Human World

Chinese spy balloon shot down off U.S. coast

A wide-open view of blue sky with 3 arced contrails circling a small balloon.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Kaitlin Gasque in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, captured this photograph of the Chinese spy balloon with fighter jets circling on February 4, 2023, at 2:01 pm, shortly before its shooting down. Outstanding shot. Thank you, Kaitlin!

Update: The U.S. military has shot down the alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Where is the Chinese spy balloon now?

Reuters reported Friday night (February 3, 2023) that – according to the U.S. military – the suspected Chinese spy balloon has changed course and is now floating eastward at about 60,000 feet (18,300 meters) over the central United States, “demonstrating a capability to maneuver.” Several media outlets are reporting on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) model for computing air parcel trajectories (NOAA’s HYSPLIT model), which has predicted that the suspected Chinese spy balloon was somewhere over southeast Missouri by 6 a.m. CT (12 UTC) on Saturday, February 4. The balloon is following the pattern of winds sweeping across the U.S. Find a map below of its suspected course into the United States and where it could travel to next.

Reports of a mysterious high-flying object over Montana began flooding in on Thursday, February 2. The U.S. Pentagon soon announced that it’s a Chinese spy balloon, although the Chinese government has claimed it is a civilian meteorological balloon blown off course.

The balloon is huge. It’s up to 3-bus-lengths long. According to reports, you should be able to spot it under clear daytime skies, despite the fact that it is very, very high up. Some reports say the balloon is flying as high as 60,000 feet, or about 11 miles up (18,000 meters). The balloon is sailing through the layer of Earth’s atmosphere called the stratosphere. That’s well above where airplanes fly, at around 32,000 feet (10,000 meters).

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Here are recent possible tracks

But of course we don’t know exactly how the winds will push the balloon along, so other tracks are possible:

The latest on the Chinese spy balloon

The Independent – in the UK – is reportingon Saturday morning that China’s foreign ministry has now accused American officials of excessively “hyping” the balloon incident.

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi reportedly said:

China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law. We do not accept any groundless speculation and hype.

In the face of unexpected situations, what both parties need to do is to maintain concentration, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments, and manage and control differences.

Another balloon?

Meanwhile, late Friday night, the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon has spotted a second airborne vehicle over Latin America, similar to the one seen over the continental United States, and has assessed it is another Chinese spy balloon. Department of Defense spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement to The Washington Post:

We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon.

And the Washington Post reported:

The assessment comes amid a diplomatic row sparked by the first balloon, which was spotted over Montana on Wednesday and has since prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to Beijing just hours before his departure.

A journey over Canada

Meteorologists have tracked the likely path of the balloon from China across Canada and into the U.S.

Here’s an early report and summary of the balloon

Certainly not a planet

Some of the first videos of the balloon asked if what they were seeing might be a planet. Between the size it appeared in the sky and its visibility in daylight – not to mention the fact that no planets should be in the area of the sky where the balloon was seen – it clearly was not.

Bottom line: Observers watched an alleged Chinese spy balloon cross the U.S. over the last few days. The U.S. military shot it down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

Did you get a photo of the Chinese spy balloon? Send it to us!

February 4, 2023
Human World

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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