Published: 1:55 PM 8/8/2013
by DAN CASEY
Today we’re venturing into the realm of the unexplained.
That’s the best term to describe what Jeremy White and two cohorts saw early in the morning sky on July 29 down in Pulaski County. It was a UFO, White told me.
By that he doesn’t necessarily mean it was flying saucer, or an alien spacecraft. But it sure as heck was weird.
White, 37, is a property manager for a residential landlord in Montgomery County. I’ve met the guy. He’s intelligent, self-deprecating, a rationalist and he doesn’t strike me as any kind of kook. He works unusual hours. He relaxes at unusual hours, too.
That explains why he and two pals were cruising through the Snowville area in a car at 1 a.m. on a Monday morning. It’s a few miles southeast of Claytor Lake in Pulaski County.
They saw it along Simpkinstown Road near the entrance to Camp Ottari, a large Boy Scouts compound, in a clearing where the camp access road begins. At first, it looked like a brighter-than-normal star or planet; a little bit above the horizon. The entire event took about seven minutes.
“After about 20 seconds, we rounded a bend and there it was, much closer and brighter. It was now a yellow-orange color and seemed to be moving in our general direction. I stopped the car, killed the engine and sat out on the window sill to listen.
“The object moved almost directly over us, somewhat slowly and had changed color again to a deep orange. Even though it appeared to be less than a few thousand feet above the ground, we never heard a sound. I also couldn’t actually see a solid object — only the light itself."
White has seen unexplained lights in the sky before, even ones that changed color. But he’s never seen what happened next.
“The object stopped moving, changed color to a deep, almost crimson red, split into two separate objects and began moving away from both us (in the same direction it had been traveling) and each other (in a V shape).
“When they had both gotten about 20 degrees above the opposite horizon and what looked like several miles apart, they suddenly zipped out of sight along their then-current trajectories.”
A reminder: White’s only saying he saw something he cannot explain.
This week I spoke to him about the experience.
He said he was sober as a preacher at a Temperance Union rally. He acknowledged that military flights happen over that area all the time.
After the lights disappeared, he interviewed his companions about what they saw.
“We all saw the same thing,” he said. “It was just that bizarre.”
I forwarded White’s full account — on my blog at http://tinyurl.com/l7cm5ar — to John Goss, this newspaper’s astronomy columnist.
It could not have been Venus, Jupiter or Sirius, Goss noted, because all those are below the horizon at 1 a.m. Other factors ruled out meteors or satellites, he added.
“Without more details, I can’t say for sure what it was,” Goss wrote. But he suggested an explanation: “A military aircraft that could separate into two sections.” Specifically, a plane and tanker refueling midflight.
“After the fuel has been dispensed, the two aircraft split. As they depart, the back side of their engines would have been seen, helping to explain the orange glow.
“If it was not a refueling aircraft combination, it still could have been a special modified military plane on a test mission of some sort,” Goss said.
That still wouldn’t explain why Jeremy White and his pals heard nothing.
He’s not alone. Lots of people have such experiences. I did, once, when I was hiking with my wife on Roanoke Mountain. My blog fielded more than a dozen accounts of strange sightings in the sky after I posted White’s account.
As Goss noted: “Mysteries are fun, and only remain so until they are explained.”