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UFO observations in February 2001:

Two airborne jetliners spotted a giant silver UFO hovering at an altitude of 18,000 meters (60,000 feet) near the city of Antofagasta in northern Chile. It was just a giant balloon, as a ufologist found out a few days later.

Two jetliners spot giant silver saucer in Chile:

A feeling of disquiet and consternation spread over much of Chile's Second Region, including large cities such as Calama and Antofagasta, due to the sighting of an unidentified flying object around 11 a.m. yesterday," i.e. Friday, February 16, 2001.

The phenomenon was even observed by commercial aircraft when air-space trajectories (flight paths--J.T.) brought them close to it.

Witnesses identified it as a small silver dot towards the west of El Loa's provincial capital, Antofagasta, which remained initially still and with a swinging motion.

Many tried to see but were themselves thwarted in the pursuit of this goal as the object was some distance from the city. Nonetheless, others were able to see it both unaided and with binoculars. While the phenomenon took place, the air traffic control personnel from the Cerro Moreno Airport were on the lookout and followed the UFO's movements through accounts from airline pilots who flew at a certain distance from the object.

Reports from Cerro Moreno indicated that two of the three airliners crossing the city while the phenomenon was taking place witnessed the object. These were LAN-Chile Flight 560 and Avant Airlines Flight 471.

The event, which took place at around 11 a.m., had a total duration of between 20 and 30 minutes, being first noticed by LAN-Chile Flight 560 after establishing visual contact with a shiny, oval object of incredible size. This was immediately relayed to the Air Traffic Control Center in Santiago de Chile, the national capital. The air service personnel in Santiago picked up the observed phenomenon on their radar screens, which have nationwide coverage.

The phenomenon was also seen in Calama, having been picked up by the local airport's control tower since 10:45 a.m. The description given was that of an oval, shiny object, which does not stray very far from the description given by the Cerro Moreno airport's officials. According to the official statement produced by the Cerro Moreno Airport officials, the object was seen 64 kilometers (30 miles) north of Mejillones, a town northeast of Antofagasta, and was 18,000 meters (60,000 feet) high. Avant Airlines Flight 471, flying between Calama and Antofagasta, reported the object to the regional capital's air facility.

According to the air facility's functionaries, the UFO was "flattened and elongated, like two plates facing each other," and was seen 120 kilometers (72 miles) north-northwest of Antofagasta at Vector 350.

Airport personnel explained that "Radar systems filter information, otherwise even cars could show up onscreen as well as (air) traffic moving slower than the stipulated speed."

Nelson Lope, Cerro Moreno's airport manager, confirmed the object's presence and noted that two commercial flights flying over the Pacific ocean picked up the apparition without being able to determine its identify. He added that the airspace occupied by the UFO contained heavy clouds, which did not allow for a more objective interpretation. However, he discarded the weather balloon theory given that the object "was very high, some calculations put it at 18,000 meters (60,000 feet). Perhaps a large balloon could reach this altitude, but no agency claimed credit for any such balloon launching. Both ESO (European Southern Observatory at Cerro Paranal) and as well as a mining company near Calama near Calama always notify us before a balloon probe is launched."

Despite the fact that the object was seen by a number of locals, the agency's radar system did not pick it up due to the fact that "the airport's radar system was undergoing maintenance at the time when the phenomenon was taking place, an event which hampered the system's viewing capacity," according to Lope.

Although he claimed not to know the exact time that the object was in the sky, he noted that the sighting lasted up to 30 minutes and the object was a good distance away, some 64 kilometers (40 miles) from Mejillones, more or less.

The UFO was tracked by radar operators of the Fifth Air Brigade of the Fuerzas Aereas de Chile (FACh or Chilean Air Force) based at Cerro Moreno, which is right outside of Antofagasta.

The explanation: a French MIR weather balloon:

The "giant silver saucer" seen by two jetliners and hundreds of people in the cities of Calama and Antofagasta in northern Chile on Friday morning, February 16, 2001, was just a French research balloon, according to a noted South American ufologist.

Luis Eduado Pacheco, editor of Informe Alfa (Spanish for Alpha Report), an e-magazine published in Argentina, said the UFO sighting in Chile "was generated by the flyby of a special kind of stratospheric balloon called the Montgolfier InfraRed (MIR)."

"This type of balloon has an aluminized Mylar envelope which reflects sunlight like a mirror, making it possible for the balloon to be seen up to a distance of 100 kilometers. The UFO sighted by the two airliners and many people of Antofagasta and Calama on February 16 was the second MIR balloon, launched from the city of Bauru in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil on February 15, 2001, which followed an east-to-west route more or less in a straight line along Latitude 20 degrees South. An earlier balloon was launched on February 13 and will be reaching Africa in a few days. The last balloon was launched on February 21, 2001 and is following the same route across South America and out over the Pacific Ocean. We have written to several researchers in Australia and Africa, warning them against false UFO reports resulting from the sighting if the MIR balloon."

References:

Muchas gracias a Scott Corrales, y tambien Gloria Coluchi para esos articulous de diario.

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