed a bright orange light moving across the sky. It approached from the east at about 45 degrees and moved to the north to maybe 70 degrees and was moving quite fast. It appeared larger and brighter than the ISS which we have observed on many occasions. Any ideas??

  • On the 9th of May, continually between 16:30 and 17:00, my family and I observed what appeared to be a string of white (light?) very high up in the sky above the Hills district. The object remained motionless for 10 to 15mins before slowly heading from an 80 degree Northerly position, to NE position. The “tail” facing in a downwards direction although sometimes appearing to waft slowly into a slight curve. It was a cloudless day with a clear blue sky, there was a slight breeze. The object was plainly not a party balloon (we’ve seen these before being blown away and disappearing out of sight) but we speculated that perhaps it could be a weather balloon-although we thought that that would be odd. I managed to take some photos with my 75-300mm Canon zoom lens and the results after loading on computer and zooming in are even more bizarre: the “head” is not much larger than the width of the long “tail” but it’s distinctly glowing brighter, while the tail is also comprised of bright, slightly wavy/bumpy lights (almost like a string of white Christmas lights). It had a definite and clear beginning and end to it which remained the same during the whole observation. When observing with the maked eye was only a few centimetres long from where we stood but higher than an airplane’s cruising altitude. It was really strange how it appeared to “hang’ in the sky, barely moving or changing direction… just getting higher over the course of 30 mins. It slowly wafted out of sight. It sounded similar to what donald fish saw, but without the flash. Any ideas anyone?

  • Date: 12/5/2010 & 13/5/2010

    Time: 22:30 & 21:30 (abouts)

    Direction: South West

    High up: about 40 degrees

    Duration: about 20 and 10 minutes the second time

    Direction moving: it didn’t appear to be moving on either occasion. The first night it was clear second night some cloud. First night did see some other stars the next night did but only when cloud lifted

    Description: Both nights saw something, it was blue red yellow and white and on the first night it appeared to jump around (using binoculars), the second night it was same but did not appear to jump around, on both occasions it was gone by about 23:00. The second night it was further west than on the first night.

  • – Where you were
    Namibia, Windhoek

    – The time
    19h00 local (20h00 South-African)

    – The direction you were looking

    – How high up you were looking

    – How long you saw the object
    approx 6 seconds

    – The direction the object was moving
    From North to South in a straight line at a constant and very high speed.

    – Whether it was clear or cloudy
    Not a cloud in the sky and the first stars were just appearing for the night.

    – Whether you could see the Moon or Venus or any other astronomical object
    Few stars, it was around dusk.

    – Describe what you saw
    As I was returning from a local gas station a moving object caught my attention. I saw a speck of light which exactly resembled a star in the sky move from North to South through the sky. I paused and tried to identify whether the object could be an airliner at a very high altitude but no flashing lights caught my attention. After a few seconds I was straining to keep the object in sight. I finally lost sight of it facing South-West at around 75″. Probably a satellite reflecting the last sunlight from the setting sun, right?

  • 4 May 2010 Approx 7.10pm
    Location: Federal Hwy near Collector NSW
    Brilliant white round object, travelling north west, viewed through the windscreen of my car. It seemed quite large to me but I am new to this! Travelled quickly for maybe one second and then disappeared beyond the horizon. The sky overhead and to the north was clear at that point but we had driven through some heavy storms to the south only a few minutes before. I would love to know what it was.

  • 7.12pm 4 May 2010
    Fairlight, Northern Beaches

    Looking out my living room window towards the north saw a football sized object bluish white in colour fall very quickly through the sky. Was visible for only a second or two.

  • 7.10pm on 4 May 2010
    Location: Freshwater, Northern Beaches
    As I was coming to the top of a steep hill – 30 degree gradient – looking straight ahead and due north, I saw a bright compact white ball of light very low overhead heading north/north north west. It was travelling incredibly fast and gone in an instant. Never seen anything quite like it.

  • 04/05/2010 approx 19.10hrs
    Loction: Kogarah
    Facing North North East.
    Observed a white glowing object falling from the sky (travelling in a northerly direction)with a long tail with blue green trail and yellow/orange “sparks” coming off the back/trail. Object appeared quite low and appeared to go into a set of clouds illuminating them as it passed through. Lost sight of object.
    Lasted all but about a second and although I exclaimed, the two others with me missed what I saw. it was travelling at the speed of most meteorites but this appeared extremely low and quite large. By my calculations it probably crossed the flight path of planes using the old east west runway at Sydney Airport.

  • 1st May 2010, approx. 10 pm, standing on the Federal Hwy at the middle-north end of Lake George.

    Spotted a small but bright speck of light for .5 of a second grazing the atmosphere in a South Eastern direction directly away from my position.

    Light went from 70° to 30° elevation as it traveled before disapearing.

    Sky was clear at that time, almost Full moon visible aswell.

  • 24th April 2010, 9:30pm’ish, saw white ball shaped object with green-blue trail moving east to westerly in the south from where we were, in a car around Pheasants Nest area on the Hume Highway. Height looked just above the tree line, watched the object for 10-15 seconds and disappeared out of sight. It was a clear night.

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