Fort Mill Times
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A mysterious object in the sky that rattled Tok and perked ears with a sonic boom-type sound Dec. 29 was seen by others as far away as Healy.
While officials said the object was likely a meteor, at least one Alaskan reported the sight to the National Unidentified Flying Object Reporting Center in Washington state, and others recounted similar odd-objects-in-the-sky stories from years gone by.
Several people in Tok reported the mysterious noise shortly after 3 p.m. Dec. 29. The state troopers also fielded a call, and chalked the incident up as a meteor following confirmation with the Federal Aviation Administration in Fairbanks.
Since then, others have reported seeing a bright object on a northeastern trajectory around the same time, but from distant locations.
Tony Mueller of Healy was driving southbound near milepost 262 of the Parks Highway when a bright light seemed to explode.
"I was amazed that it was so bright in the daylight," he wrote in an e-mail.
The light display happened so fast, he couldn't pinpoint a location.
"It just came out of nowhere, quite amazing," he wrote.
Others revealed on the News-Miner Web site that they'd witnessed a bright, flaring light around the same time - one from the Elliott Highway 15 miles northwest of Fairbanks, and one from about three miles north of Healy.
A Delta Junction man was snow-shoeing about 30 miles northwest of Tok when an erratic vapor trail traced several loops through the sky, according to a report he filed with the National UFO Reporting Center. As he watched, face turned skyward, an echoing boom resounded. Figuring a rocket or jet had twisted out of control, he rushed home and called for his wife to witness the vapor trail, which was slowly dissipating but still visible, according to the report.
Center director Peter Davenport has studied UFOs - or, ufology - for 14 years. While it's difficult to speculate on the Alaska phenomenon without having witnessed the event himself, Davenport confirmed that objects flown by intelligent life from outer space are not out of the realm of possibility.
"I can't say that a genuine UFO never forms a contrail or some kind of trail behind it," Davenport said. "From my experience, it is a very rare occurrence."
But spotting UFOs is not all that rare, he said, pointing to around 59,000 reports stored on the center's Web site.
"We are being visited by UFOs certainly on a weekly basis, and probably more on a daily basis," he said. Most alarming is the possibility an alien presence is already on Earth, influencing events here, he said.
Davenport issued a plea for witnesses to record their recollections by logging onto the center's Web site at http://www.nuforc.org. The more reports, the better for his ongoing studies, and already too few of those who see a UFO are willing to speak out, he said.
"The trick to my kind of investigation is finding the witnesses," Davenport said. He estimates that one of 10,000 Americans who see such a sight actually report it.
"It is very distressing," he noted. "People think UFOs are unusual. I counter by saying there is nothing more unusual than the human being and human behavior. Human beings are vastly more bizarre than aliens or UFOs could ever be,"
Tony Delia isn't prepared to say he saw a UFO about 11 years ago. Just the same, he's certain the objects that lit up the sky about 50 miles south of Tok were neither meteors nor stray satellites.
He was washing dishes a few nights before Christmas in the village of Mentasta when his daughter, then 5, ran outside to tape a snowflake decoration to his truck. Moments later, she called out for her dad.
"She pointed up in the sky, and we saw these huge balls of fire, different colors," he described.
Around 20 people living in the village stepped outdoors, lifting their faces to the brilliantly lit Alaska night sky. Eight or nine objects of varied size and color dipped over the mountains to the northeast, hovering over the mountainside, changing formation, colors and sizes before their eyes.
"The whole village was out looking," Delia reflected. "I've never seen anything like it. I've seen meteors. I've seen satellites. I don't want to say I've seen UFOs, because I don't know. There's something out there we don't know, we can't explain."