Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 15:10:15 +0000
From: Richard Hall <>
Subject: Skyhook Visibility

After reading Brad Sparks's analysis today, I think it is time for me to recount my sighting of a Moby Dick balloon about 1956 in New Orleans. I made lots of notes at the time, but am not sure where they are now. So this is based on memory alone.

I was attending Tulane University (1954-1958). One day it was all over the radio news that a brilliantly lighted object was hovering over the city, so naturally between classes I went out to look. In broad daylight, I think early afternoon, it looked like Venus at maximum brilliance x4, seemingly much larger in apparent size than a star or planet.

When I looked at it through 7 x 50 binoculars, I was surprised that no shape could be resolved at all. It still looked like a magnified version of Venus. I remember rushing home (I lived 15-20 blocks off campus) and setting up my 4-inch reflector telescope (I don't recall which lens, maybe 125x) and managing to capture the object in the field of view. Then I plainly saw the plastic balloon material and the instrument package dangling beneath it. The balloon apparently was becalmed because I don't recall that it moved very much if at all during the 30-45 minutes I had it under observation.

Because it was brightly reflecting sunlight, it was visible for many miles around. I have no idea how hih it was, though there was news coverage about it next day with some further information. When a plastic balloon of this size reflects sunlight, I'm sure it would be visible for many tens of miles, and further might well evoke comparisons to Venus unless someone happens to have a high-powered telescope available. - Dick