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UFO or planet - Strange celestial object seen over Beijing
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By Till Wöhler

Last Saturday, an unusually bright luminary lit up the night sky over Beijing. While the Ephemeris suggests it must be Jupiter, the object's strange behavior raises some questions. Here's an eyewitness's account.

Saturday evening after 10 pm, we accompanied a friend to our block's gate in the Dongcheng district. On our way, we noticed an extremely bright, yellowish-white twinkling object high in the southeastern sky. Moving at a slow pace, it by far over-radiated the few stars visible over Beijing. Up to today, its behavior gives us mysteries. According to the tables of the Ephemeris, it's supposed to be Jupiter, however, this thing behaved extremely odd.

Beijing, August 22, 2009 at 10:41pm: It’s supposed to be Jupiter, however this thing behaves quite strangely.

Beijing, August 22, 2009 at 10:41pm: It's supposed to be Jupiter, however this thing behaves quite strangely. [Till Wöhler/China.org.cn]

After having seen our friend off, I fetched my small Canon G7 camera, put it on a tripod and took a few shots in just a minute's time. Zooming in with a factor of 24, the electronic image stabilizer helped to avoid blurred pictures. What was so astonishing to me was the fact that the object would change its color and size about every minute - despite unchanged camera settings and position.

Finally I took my digital Canon EOS, mounted an optical 300mm zoom lens and returned to the spot. This picture series covers short and long-term exposure, firstly to get a sharper outline and secondly to capture the trajectory of the object. To my astonishment, these photos, which were made with the self timer, no longer showed changing colors; furthermore, I recognized three small bright companions next to the big luminary. One to the right, two to the left.

These three formed a perfectly straight line with the large object; however, they could neither be seen with the naked eye nor through the mirror-reflex finder. Three coincidental passersby confirmed my findings. They examined both my photos and the object in the sky. Furthermore, the three smaller lights are, contrary to their large neighbor, not circular, but triangular in shape. Common to all four objects is a violet color fringe on the left and a green one on the right, which may have been caused by the lens.

Leaving aside the optical errors of a lens, a few questions remain unanswered: What are the three "companions" of the large object? Why did they emerge in the photo, while they were neither to be seen with the naked eye nor through the mirror-reflex finder? Why, as several long-term exposures show, did all ten of the lights that were visible around the large object, move at the same speed and in the same direction? i.e., ascending toward the south, without the camera being budged at all? Yet, the question of all questions remains: What is this large, radiating thing that was moving slowly across the skies while changing its color and size every minute…a star, a UFO, or a planet?

Last night I captured the big luminary on my camera again, through the open window of my balcony. In addition to the notorious change in color and size that we witnessed last Saturday, the large, bright object now appeared with the same three companions again, in the same straight line, yet in reverse order. No, I did not flip the old images!

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