UFOs over Highcliffe

Calling all airheads and aviation fanatics: can you help me identify something I saw in the sky?

I took my kids to the beach this morning, at Highcliffe on the UK’s South Coast. The sun was bright, the sky was clear, and we took off our shoes and socks and made sandcastles on the first truly glorious day of spring.

Their grandmother is flying to Spain today, and with the airport nearby in Hurn, we eagerly looked to the sky at the sound of every engine, waiting for a plane to appear from behind the trees that line the top of the cliff. Sometimes a Cessna would appear, someone on a flying lesson or out for pleasure; sometimes a helicopter on a sightseeing tour. Much higher up, passenger jets from Gatwick or Heathrow left contrails across the sky.

But once when we looked up, I spotted something I couldn’t identify in the sky. It made no noise and seemed to be at very high altitude, though without clouds it’s impossible to tell. It was silver, roughly cigar-shaped with the front and rear tapering to points. I noticed it because it was reflecting the sun, twinkling bright and dull and bright again as though catching and losing the sun, making it look as though it was rolling along the length of its axis. There were no wings that I could see, no tail, no lights, no contrail. It was travelling in a straight line, out into the Channel, with no deviation, and seemed to be getting higher (and smaller) as it went.

‘There are two,’ said my three-year-old, to whom I’d pointed it out.

And she was right. Following the silver object was a second, identical in appearance and motion, reflecting the sun like a mirror. It was almost like seeing two daytime stars, though not so bright that you couldn’t see they had mass and form.

We watched them for two or three minutes until they flew too close to the sun and we lost them. During that time, they were clearly either under power or the influence of gravity – not balloons as it was a smooth, continuous movement, and they didn’t alter course or change their positions relative to one another.

My daughter says they were spaceships, but that’s because she’s three. At first I thought they might be satellites in low earth orbit, particularly given the way they reflected the sun, but I’m not sure a satellite would be so easily observable during the day, or so slow moving. And I’m certainly not ready to credit them to little green men!

My best guess is that we saw a pair of helicopters flying high enough that I could neither see nor hear their rotors, even though I’ve never seen helicopters look like that before. Presumably they took off from Bournemouth and were still climbing to altitude when we saw them, en route to France. Until somebody in the know tells me different, that’s what I think we saw.

All I can say for sure is that they were objects, they were flying, and I’m unable to identify them, making them, by definition, Unidentified Flying Objects. But if they were aliens, I can’t imagine that after conquering interstellar travel there’d be much to interest them in rural Dorset, except, perhaps a cream tea that’s out of this world! (Shoot me now…)

[Click here for UFOs over Highcliffe update]

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4 thoughts on “UFOs over Highcliffe

    • See, I considered that, but either they’d have had to be incredibly high (20,000 feet or so), or else much smaller and lower than I thought. In either case, they didn’t have visible gondolas.

      That said, they could have been some kind of inflatable UAVs (drones), or now that I think of it, I know people have been working on high-altitude atmospheric satellites (blimps that sit up in the stratosphere), so you could be on to something…

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  1. Hmm…further research suggests that the lack of contrails does not negate the possibility of them being planes, because apparently planes only leave contrails when the air is cold enough and moist enough, and moisture content can change dramatically between different altitudes. Furthermore, bright, shimmering objects in the sky will appear closer, and thus at a lower altitude, than ones that are not bright or shimmering.

    All of which leads me to suspect I saw two passenger jets flying along an air corridor at their cruising altitude of around 40,000 feet, high enough to make it impossible to discern wings or tail, and bright enough to make them seem much lower than they actually were. The twinkling, I imagine, was because it was a hot day and the light had to pass through 40,000 feet of air at differing temperatures to reach me. If they were private jets, they could have been even higher – in excess of 50,000 feet.

    The contrails (and clearly visible wings and tails) of the other passenger jets I saw were because these latter had taken off at local airports and were not yet at cruising altitude. And since these jets were painted white, they didn’t catch the sun the same way as the two I saw.

    Tl;dr – The ‘UFOs’ I saw were silver-skinned aircraft flying much higher than they looked along a well-trafficked air corridor.

    Not as interesting as little green men, but satisfying nonetheless.

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