Excerpt from NBC News
On Oct. 16, 2012, residents of Pike County, Ky., looked high in the sky to find a strange sight. Amateur astronomer Allen Epling described it to a local reporter as looking “like two fluorescent bulbs, side by side, parallel, shining very brightly.”
“It would get so bright they would seem to merge, and you could see it very clearly with the naked eye,” Epling said. “Then, it would dim down almost invisible … It wasn’t anything I recognized. Definitely not an airplane, and I’ve never seen a helicopter that looked like that.”
Epling wasn’t the only one who noticed; police in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee got phone calls from concerned citizens. Calls were made to nearby airports, but government officials could shed no light on it. The unidentified flying object, estimated to have reached an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,300 meters), remained more or less stationary for hours, suggesting that it was tethered to the ground somehow, or hovering under its own power. [ 7 Things Most Often Mistaken for UFOs ]
And now, the origin of the bright bulbs has been found.
Now, an article in Wired magazine has revealed the secret behind the mysterious craft: a Google-financed tech endeavor code-named Project Loon. “The people in Pike County were witnessing a test of Project Loon, a breathtakingly ambitious plan to bring the Internet to a huge swath of as-yet-unconnected humanity — via thousands of solar-powered, high-pressure balloons floating some 60,000 feet above Earth,” wrote Wired’s Steven Levy.
The balloons stayed aloft for 11 days before reaching Canada, Levy reports.
The Project Loon balloons, while providing fodder for UFO websites and conspiracy theorists, travel “on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps and bring people back online after disasters,” according to the project’s website. The solar-powered balloons would circle the planet, floating in rings about 12 miles (19 kilometers) above Earth in the stratosphere (about twice the altitude at which commercial airplanes fly). “People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth,” the website reads.
The result? Low-cost Internet access.
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