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The mysterious New Mexico “brilliant flash of light” event (August 15, 1999)

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At 11: 18 PM on August 15, 1999, the residents of the southwestern United States experienced an intense, remarkably bright flash of light which lit the area brighter than daylight for 2-3 seconds.  At the same time, people from all across the western U. S. began calling the UFO hotlines reporting their sightings of an unidentified object travelling overhead.  Most reported a hovering ball of light. Calls came in from New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Texas and Mexico.  21 minutes later, a second (less bright) flash occurred.

According to the MUFON journal from that month:

“What makes this first flash so interesting, and a fact which seems to rule out any type of meteoric event, is that a second, and similar, flash occurred, approximately 21 minutes after the first!! Whereas the epicenter of the first flash was subsequently determined to have been in western New Mexico, approximately 60-80 miles west of Albuquerque, the epicenter of the second flash was much closer to Las Vegas, Nevada, and it was not quite as dramatic as the first flash over New Mexico. However, the second flash was dramatic enough to have caused it to be reported on 11 p.m. (Pacific) news in Las Vegas, only shortly after it had occurred there.”

To add credence to their claims, “sky cameras” mounted atop buildings in Albuquerque and operated by Sandia Laboratories, captured photographic evidence of the event (see picture above).  The video camera captured the event in 72 frames and given the 30 fps frame rate found in most video cameras, the duration of the event was calculated to be 2.6 seconds – exactly the length of the flash that witnesses had reported.

One witness described the event as follows:

“I saw an incredibly brilliant bluish white light traveling at an incomprehensible speed! On Sunday night 08/15/99 at 11:23 p.m. (sic. 11:18 p.m.), I was walking on a nearby hillside with my dogs. It was very dark and I was facing north-north-west, admiring the Milky Way galaxy. Suddenly, the whole earth lit up. The trees in front of me were bright green. My natural instinct was to search for the source of the light. It was coming from over my right shoulder (Note: to the east). I turned to my right and saw a brownish trail, or streak. The huge bluish white brilliant light was about the size of a full moon. Instantly, the light went behind some spotty clouds. (There were gaps between these minor clouds.)

Then suddenly, “spikes of radiation” flashed off of the bluish white ball. The spikes spanned from horizon to horizon. The ball disappeared, and the sky and the earth then fell dark. I was stunned remembering the magnitude of the spikes that shot from east to west then fell downward like an umbrella, or like “cat’s claws.” They were curved. I am an audiovisual engineer and electronics technician. Sound is my profession. I waited for at least 10 minute for a sonic boom or some other atmospheric disturbance, but nothing happened…it was silent. I heard crickets and there was some kind of night bird chirping away. The sound of the night seemed to magnify!

Trying to comprehend the speed and time that this all took place left me in a state of shock for several days. It must have taken place outside of our atmosphere because there was no sonic boom, etc. This (fact) dramatically multiplies the distance (that must have been) covered, in a few split seconds.”

The natural conclusion of course, is that a comet or meteor produced a brilliant flash as it broke up and exploded but experts quickly dismissed this theory.  Given the brightness and intensity of the light, a massive amount of energy would have to have been released, much higher than a meteor would be capable of producing as it ignited or broke into pieces.  In addition, exploding meteors usually break the sound barrier and produce a sonic boom.  According to witnesses, this event was perfectly soundless.

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