Black Brant Rocket - Sept. 19, 2009

Hey guys - I’ve been out of town for a couple of days, so I’m playing catch up on here. Anyway, the other evening, my girlfriend and I were headed back into Charleston via I-26 when I looked into the sky and saw the strangest thing that I’ve ever seen. It appeared to be an extremely large, bright star with a very large, triangular shaped cloud formation below it. I pointed it out to my girlfriend and as soon as I said something, the “star” dimmed out to darkness over the course of a few seconds. The triangular cloud remained for a few seconds and then it also faded a few moments later. We were both convinced it was something extra-terrestrial, but I did tell her that I was going to have to do some research to make sure it wasn’t a rocket of some sort before I jumped on the UFO bandwagon. Anyway, I found out that NASA is reporting that they fired a “Black Brant XII Experimental Rocket” off the coast of Virginia that evening and apparently what we saw was witnessed by people from eastern US to eastern Europe. NASA said they sent the rocket up to create noctulescent clouds and that’s what people saw. Regardless of what NASA is claiming, there are many skeptics on the internet as to this rocket claim, and understandably so. I spoke with my grandfather last night (who was an engineer on the Apollo missions) and he somewhat doubted the rocket claim too, being that a “cloud” created by the rocket 173 nm above the Earth is way too far to be witnessed by the human eye, especially over such a large part of the world. He also thinks that I would have seen the rocket trailing upward prior to making the cloud, which I didn’t see or possibly failed to notice. On one hand I believe the rocket story and have no reason to completely doubt it, but at the same time, I’m an engineer myself and tend to reason on the side of science - and it’s hard to believe that a cloud formed by a 55’ rocket 173 miles (nearly 1 million feet) in the air would be visable without any magnification - and from people on the other side of the world! I hate to sound like Dale Gribble, but that’s quite a distance (and a huge span of the Earth of people that witnessed this) for it to be viewable. Anyway, just trying to see what others on here believe, in regards to being able to see a rocket and cloud at that altitude and if anyone has ever witnessed a rocket (or anything else) similar to this…

Photo I found on the internet of someone else that saw the same thing:
CNN article about rocket launch: … index.html


Cool stuff! I did some more googling about these ‘noctilucent clouds’.
You’ll be surprised what amazing pictures you find!
I’ll share one of them (particularly interesting for pilots) here.

Kinda looks like the northern lights.

Welcome back.

The second stage of the semyorka launch vehicle that carried Sputnik I into orbit was visible to the naked eye as it trailed behind the satellite at ~139 miles perigee. We used it as a spotting aid to find the satellite with our binoculars and telescopes.

The International Space Station (ISS) can readily be seen with the naked eye at twice the altitude of the subject cloud.

I have no doubt the cloud was easily visible from the ground. After all, we see multitudes of stars every night that are light years away without assistance.

And assuming for an instance that it wasnt a rocket, rather an ETV, (extra terrestial vehicle) or some other government project…what government entity would even admit to it. You could shake hands with an ET and take pics with it, and no one would ever know it. And no one would ever know you thereafter. No offense, I believe we are not alone in this vast universe, but truth is, in my opinion based on the BS thru out my f-ing 20 yrs I ran into in the Navy, things real and not so real, have a way of getting to the public venue in a distorted way. And then its yesterdays news. And its forgotten. Case in point, I did a little experiment of my own following a discussion about 911. You can do it as well to prove my point…ask any number of individuals, say 4 or 5, how many A/C went down related to that incident. And to add some flavor to it, ask where they went down. And asking aviation related people doesnt count. The answers you get will surprise you. JUST…my two cents, or three. :slight_smile:

:laughing: Ha ! ya no kidding…sedate us to go with the health care issue. Thats funny.

My God JHEM!!! YOU **ARE **OLD!! I wasnt even a tadpole when Sputnik made its run!! :open_mouth: :wink:

HAHAHAHA! Dern funny, Beech.

All I’ll admit is I’m not as old as dirt! :wink:


You are about 7,600 years old then… :laughing:

Like JHEM said, there are actually hundreds of satellites you could see with the naked eye. On a dark night, I can usually see one every 10-15 minutes. ISS would be the brightest except for an Iridium flare. It’s really cool to see Shuttle and ISS flying together before docking or after separating. I’d be happy to tell you more, but it’s a digression – none of those would match WiserTime07’s description.

The Black Brant story is a likely explanation. It’s a big deal on NASAWatch, a gadfly blog, mainly because this event was widely observed up and down the coast, yet essentially kept secret by the Wallops Flight Facility – due to (again) completely dropping the ball on PR. … _clou.html

Like I said earlier, I don’t completely doubt the Black Brant explanation, but it does seem odd that rather than give us taxpayers a view of something that we’re paying for, they instead keep it a secret until a day after the fact and after people from around the world are questioning what they saw. I’ll take your word that the ISS and other man-made structures in space are visable from earth with the naked eye, but I’ve never noticed anything like this before. Of course, I’ve never seen anything that dramatic and noticeable right in front of my eyes before either. Anyway, seeing that rocket at the height that they claim is the equivalent of seeing a lear at FL 9950 - that just seems impossible to me, but that’s why I asked for the opinion of you guys. Thanks again,


There is a good article in the latest edition of *Air & Space *magazine about researchers at Poker Flats outside of Anchorage, AK. They are also using the Black Brant rocket for aurora research.

Poker Flats is North East of Fairbanks

part of the Blue Beam Project… … ct079.html


I have no idea why I typed Anchorage instead of Fairbanks. It must have been an early senior moment! :wink:

I don’t recall any mention of being able to see the actual rocket, just the artificial noctilucent cloud formed by the exhaust particles of the rocket’s fourth stage. We have no way of knowing how large this cloud may have been, certainly larger than the rocket that formed it though.

That’s cool- i use to fly over poker flats on my way to Fort Yukon and Beaver AK.

True - you’re right. What I originally saw though was a bright “star” like object with the triangular shaped cloud below it. I suppose the star object that I saw was the exhaust/propellant of the rocket then. So, let me rephrase my last statement: Seeing that rocket at the height that they claim is the equivalent of seeing the afterburner of an F-16 at FL 9950… Even if it was an entire jet on fire at that height, I would think it would be difficult to pick out in a sky at dusk.

Here’s a video that I found on youtube of the episode - although what we saw appeared to happen over much longer of a period - much slower than even the “actual shutter speed” part of the video near the end:
NASA Black Brant XII / CARE Rocket Launch 9-19-2009 - YouTube)