Falling from The Sky

Strange Sunset Phenomena

I made this “video” of stills in 2016 and posted it on YouTube. It lasts 166 seconds, which may be a bit tedious for some because in retrospect I could have edited it better but please bear with me.

It consists of a series of still images taken facing in a generally WNW direction towards the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, commencing about one minute after “official” sunset. It shows:

(i) two large bright objects which had initially attracted my attention. I thought at first they might be sun dogs but they turned out to be a pair of small clouds in bright sunshine beyond the main cloudbank;

and also:

(ii) a very peculiar “U” shaped object, descending. It appeared at the very top of the first frame (approximately 6° x 4°). I didn’t notice it at the time and after I increased the zoom (to about 3.4° x 2.3°) it was out of frame. It fell into the frame again one minute into the “video”.

So the “video” begins at 50 seconds.


The Canon DSLR camera was handheld on 600mm zoom.

What on Earth could that falling “U” shaped object be?

The Sun had just set, so it was not an artifact of bright internal camera reflections.

My Bride also took shots with a different type of camera and achieved the same results. I have cropped one of her images, taken with a Nikon Coolpix P520 at a focal length of 180mm (1000 35mm):

Image copyright: Joan Powell

Over a period of minutes the object sank slowly towards the horizon.

Sundog? some other atmospheric phenomena or refracting illusion?

Bolide? Satellite re-entering the atmosphere? International Space Station? Parachute? Blimp? Helicopter? Light aircraft crashing? Another odd-shaped cloud? The start of World War III?

Nothing fitted and I eventually forgot about it. YouTube went on to record 570 views and after five and a half years one person responded that he was puzzled by a similar phenomena he saw in the United States in January 2022,

That got me thinking about it again and I decided to post it here on Cosmic Focus to seek answers. However, one thing I learned a long time ago is that when you write about something, your mind will be coaxed into a deeper analysis.

Half-way through writing, I wondered if the appearance of a foreground object dropping from the sky against a cloudy background might have been an illusion which had affected my earlier judgment.


This led to a “light bulb” realisation that it was actually beyond the clouds and that it was not falling at all.

It was at a high altitude above the clouds, it was well beyond the Blue Mountains and it was probably already over a hundred kilometres away. It was travelling horizontally in a direct line, away from the camera.

So, I started this post with the intention of asking you what the phenomenon was – but I am ending it by answering the question myself.

It was not falling.

It was a very distant jet aircraft, with its foreshortened twin jet contrails and fuselage bathed in the bright high altitude sunlight and forming a “U”.

At a constant height above sea level, its route would curve with the Earth as it headed across continental Australia and it would appear to slowly sink towards the horizon.


Image date: 15th July 2016Camera: Canon 60DLens: Tamron 150-600mm

Footnote: I accidentally posted the wrong date at the end of the video. The images were taken in 2016, not 2015.


Images © Roger Powell


    1. I believe the two bright ‘clouds’ were contrails reflecting the sunlight beyond the horizon.
      I selected about every 4th image from your video and superimposed them aligning with the bright ‘cloud’. That shows the unknown object moving pretty steadily. It wasn’t leaving a long contrail. That is not unusual. I’ve seen many jets go over with short contrails.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes I saw that. It is a marvel that scientists can calculate so precisely a manoeuvre like this, implement it remotely and then maintain it.

            The motions of the Moon and planets must play a part in destabilising a Lagrange orbit, so hats off to the ingenuity of those folks who are responsible for the navigation. It gives real meaning to the flippant phrase which we all use from time to time:

            “It’s not rocket science…”

            Liked by 1 person

  1. FYI, you should be able to use the same software you use for videos to align frames and then output a movie/slide-show that doesn’t jump around.

    I’ve had a few instances (photos even) where the sun is already set, the sky turning to black (dark blue), and had jets/contrails show up orange in the sky. An example was during the 2020 Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, although that’s obviously a plane (side view)..

    Another optical illusion (daytime) similar to yours, is contrails of a jet directly coming toward my position . . . you can’t see the plane, but it looks like a missile shooting up in the sky from the horizon because you can’t see the curvature of the contrail. In Colorado, the first time I saw it, it made me wonder if “something was happening” that maybe should be in the news.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A clue I disregarded at the time was a long jet moving right to left with a longish contrail.

      Funnily enough, because we fixated on something dropping out of the sky, we both thought at the time that there should be “something in the news”. 🙃

      Liked by 1 person

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