Russian UFO over La Silla

On January 23, 1992, a very uncommon object passed over Chile; It was seen by thousands of people, from Villa O'Higgins (2100km South of Santiago) to Copiapo (700km North of Santiago, and 200 from the ESO La Silla Observatory). Journalists from El Mercurio (the major Chilean newspaper) described the phenomenon as "a luminous cloud moving northward, from which suddenly grew a mushroom, like that of an atomic explosion," and "similar to a spaceship with a tail, like the one of a comet"!

The object flew over La Silla around 23h20, and was seen by many of the observers and night assistants; the following description was compiled from their testimonies:

Eric Aubourg, observing at the GPO telescope, took the following pictures:

Enlargement from 10 seconds exposure around 23h18 (TMax 400 film, Leica camera and 35mm lens). The object is seen surrounded by the ring, which is elongated by the motion of during the exposure, and is followed by the cone. This image is also available as a larger JPG file (224kO).

1 minute exposure, from 23h20-21 (same technical parameters). This images is a scan of the entire negative. To the left, the remains of the cone are seen, and to the right the object is fading away, and finally disappears. To the left, the black, almost vertical lines are the image of a meteorological tower.This image is also available as a larger JPG file (408kO).

It should be noted that in Chile, and especially in the region of Elqui (where La Silla is), there is a strong tradition of seeing UFO. A large community of post-hippies has been established in the Elqui Valley, and tells many stories of UFOs. The Elqui valley is considered (by them) as a very powerful place, where the energies are flowing in a very abundant way. It is hypothesized (again, by them) that this is related to the geographical position of that valley, exactly at the opposite of Katmandu. The change of Era (from Pisces to Aquarius) caused an invertion in the energy field of the Earth, establishing the spirituality center in its new location. It should also be added that the Elqui Valley is very rural (therefore its night sky is very dark) and constitute a very good observing site. Moreover, the Elqui Valley is the place where most of the Chilean pisco (grape alcohol) is produced.

Using these observations described here, R.Rast (NASA) and N.Johnson (Kaman Science), could identify the object. One hour earlier, the Commonwealth of Independent States has launched Cosmos 2176 on a 3-stage rocket from Plesetsk (2300km NW from BAikonur). The strap on and zero-stage impacted within CIS borders. The first stage placed the payload and second stage into a transfer orbit of roughly 200x600km. After separationm the first stace remains in transfer orbit, and the second stage fires while heading North-East of the West coast of South-America, before completing one revolution of the Earth. Until these pictures, there was speculation whether this type of UFO seen by Chileans was the first stage venting unburned fuel or the second stage firing. In this case, the latter explanation is correct: a nominal second stage burn lasts a little under 4 minutes. The mission Cosmos 2176 was to detect (in the infrared) the launch of missiles toward the CIS.

These photos may not be reproduced without the written authorisation of Olivier Hainaut or Eric Aubour
(© 1992)

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Olivier Hainaut

Fri Dec 6 17:08:02 1996