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No. 31: Jan-Feb 1984

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Unidentified Phenomena

September 17, 1982. South Atlantic Ocean. 2103 GMT on a clear dark night.

"The first thing noticed was the formation of a bright patch of white light in the general area between Rasalhague and Alphecca. Gradually a dark eye formed in the centre of the patch in which shortly afterwards a very bright object appeared like a star of magnitude -2. After one or two seconds this object appeared to undergo a tremendous explosion and became a large bright orange gaseous fireball, which appeared to be hurled earthwards directly down the observer's line of sight, growing constantly larger and larger. One witness described the fireball as resembling rolling orange smoke. The ball then ceased to increase in size, giving the impression that it had stopped. Its orange colour rapidly gave way to rainbow colours which gradually gave way to white and faded in brilliance until all that remained were several patches of luminous white light, although these were impressive in their own right."

A similar phenomenon was noted the following night, although the ship was 7 farther south.

September 18, 1982. South Atlantic Ocean. From a different ship in the same area as the one above.

"The altitude of the first sighting was approximately 24, level with the planet Jupiter and offset to its right. The six subsequent bursts were above the first, and slightly to the right, leaving a fantail of purple/white lenticular clouds which leaned to the right as shown in the sketch. Although they all kept their lenticular shape, the final burst did break up, giving the appearance of being in a gaseous state. Each burst commenced as a pinprick of bright, white light expanding rapidly to at least 2 times the diameter of the sun (No. 1)...."

(Anonymous; "Unidentified Phenomena," Marine Observer, 53:132, 1983.)

Comment. The above observations were made aboard ships 300-400 miles off Brazil. The only event correlated with the phenomena was a meteorological rocket said to have been launched on September 18. Rocket launches do pro-vide spectacular luminous phenomena offshore from Cape Kennedy, but the above phenomena do not seem consistent with small meteorological rockets.

Sequence of visual phenomena seen at sea off Brazil. Sequence of visual phenomena seen at sea off Brazil.

From Science Frontiers #31, JAN-FEB 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987