Jun 30 2015

Multiple Lights in the sky over Smithfield, PA-June 27, 2015

Multiple Lights in the sky over Smithfield, PA-June 27, 2015

With the approach of the 4th of July, we can expect an increase in reports of one or multiple bright objects moving across the sky. They are generally described as bright orange or reddish-orange lights. The lights can however be of many other colors as well. They make no sound, move with the wind patterns, then suddenly vanish when the fuel source is expended. These objects are better known as Chinese Lanterns or Sky Lanterns.

They are sold in stores as kits to launch and some individuals have built similar devices out of household materials. In past years I have received s surge of such observations around holidays and special events. That does not mean however, that all reports of luminous objects in the sky can be explained as these type of aerial devices. I have also stressed my concerns in past years that these sky lanterns could be a navigational hazard as well as a fire hazard in areas experiencing drought conditions.

The following report submitted by research Jim Brown is an example of the kind of reports we might expect as we get closer to the holiday weekend.

Type of Sighting: Numerous lights in the sky (8 to 10)

Date: June 27, 2015

Location – Smithfield, Pa.

Time – 23:05 hrs.  Duration: 5 min.

Weather Conditions:  100% cloud cover at 2000 feet.  Wind out of the SSW at

10 mph.  Ground conditions clear.  Rained about 5 hours previous.


Description of Sighting:  The first sighting was of 2 white lights coming over the horizon ( 5 degree elevation) to the south.  These were an off white, slight yellow or gold tint.  No aircraft lights (red or green) visible. I observed them as they gained elevation.  Three more came into view trailing the first two. By now the first ones were at about 45 degree elevation to my east.  While watching the three at some point the first two disappeared.  I attempted to photograph them but the distance prevented anything aside from showing just the gold-white light.  There was no sound associated with any object.

The next three climbed to about 60 degree elevation to my north east then faded one by one.  By now two more were visible to the south.  Rather than to attempt photography I pointed my astronomical telescope toward them for a detailed look. (8 inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, Meade, 25 mm lens)  It was difficult to track them but I was able to get a good look at one of the objects.

At that point I could see a single point of light below what appeared to be a dome shaped envelope.  Four supporting struts were also visible holding what appeared to be a single light in the center.  From this I could determine the object was a Chinese Lantern type device.  This fits with the direction of travel as they were following the prevailing winds.  Additional objects appeared and followed the same pattern as the earlier ones.

At this point I was satisfied with what they were, Chinese Lanterns.  To date I am unable to determine where they were launched from, but based on direction and apparent altitude I am speculating somewhere between Smithfield and the Gans area.  There were no public fireworks or similar shows in the area at the time, however they could have been launched by a private party.

One curious observation was that each appeared to fade at the same approximate point in the sky, north-east of my observation point. The clouds were at approximately 2000 feet and 100% cover.  It is possible they entered a lower cloud bank however localized details regarding these conditions could not be determined.  It would be unusual for all of these lanterns to burn out at the same time with respect to their launch, however without knowing precisely where the point of origin was an exact burn time can’t be established.

Jim Brown

Independent Research Associate.