10th Jul. 2011 :: M51 And UFOs
While out tonight attempting to improve on my earlier M51 image, I had two unusual experiences; the first I cannot explain, the second I can...
Early in the evening I was looking North at Ursa Major, it was still getting dark and I could only make out, 3 stars of "The Plough" in the "Handle" (Alkaid, Alcor, Alioth), I was trying to make out Megrez and the rest of the asterism.
While looking away for a moment I thought that I spotted Megrez from the corner of my eye, looking up quickly something seemed amiss, Megrez wasn't in quite the correct location. Then, whatever it was that I was actually looking at proceeded to move North East towards Dubhe, it moved every much like a satellite, but faded quickly before it actually reached Dubhe. I have no idea what it was, it was a point of light and white like the other visible stars, the only reason I doubt whether it was a satellite was because of the unusual direction and duration - it was visible for only a few seconds. I guess that it may have been a meteor, but there was no real brightness - perhaps it was moving in a direction that wan't apparent to me, and concealed that. Anyway, any other suggestions?
Fairly soon afterwards, still while setting up, another weird sighting - three orange lights, bright, apparently low, completely silent, moving fast and in unison. One first and two following, it was really bizarre, trying to grab my camera I took a very bad picture (the camera was on BULB setting so I had to manually, open then close the shutter). Then, just as my mind was racing - three more appeared - just the same; bright, completely silent moving in unison and fast. It was kinda freaky, totally unlike anything else I'd ever seen.
It was only when some more appeared that I suddenly had the realization of what was going on; I could hear distant music - there must have been a party going on and they were realising Chinese Lanterns. In addition there must have been some severe wind-shear because at ground level it was totally calm, but at 100ft or so there was (I guess) a 20 to 30 mph wind causing the lanterns to move in apparent unison and deceptively fast. The wind-shear was holding them at a constant height and they didn't have the usual lolling, bobbing, graceful floating appearance that you'd normally associate with lanterns.
All in all a very weird start to the evening...!
Anyway, I spent some time trying to photograph M51, which is pretty tough. I have to use a light pollution filter which results in the green tint to the images. My DSLR is great but it's unmodified, I really need to get a dedicated camera for this sort of object I think. I could do with some more aperture as well of course!!
UFO Chinese Lanterns
The Whirlpool Galaxy on Wikipedia