Skygazers around Billings, Montana are wondering what the heck was clearly visible in the skies above Yellowstone County recently (January 2023). Including this author. I'm a total amateur, but I do spend a lot of time looking up and can identify most of the celestial bodies, comets, space rocket launches, etc. As for what I saw today, well... I'm not sure exactly what we were looking at.
Below is a video I shot from my deck around 4 pm on 2/1/23.
Sorry for the somewhat shaky footage. It was windy and cold and I didn't have a tripod for my phone or a telescope. When I looked at the orb-shaped object with my fairly low-powered binoculars, I couldn't discern much more detail than the images below. I first spotted the object around 4 pm and it didn't appear to move much (if at all) for well over an hour. It eventually disappeared into cloud cover. Or something.
Probably just a weather balloon, right?
That's always the official explanation. I suppose that's probably the case in this situation as well. According to the National Weather Service, 900 weather balloons are released twice a day, every day around the globe. 92 of those are launched in the US or from US territories. The agency says,
The balloon flights last for around 2 hours, can drift as far as 125 miles away, and rise up to over 100,000 ft. (about 20 miles) in the atmosphere!
Yeah, it was probably just a balloon. 🙄
Two interesting coincidences.
While this object was doing whatever it was doing in the sky above Big Sky Country, Billings Logan International Airport grounded all flights and rerouted others. No official reason was given as of Wednesday afternoon, per the Billings Gazette article.
Another interesting tidbit for you... I just happened to open Flight Radar 24 (a flight tracking app that I love) around 3 pm this afternoon, well before I saw the weird thing in the sky. And I watched a USAF KC-10A plane make at least six circles in basically the exact same area along the MT/WY border south of Red Lodge. The plane (typically used for refueling according to Uncle Sam) left Travis AFB in California at noon today, flew to Salt Lake then headed north of Stanford, MT before it came back to the south and did whatever it was doing over the Beartooth Pass area. Surely, it was just training. Right? Of course.