The Phoenix Lights

Hey, Readers. It’s Monday, and you know what that means. Time for a new Mystery Monday post. This one occurred in the southwestern states of Nevada and Arizona

On March 13, 1987, a series of widely sighted unidentified flying objects appeared over the skies of Arizona. Between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., thousands of people reported seeing lights of varying descriptions over a space of about three-hundred miles. This line stretched from the Nevada state line through Phoenix, and into Tucson. These sightings came to be known as The Phoenix Lights.

Image courtesy of USA Today via Wikipedia. (Fair Use)

Around 7:55 p.m. a witness in Henderson, Nevada reported seeing a large V-shaped object traveling in a southeasterly direction. At 8:15 p.m. a former police officer in Paulden, Nevada saw a cluster of reddish-orange lights disappear over the southern horizon. Not long afterward, reports of lights came from the Prescott Valley area of Arizona.

One man, Tim Ley, and his family first saw the lights when they were approximately sixty-five miles away. The objects first appeared as five separate and distinguished lights in an arc shape, much like the top of a balloon. As the lights came closer, they took on the shape of an upside-down V. When the lights came within two miles, the Ley family stated the shape looked like a 60-degree carpenter’s square with five lights. The lights passed over at a distance of 100-150 feet above them and traveled slowly enough they gave the appearance of a hovering object. They disappeared through a gap in the Piestewa Peak Mountain toward the direction of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Witnesses in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, saw the light formation between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m. Mitch Stanley, an amateur astronomer in Scottsdale observed these lights through a telescope. He stated they were clearly individual airplanes. At approximately 10:00 p.m. a large number of people in the Phoenix area reported seeing “a row of brilliant lights hovering in the sky, or slowly falling.” Several photographs and videos were taken, prompting author Robert Sheaffer to describe it as “Perhaps the most widely witnessed UFO event in history.”

According to Sheaffer, the Phoenix Lights were two unrelated incidents, but both were the result of a pilot training program known as Operation Snowbird and operated by the Air National Guard out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. A retired Air Force pilot and astronomer investigated the incident and traced them to A-10 aircraft flying in formation at high altitudes.

The second incident which was described as “a row of brilliant lights hovering in the sky” was due to a flare drop exercise by different A-10 jets from the Maryland Air National Guard. They also operated out of Davis-Monthan as part of Operation Snowbird.

As you can imagine these sightings became the source of much speculation with allegations of conspiracy theories (there always seems to be an abundance of those with every unexplainable event) and hoaxes. This spawned numerous websites, books, and documentaries. Even then Arizona Governor Fife Symington III gave some credence to the stories.

The Phoenix Lights became part of a local legend. A decade later, the lights returned in February 2007 and again in April 2008. Theories include a fleet of aircraft, top-secret military aircraft, and of course, UFOs.

My biggest question is in regard to the Ley family’s sighting. If the objects were aircraft and flew only 100-150 feet above them, wouldn’t they have heard a sound?

No matter what the cause, there will always be skeptics, and some will always be convinced aliens few over the skies of Arizona that night.

What say you?

21 thoughts on “The Phoenix Lights

Add yours

  1. Having seen mysterious and unexplained flying crafts, I am a big believer in UFOs. Are they extraterrestrial? Are they secret missions? I don’t know, but I’ve seen them. I don’t believe we are alone. Thanks for sharing, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to remember this in the news way back when. Military seems like a decent answer, and there doesn’t seem to be any news about the military scrambling aircraft during the event. That indicates they knew about it all along. Sound is a great concept. I’ve had jets buzz me in the Nevada deserts and you can absolutely hear them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought of you when I wrote it since I knew you once lived in Nevada. We used to get a lot of military aircraft flying over our area until they closed Carswell Air Base in Fort Worth. They were loud!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great Monday mystery, Joan. You would think someone would step up and say something about A10s or other military actions if that were the case. We all would like these sightings to be something more I think. Your observation about sound is a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some strange occurrences. I once saw an object in the sky with a bright light. It was just after sunset, and I was driving home. I kept following the light and when I got close to home, I could make out the shape of a large object. Turns out it was a huge airplane (maybe a C130 cargo plane). It looked like it was barely moving but the direction it was flying coupled with the direction I was traveling made it appear that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve heard of this before and it’s fascinating to me. I believe the simplest answer is usually the right one, but the lack of sound tells me either our technology is far more advanced than the government has revealed (possible) or it wasn’t our military. Which do you think is more likely? I, for one, don’t think our military is advanced to the point that we have soundless engines. Not without help from a different source, anyway. Great post, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

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