What was that object moving near the moon in the Claycord sky on Thursday night?

September 8, 2011 22:04 pm · 73 comments

This is strange. Our friend Charles Lindsey took a series of photos tonight of the moon, and noticed this strange moving object in the sky.

Here’s what Charles had to say about what he saw….

This is a series of 11 shots I took over a 4 minute period of the moon tonight at around 7:30pm.  I took the first shot and thought the dot was a star or planet, and started talking more shots and noticed the dot was moving.  I ended up taking 11 pictures total and stacked all 11 in photoshop.  Attached is the results of the dots movement over the 4min period..anyone know what it could be??

Interesting. Thanks for the photo(s).

Anybody else see this thing, or do you know what it could be?

1 Wildlife Biologist September 8, 2011 at 10:06 PM

That is most clearly a corn snake.

2 Morgan September 8, 2011 at 10:08 PM

BERKELEY — A dying star that exploded 21 million years ago in a cataclysmic burst of energy called a supernova has sent its light streaming across the cosmos, leaving a pinpoint of light in the sky that Bay Area residents with a good pair of binoculars should be able to see over the next couple of weeks.

The supernova, brighter than all the stars in the galaxy combined, blazed from a galaxy near the constellation Big Dipper, according to Peter Nugent, an astronomer and senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who detected its light last week.

Despite its explosive brilliance, the light is dim at this distance. Its faint light will reach its peak tonight and Friday night, and should be visible in the clear night sky over the next two weeks through a quality pair of binoculars or with amateur telescopes of 3 inches or larger, Nugent said.

He picked up the supernova soon after the explosion became visible on Aug. 23 in an image sent from an automated telescope at the famed Palomar Observatory near San Diego. Astronomers haven’t seen a supernova so close to Earth in 25 years, he said – nor one as bright in more than 40 years.

While the explosion was immense, it involved a star of only modest dimensions – a white dwarf only 1.4 times the mass of our sun, Nugent said.

Supernovas are common, but most are more than a billion light-years away and are too faint to be visible except through the most powerful telescopes. So the opportunity to observe one only 21 million light-years away has astronomers aiming their telescopes at the blast from observatories around the world.

The Hubble Space Telescope has also been assigned to begin studying the physics and chemistry of the explosion, NASA officials said.

This supernova is classed as Type 1a, and is catalogued under the name PTF11kly. The exploding star was one member of a stellar pair, known as a binary system, that had already burned away its hydrogen and helium in thermonuclear explosions, leaving only its carbon and oxygen to fuel the final outburst, Nugent said.

Because the light intensity of supernovas is well known, astronomers use them as “standard candles” to calculate the distances of far-off galaxies, and thus measure the rate at which the entire universe is expanding under the mysterious influence of what is called dark energy, Nugent explained.

Alex Filippenko, leader of a team of supernova observers at the UC Lick Observatory, said this newest one will prove valuable in helping astronomers to refine their distance calculations for those standard candles.

It should also shed new light on the exploding star’s companion, Filippenko said. For example, astronomers might be able to determine whether the binary pair were both originally white dwarf stars, and whether the star that exploded might have been “stealing matter from its companion” as it built up toward its final blast, or – perhaps – whether both stars merged to explode in a single blast.

Every explosion of a supernova sends out bursts of all the elements that make up every bit of matter in the universe. “All the calcium in our bones, all the iron in our blood, all the chemicals in our bodies, came originally from supernovas that exploded even before the Earth was formed,” Nugent said.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/07/BABK1L0P5I.DTL#ixzz1XQeKGxvS

3 Jaz September 8, 2011 at 10:11 PM

There’s a SuperNova tonight.

4 Chewy September 8, 2011 at 10:11 PM

Hopefully they were aliens. I truly believe with all the wars and problems in this world, if aliens came and attacked us we’d all unite.

5 Phillmom September 8, 2011 at 10:14 PM

We saw it too! We pulled over on the side of the road to watch it. We thought it was a star too until we also realized it was moving.

6 KT September 8, 2011 at 10:18 PM


7 Houdini September 8, 2011 at 10:27 PM


8 science teacher September 8, 2011 at 10:29 PM

supernovas move like this? a supernova would appear to move across the sky as the rest of the stars would due to earth’s rotation…but the stars move in a circular fashion around the north star…not like this. If this is a supernova, what is the explanation of this type of movement?

9 paranoid funny man September 8, 2011 at 10:37 PM

They are sending the first wave to be processed at there base on the backside of the moon
expect the ground invasion to start any day! told you so!

10 space cadet September 8, 2011 at 10:41 PM

the 4th and 5th dot, are tail gating. : /

11 Anna, The Lemon Lady September 8, 2011 at 10:55 PM

How cool!

I would expect to hear more from Shasta on this one.

Wonderful photos! Sure to pique the interest of future astronomers. A great place to spend an evening – Chabot Space and Science Center. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on a true Bay Area gem of a science center.

12 St. Nick September 8, 2011 at 11:22 PM

It’s Santa and the reindeer. Duh!
He noticed many stores have already been selling Christmas decorations. It threw off his timing.

13 BigRich September 8, 2011 at 11:23 PM

I for one welcome our new alien overlords!

14 captain obvious September 8, 2011 at 11:30 PM

a supernova, huh.. that’s what they want you to think ;) can you explain why it’s moving like that, then?

…didn’t think so :)

15 Nachos September 8, 2011 at 11:31 PM

There is a supernova taking place tonight, but it is on the other side of the sky by Ursa Major and is only visible through a small telescope. This thing is most likely attacking aliens as suggested by paranoid funny man.

16 Scoots September 8, 2011 at 11:40 PM


17 Dennis September 9, 2011 at 12:06 AM


If a camera is mounted on a car, the car appears stationary and the scenery appears to be moving. If the camera is not on the car, pointed at the scenery, then the scenery appears stationary and the car moves.

Stars appear to move counterclockwise around the north star, and the moon travels east to west, cutting across those circle arc ‘tracks’ of the stars.

How many other stars appear in the photo to use as reference?
Those other stars should also appear to be moving, if the moon is the point of reference.

If those other stars appear stationary, along with the moon, then the object is doing the moving, relative to the stars and moon.

Conclusion: the other stars, not the moon or this object, should be the ‘stationary’ background field used to determine the motion of both the moon and this object.

18 Space Case September 9, 2011 at 12:10 AM

moon farts

19 dunno September 9, 2011 at 12:27 AM

maybe satellite with sun reflecting?

20 a September 9, 2011 at 12:40 AM

Could it be a planet in retrograde?

21 Mr. Anon E. Mouse September 9, 2011 at 12:57 AM

scoots: wacacaca
Quite obvious… it’s the Vogon constructor fleet exiting hyperspace.
Prepare to be vaporized to make way for the new trans-galactic hyperspace bypass!
In all seriousness though, this is a strange phenomenon. As others pointed out, it’s the wrong area for the supernova in the news lately. Wrong path for a planet or star. We must therefore conclude…
The aliens have arrived and WE ARE DOOMED! :D
But Don’t Panic.

22 DoubleTap September 9, 2011 at 4:25 AM

Swap gas.

23 Just a bug September 9, 2011 at 5:27 AM

A little white bug crawling on your lens.

24 cmm September 9, 2011 at 5:33 AM

You all have it wrong. It’s Sarah Palin’s Across the Universe bus Tour

25 warbirds45 September 9, 2011 at 6:00 AM

It looks like the moon ate some chili !!!!!!!

26 DoubleTap September 9, 2011 at 6:12 AM

Its early, Soryy missed the M , SWAMP GAS!

27 Horse'n Around September 9, 2011 at 6:14 AM

I say balloons.

28 JR September 9, 2011 at 6:34 AM

ITS MEGAMIND on his way to destroy the earth ha ha ha ha …..

29 Pleasant Jenny September 9, 2011 at 7:03 AM

The man on the moon was blowing bubbles!

30 crazytech58 September 9, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Last bubbles coming up from Alka Seltzer tablet…… Personally like the “Saint Nick” theory……… damn retailers !

31 Jonny September 9, 2011 at 7:44 AM

what morgan said(at the top)

32 Fritzhugh Ludlow September 9, 2011 at 7:49 AM

I observed the same thing over 10 years ago in the sky above the Clayton Quarry: a formation at High altitude that appeared to be blinking. It was a flock of high flying geese, and the blinking occured when they would flap their wings once in a while, revealing the white underside. Then again as the Jefferson Airplane once asked “Have You Seen The Saucers?”

33 LOL September 9, 2011 at 7:54 AM

I like Moon Farts :)

34 Pied September 9, 2011 at 8:22 AM

I’m not a scientist, but as far as possible reasons that the light appears to be moving it could have something to do with the fact that our plant is rotating and also orbiting around the sun. We aren’t fixed in one place, but moving constantly. Also keep that light can be bent by gravity, atmosphere, etc so the appearance of movement may be exaggerated.

35 GoGo Gomez September 9, 2011 at 8:25 AM

Got this off one of my fav sites!

The Harvest Moon will come early in 2011. Have you noticed the moon waxing in the evening sky? The next full moon is it! The fullest moons for us in the U.S. will come the nights of September 11 and 12. By definition, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which falls on September 23 in 2011.


36 Sandy September 9, 2011 at 8:26 AM

Mr. Anon E. Mouse,
Don’t forget your towel! :)

An interesting mystery and terrific pictures!

37 bluebird September 9, 2011 at 8:40 AM

I am curious: which photo/shot of object was first? The one closest or the one farthest, from the moon?

38 anonamom September 9, 2011 at 8:46 AM

I don’t know, but has anybody seen Tinfoiler lately?

39 Judge Roy Bean September 9, 2011 at 9:02 AM

The super nova was visible only at base of big dipper. Faint light flicker visible with good binoculars or telescope. Rumor has it that alien ruins are on far side of the moon.

40 Love it September 9, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Great responses. Thanks for making a pleasant Friday morning while enjoying my coffee!

41 RunnerDope September 9, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Yikes! So much astronomical misinformation.

The supernova is near the Big Dipper which is nowhere near the moon, anytime during the night. (Nachos mentioned that, also).

The moon travels west to east, relative to the stars.

42 Chief Wild Eagle September 9, 2011 at 9:35 AM


43 lordnigzor September 9, 2011 at 9:36 AM

ball lightning

44 Charles September 9, 2011 at 9:39 AM

@ Dennis #17 There were no other stars visible because it was still light out. It was at about 7:15pm. I didn’t see it until after I looked at the screen on my camera, after that it was barely visible without looking through the lens. I’ve done 30 sec exposure before and have never seen a star move this fast.

@Fritzhugh Ludlow – I’ve had birds and airplanes in my shots before and it wasn’t birds. It was moving too slow and wasn’t blinking…I didn’t realize it was moving until after I took a few shots.

@bluebird The one closes to the moon was the first shot here are links to the first and last shot of the series –



The time stamp should be still embedded in the EXIF of the images

I don’t know what it was..it just has an odd trajectory.

I sticking to R2 and C3PO in their escape pod :-)

45 jtkatec September 9, 2011 at 9:58 AM

Thank you one and all for chuckle.

46 xoxoxo September 9, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Very interesting and really funny comments folks! Thanks for the laughs.

47 The Man in the Moon... September 9, 2011 at 10:12 AM

…is thinking…thinking…thinking…d’oh…lost his thought!

48 Admiral Akbar September 9, 2011 at 10:17 AM
49 Robin Sparkles September 9, 2011 at 10:18 AM

My first thought was weather balloon. They go pretty high. Any weather balloon experts here want to agree/disagree with me?

50 anonamom September 9, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Seriously, I would like to know if it was moving towards the moon or away from it — and where was it at minute %? This is a good telescopic shot of the moon — but could you guess the distance of the “thing” from the moon?

51 Judge Roy Bean September 9, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Its governor moonbeam on his way home from Sac.

52 Athleticsfan September 9, 2011 at 10:34 AM

I have my towel and am ready to go.

53 Damin September 9, 2011 at 10:36 AM




54 someguy September 9, 2011 at 10:37 AM


55 Damin September 9, 2011 at 10:37 AM

the pattern was not put in correctly…

56 df September 9, 2011 at 10:40 AM

looks like a rock from my yard with some paint drops.
that’s a really good shot of the moon, never seen it like this where the part is cut off, oh what’s that called???

57 bluebird September 9, 2011 at 10:43 AM

Cool! I plan on going out early tonight and looking up in the sky near where the moon should be at approx. 7:15 pm. The moon should be about 13 degrees east of the spot it was last night at that time. Hope to see the supernova!

58 Lady Britannia September 9, 2011 at 10:49 AM

I heard that NASA was launching a series of rockets to orbit the moon to collect information. Perhaps that it what this is all about?

59 Charles September 9, 2011 at 11:01 AM

@ Robin Sparkles You could be right…I’ve never photographed or seen a weather balloon, so I don’t know what they look like or how fast they move.

@ anonamom – see my post above for the first and last shot of the series…it was moving away from the moon. As far as the distance…no idea, it was taken with my camera and lens, hand held in my front yard, not with a telescope.

60 MikeT September 9, 2011 at 11:44 AM

I believe it is the founding fathers getting together and asking “What the hell is going on down there???”

61 dan September 9, 2011 at 11:54 AM

This one from an SF blog last night is way less convincing than this moon pic:


62 Annon September 9, 2011 at 12:08 PM

More than likely an iridium flare.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satellite_flare

63 Fern September 9, 2011 at 12:14 PM

@ Damin
The CHP was trying to pull you over!! Did you?

64 Dragon September 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM

It’s the cursor trail from when the moon was moved by aliens to its present location.

(EXCELLENT pics, Charles – very well done!)

65 Funny Man September 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM

did this have any connection with the giant power outage in the southwest? hmmm

66 EvilOreo September 9, 2011 at 12:55 PM

LOVE the moon farts answer!

67 Star Gazer September 9, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Have you all noticed how the moon seems to be rising and setting further to the south since late May early June? another thing is we had a huge blackout in Winnipeg Canada lst night almost half the city was without power, how come we don’t see any of this on the news? Media Blackout maybe?

68 @ Star Gazer September 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM

So are you saying the orbit of the moon is changing?????

Is it the rockets shot off by NASA that has changed the orbit?????

Should I be afraid?

69 Anon2you September 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

This is definately a cause for concern. Two major blackouts coincidently with this strange phenomenon…Al Queda, Al Gore or Al-iens…Think about it.

70 Connie Dobbs September 9, 2011 at 4:31 PM

#67 It’s almost like the seasons are changing or something.

71 vince vennum September 9, 2011 at 6:36 PM

dammit huey! caught you!

72 huey9k September 9, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Huh? What? I didn’t do it!

73 huey9k September 9, 2011 at 9:01 PM

It ain’t the supernova… the “trail” isn’t right.

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