By Drew Foster, Herald staff writer
Published: 04/22/09 1:35 am
The National UFO Reporting Center has received reports from across the nation -- all of them describing a bright, colorful, moving object in the Monday night sky.
One of them came from Kennewick. The object, at the time unidentified, caught the eye of Aubren Scofield and her husband, Tommy. Soon, they noticed it was moving, maybe even flying.
"It's quite strange," Scofield said. "It's more like a white, orbish thing with red lights."
The couple grabbed a camera, a telephoto lens and headed for the library on Union Street to get a better look. Aubren said they shot about 90 photos.
"They are very, very interesting," she said. "It's not like anything normal."
Actually, it is normal, according to Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center.
"It's the star Sirius," he said.
"(Monday) night, we probably received about a half dozen calls from across the U.S.," said Davenport, who operates from Harrington in Eastern Washington. "Everybody was looking at the same thing. All the descriptions are so similar, I could quickly identify the star Sirius."
Sirius, Davenport said, burns light years away from Earth and its light is often bent and refracted off dust storms, ice storms and cloud formations to create a twinkling sensation. He said it can be seen by looking to the west or southwest.
When viewed through a telephoto lens like Scofield's, Davenport said the star's light is intensified in green, red and yellow shapes.
Scofield's photos -- often showing an ultra-bright, blurry circular shape with swirling green and red colors streaming off like dissipating gas or smoke -- seem to fit Davenport's description. Scofield's not buying it.
"I don't believe a word of that," she said after hearing Davenport's explanation. "Why don't I believe it was a star? Because it was moving and changing shape."
Davenport explained that as well. When staring at a bright object against a black background, he said, the object can appear to begin moving. "Really, it's the eyes moving," he said.
Since Sirius' light has to travel light years to reach us, Davenport said at times it can become obscured, causing the star to eventually get smaller and fade from view. As this happens, he said, it appears to leave a streak in the sky, which Scofield said she also saw.
"It's an optical illusion," Davenport explained, saying Sirius can disappear from the night sky for days. When it's visible, however, his center hears about it.
"We get six to seven calls a night," he said of people reporting Sirius.
Still, Scofield plans on keeping an eye on the heavens.
"I'm going to look into it more," she said, explaining that it was the first suspected UFO she'd ever seen. She sent a report to the National UFO Reporting Center, which Davenport has headed since 1994.
Asked if she's now a believer, she said: "I believe it was not a star."