Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Unknown spherical body - Tasmania - 6 January 1923

Hi readers,

In my last post, I presented information about an "Extraordinary Phenomenon" seen at Alpha. Queensland on 17 September 1900. This concerned a "travelling star" seen in the daytime. I noted that in this instance it might have been a wind borne object.

Today's post concerns a daytime, revolving "...spherical body" travelling "...against the prevailing wind."

The account
"An Unusual Phenomenon.
To the Editor of "The Mercury."
Sir - I am interested to know if any beside myself and  daughter witnessed an extraordinary appearance in the sky at about 12.30 on Saturday. The sky was intensely blue with an occasional formation of cloud scudding over from the north-west.
On a clear patch of sky, a spherical body, creamy white in colour was revolving on its own axis, and speeding in a northerly direction at an great pace against the prevailing wind. The object was above the clouds as occasionally it was observed to repeatedly appear further on. It was not luminous like a star, or a meteor and was seen for nearly half an hour until eventually obscured by rain clouds.
Yours etc.
Source:  "The Mercury" [Hobart, Tas: 1860-1954] Thursday 11 January 1923 p9.

1. If the location of sighting was Hobart, then Hobart is at latitude 42 deg 50 mins south; longitude 147 deg 20 mins east.
2. Based on Hobart, the Sun was at elevation 70 deg azimuth north.
3. The planet Venus was at 41 deg elevation; azimuth WNW.
4. According to "The Mercury" 6 January 1923,  page 15, the forecast issued at 9pm on 5 January 1923, for the next 48 hours, forecast the winds blowing from the north-west to west.
5. There is an apparent contradiction between the use of the words "...speeding...at a great pace" and it being visible for "...nearly half an hour."
6. However, based on the available information given in the letter to the editor, I am at a loss to suggest a mundane explanation for this object.
Have readers any suggestions?

Update 2 January 2016

Several members on the Magonia Exchange Yahoogroups forum discussed the possibility that the object seen may have been the planet Venus. It was 43 degrees away from the sun at that time and very bright. Could the scudding clouds have given the illusion of a stationary (moving some 7.5 degrees towards the west in a half hour) Venus speeding along?

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