A Close Encounter

By Kathy Knotts 

 A few weeks ago, CBM Bay Weekly received an interesting email from one Daniel Flanary. 

“I am a resident of Wallville in Calvert County. I spotted something I could not explain in the sky passing by the half-moon at 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 4. I snapped a couple pictures using the “night sight” feature on my phone. It was to me, at the time, a UFO.  

 My little sister is the bakery manager at a grocery store in a neighboring county and she was working late the night of Feb. 3 and locked her keys in her car. I got a call from her at 11:45 p.m. asking me to run to her place, grab her spare set and run them to her. That being a good drive, it was 1:30 a.m. when I was just a mile and a half or so from home. I was looking at a very clear night sky and a beautiful half-moon when I saw this kind of faint silhouette coming in from the moon’s top right. I stopped my truck and stared for a moment and realized it was moving 

When I got home and did some research, I found that SpaceX had launched a rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 1:19 a.m. and despite having never heard of such a thing being sighted from this far north I became absolutely assured this what I had seen. 

So here are my pictures. Starlink Mission 18, final stage, visible, I presume, because the moonlight lit it up for me, it was only visible as it passed by the moon’s illumination. It was there and then it was gone.  

I wish I could find the trajectory data for to determine where exactly over the globe this thing was when I spotted it, and to 100 percent validate the sighting for myself but have not had luck with that thus far.” 

This letter sent the Bay Weekly staff on a wild hunt for information upon receiving Flanary’s photos and video. At first, we were told by our top-secret sources at NASA it was unlikely that someone in Maryland could see a launch from Cape Canaveral. It’s just too far away. Our experts declared that the photos definitely showed a rocket during a powered flight burn though, thanks to the color of its trail in the photos and video. A meteor would have a long trail that was flame-colored, not the bow-wave look of a rocket plume. The object in Flanary’s photos had a blue tail, an indicator of rocket fuel. So we were ready to declare it something else, like a Department of Defense rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. But our NASA sources, intrigued by the query, kept digging. 

Then we got another message declaring that Flanary’s suspicions were correct. Our friends at NASA now say it is probable it was the SpaceX Falcon 9 on Feb. 4 carrying a set of 60 Starlink satellites, and what Flanary saw was the second stage. The entry burn is very low on the horizon so it was stage 2 heading to orbit. 

Apparently, the cold, crisp nights, coupled with very low air pollution, is contributing to outstanding East Coast night sky viewing. 

 For more on the launch: https://spacenews.com/falcon-9-launches-starlink-satellites. Watch the video below.