UFO or Asteroid? During Friday’s penumbral eclipse of the moon, an observer in Puerto Rico captured images of a round black disk moving across the moon’s face.
As observers around the planet were capturing images of Friday’s penumbral eclipse, one photographer saw something unusual: a round object crossing in front of the moon. Luis G. Verdiales from Loiza, Puerto Rico said:
“I was using a 125mm telescope to capture the penumbral lunar eclipse when the black disk appeared. It was moving too slowly to be a satellite, so slowly that I was able to capture it with my camera four times. It got my attention because it was round!”. said Verdiales.
Verdiales contacted the Caribbean Island’s largest astronomy organization – Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe – to find out what it was. This group then found the answer:
After analysing magnified images, we suspected it might be a stratosphere balloon from Google Loon, a project that is testing internet coverage from the stratosphere. We verified FlightRadar24.com and found a balloon at 64,400 ft identified as HBAL176.
Further analysis showed the balloon was right between the observer and the moon.
Bottom line: The round object crossing in front of the moon during the February 10, 2017 lunar eclipse turned out to be a stratospheric balloon from Google Loon.
Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by X (formerly Google X) with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km (11 mi) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speed.
The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude in the stratosphere to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The balloons use patch antennas – which are directional antennas – to transmit signals to ground stations or LTE users. Some smartphones with Google SIM cards can use Google Internet services. The whole infrastructure is based on LTE; the eNodeB component (the equivalent of the “base station” that talks directly to handsets) is carried in the balloon.