As observers around the planet were capturing images of Friday’s penumbral eclipse, one photographer saw something unusual: a round object crossing in front of the moon. Luis G. Verdiales from Loiza, Puerto Rico said:
I was using a 125mm telescope to capture the penumbral lunar eclipse when the black disk appeared. It was moving too slowly to be a satellite, so slowly that I was able to capture it with my camera four times. It got my attention because it was round!
Verdiales contacted the Caribbean Island’s largest astronomy organization – Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe – to find out what it was. This group then found the answer:
After analysing magnified images, we suspected it might be a stratosphere balloon from Google Loon, a project that is testing internet coverage from the stratosphere. We verified FlightRadar24.com and found a balloon at 64,400 ft identified as HBAL176.
Further analysis showed the balloon was right between the observer and the moon.
Bottom line: The round object crossing in front of the moon during the February 10, 2017 lunar eclipse turned out to be a stratospheric balloon from Google Loon.
Eddie Irizarry of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (Astronomical Society of the Caribbean) has been a NASA Solar System Ambassador since 2004. He loves public outreach and has published multiple astronomy articles for EarthSky, as well as for newspapers in Puerto Rico. He has also offered dozens of conferences related to asteroids and comets at the Arecibo Observatory.
Asteroid 33012EddieIrizarry, a 7.8 km space rock, has been named in his honor.