PHOENIX — From the bustling streets of Scottsdale to the red rocks of Sedona more than an hour away, a NASA research balloon had some Arizonans wondering whether they had spotted an alien spacecraft.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said he got calls about the object all afternoon on Monday.
He said the object did not show up on FAA radar and was likely a balloon.
Later, Bill Stepp of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas identified the object as a 4,000-pound research balloon released from a NASA organization used to measure gamma ray emissions in high altitudes.
The balloon was launched at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning from Fort Sumner, N.M., and was grounded at about 9 p.m. Monday just south of Kingman in western Arizona.
Stepp said the balloon, which usually floats at an altitude of 130,000 feet, can be seen for about 170 miles on a clear day and has raised concern from Albuquerque to Phoenix.
“It’s something unusual,” he said. “People just don’t know what it is.”
Marshall Valentine, who works in a Scottsdale office, said he and about five other co-workers who spotted the object high in the sky around 2 p.m. Monday had no idea what it was.
“It looks like someone blew a bubble in the sky and it stayed there,” Valentine said. “A plane flew under it and it looked like it was a mountain higher than a plane flies.”
Similar descriptions of an unidentified flying, clear orb were also reported out of Sedona.
Jennifer McCoy, who runs the UFO Store in Sedona with her husband, said a local resident told her about the object around 2 p.m.
She said she went into the parking lot and saw the object in the cloud line.
It “looked like the gigantic bubble from the Wizard of Oz,” she said.