MUFON Georgia Investigation: Fireball WaveBy MUFON Georgia
Date: July 4, 2010
Time: 10:30 PM
Location: Hoschton, Georgia
The evening of July 4, 2010 was a remarkable one in the field of UFO study as MUFON received, from across the US, a large number of reports of red and orange “fireballs” or “balls of light” flying overhead. Many of those sightings could not be explained by MUFON investigators.
An excellent example of those sightings took place near Hoschton, Georgia, which is located about 35 miles ENE of Atlanta’s I-285 beltline. A couple in their 40s and their son, age 12, were driving home after watching a nearby fireworks display. At about 10:30 PM local they were driving eastbound along GA Hwy 124 towards the intersection with GA 332. At about 150 yards from the intersection, Mrs. G (pseudonym) noticed what she at first believed was a tethered, red, lighted balloon ahead and slightly off to the right of their line of travel. It appeared initially to be stationary. As they watched it began to move to their left, northward, toward their line of travel. After stopping at the red light for Hwy 332 and seeing it continue to approach, coming directly towards them, they turned left and then quickly turned right into a shopping center parking lot, between a hamburger-chain restaurant and drugstore. All three family members immediately jumped out to watch, and Mrs. G and her son began recording video using their cell phones.
As can be heard on the video files and as the witnesses later confirmed, no sound was heard at any time from whatever was approaching. The witnesses used the term “fireball” to describe this unidentified light. It looked to be roughly the size of a beach ball or exercise ball, perhaps two to three feet across, spherical, and glowing red-orange. The fireball seemed to be either pulsating, or rolling, as a lighter yellow-white color can be seen changing position on the red-orange ball as the object moves across the sky. The astonished family watched and video-recorded the fireball as it glided steadily across the full width of the sky, moving from roughly due south to due north. Again, no sounds were coming from the fireball, though the three were listening intently for clues.
About the time Mrs. G closed her cell phone to end the video recording, Mr. G yelled out “Hey here comes another one!” Immediately Mrs. G and her son both began video-recording this second fireball, seen to be coming from just the same direction as the first. Its appearance was identical to the first fireball, as were its movement characteristics: flat-level, smooth, steady, and “controlled,” using the witness phrase. Eventually, the second fireball passed out of site after becoming obscured by trees blocking the view to the north. In all, the witnesses estimated a duration of about 7 to 8 minutes from the time the first fireball began moving, to the second fireball passing out of sight.
In the initial week after the sighting, checks with local police and Internet UFO reporting sites did not result in any leads. The reported flight path should have taken the fireballs right over Interstate 85 near Braselton, but no reports from anywhere nearby, or north of the sighting location, were found.
On July 17, 2010, MUFON investigators Howard and Ausmus interviewed the family for about 1-1/2 hours at the sighting location. From re-enacting the sighting, a thorough understanding of both the sighting and the video evidence was gained.
The information gathered from the witnesses and contained in the videos provided useful data for considering possible explanations. Judging from their initial sighting of the first fireball as being “2-3 trees up” in height, a UFO altitude estimate of 180 to 270 feet above ground would be reasonable. One of the videos was found to have several reference points.
Using those reference points, as verified through re-enactment of the other video shoots, sighting and video azimuths and elevation angles were determined. Those were then used to estimate the distance covered by the fireballs as they crossed the sky. Using that distance and the time elapsed on the second-fireball videos, a UFO speed of about 22 MPH was estimated. This was slower than the witness’ estimate of 35-40 miles per hour (MPH), but was crucial for considering potential explanations.
The videos themselves do not, unfortunately, provide much direct information about the fireballs. As with the video cameras in many cell phones, the video resolution the camera produces is about 180 pixels wide by 145 pixels in height. Despite that, the pulsating or rolling appearance can easily be seen in both of the two videos the reporting witness uploaded to CMS. (These are available to the public on MUFON’s website, by going to the “Click Here for UFO Case Files” tab at upper right, then choosing “Search UFO Database;” enter 7-4-2010 for the event date in both the “from” and “to” boxes.)
Many explanations were considered for the fireballs. Ball lightning is unlikely since there were no thunderstorms anywhere near the sighting location that evening. The absolute lack of sound was a problem for most man-made object explanations. While advanced or secret US military drones or other hardware cannot (us usual) be entirely ruled out, no known aerial vehicles fit the description. The best mundane solution would have been lighted balloons or Chinese lanterns.
To consider that idea, wind speed and direction data were reviewed. To start with, the witness’ recollections were that no wind was present. Observations taken at the nearest airport (Winder), located about 8-1/2 miles south, showed winds from the SSW at 3.5 mph. However, Weather Underground had an automated weather-data station much closer, located just 1.5 miles (7900 feet) to the SE. Between 10:22 and 10:46 PM, wind speeds recorded at 5 minute intervals ranged from calm (zero), to 1.4 to 2.8 mph, from variable directions. No other wind data close to the sighting location could be found. Review of other nearby wind-speed data, from both airports and automated stations, identified wind speeds from calm, up to 4 mph, from variable directions. The estimated UFO speed of 22 MPH was derived in an intentionally-conservative manner, and the actual speed could have been greater, but was almost certainly not less (i.e. not slower). Additionally the fireballs were low, less than 300 feet above ground. Considering all of these factors together, the wind information simply does not support any type of balloon explanation. Despite every effort, Georgia MUFON investigators could find no credible explanation for this sighting. Conclusion: Unknown-Other (since no solid-object or craft-like features were seen).
The witness’ comments in CMS provide a fitting summary: “It was no…balloon or fireworks. It was controlled: height from the ground, MPH, path, everything. We were, all three, in awe and absolutely amazed. We kept asking, what could it be? I am 45 and have never in my life had [witnessed] something so amazing that I could not come up SOME type of explanation.”