Friday, June 21st 2019, 7:30 pm - It's not a bird, and it's not a plane. But what is it?
UFO sightings may be a dime a dozen on social media, but strange blobs floating high above Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday had even the scientists stumped.
The bright white orbs stood out in stark contrast to the blue sky background, leaving residents wondering just what it was looming above the city.
While some initially suspected weather balloons, the National Weather Service was quick to deflate that idea:
Not surprisingly, this admission spurred speculation online with a particular culprit in mind:
Unfortunately for those hoping to catch a ride on the mothership, the explanation seems to be a bit closer to home. A reporter from local TV station KMBC seems to have solved the mystery with signs pointing to research balloons launched by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
KMBC's William Joy reported that a DARPA spokesperson confirmed that, based on the position and description of the objects, the orbs were likely balloons launched by the agency in Maryland on June 18 as part of the Adaptable Lighter Than Air (ALTA) program.
"The goal of the Adaptable Lighter Than Air (ALTA) program is to develop and demonstrate a high altitude lighter-than-air vehicle capable of wind-borne navigation over extended ranges," according to the DARPA website.
The balloons are designed to fly at altitudes of 75,000 feet or higher, and those launched on the 18th were equipped with instrumentation designed to sample real-time measurements in the stratosphere (the layer of our atmosphere above the troposphere, where we live). Taking advantage of winds at that altitude would put the balloons on a track to carry them from Maryland west to Missouri, rather than the typical west-to-east flow we see at lower levels.