In-Flight Close Encounter with an Eta Aquarid

Nights to Remember

Nocturnal Memoirs of Robert Morningstar

The Night of the Leonid Meteor Shower

November 18th, 1966

I remember November 18th, 1966 very vividly.


I was out that night looking for the meteor shower in Riverside Park, New York City, but NYC was totally overcast and I didn’t even see a “blink” through the cloud cover.But Arizona got “the blast,” at 40/minute.

I had to wait 33 years for the next greatLeonid Meteor shower, which came in December 1999 when the Leonid Meteor shower, which i saw from the Great Oval in Central Park and got some of them on video.

The Night of the Eta Aquarid

One night in In May of the year 2000, I was flying a T-tailed Piper Arrow II RT in the dead of night from Boston to Essex County – Caldwell Airport, New Jersey, which is just a few miles outside New York City.

It was about 9:30 p.m., flying in the black of night over Oxford-Woodbury, Connecticut. The sky was black , but visibility was unlimited and I could see the stars. the land was black, but I could see the lights of highways, occasinal street lights, and some house lights in the little sleepy towns below.

As I flewwest, homing in on the 310 radial of a VOR beacon in Carmel, New York, I glaced down at the landscape passing below my aircraft.

Suddenly, as I was making out the coast line of Connecticut to the south along Long island sound, I was very surprised as I looked down at a brilliant luminosoity on the gound, which made no sense to my ratiional mind.

As I looked at this puzzling sight, I thought I saw “a lake on fire” or “fireworks underwater (?).”  I was mesmerized by the sight of it what looked to be a fiery lake, adn I thought of an amusement park or somesuch thing as the possible cause for this most ununusual never-before-seen phenomenon.

My eyes stayed fixed for several seconds on the rainbow of brilliant streaks of light emanating, as it seemed from beneath the waters of the small lake, until the fiery lake disappeared under my left wing.


When I looked forward again, I could see diffuse green and yellow bands of light wavering over the dimly lit landscape and I was puzzled by the effect illuminating the hilltops of Connecticut when it had been pitch black just 10 seconds before, except for street and highway lights, 6500 feet below.


I looked for the light source and looing south, I could see “late afternoon sunlight,” shimmering in long Island sound and the Atlantic ocean farther south. 


I could see all of Long Island as a black mass floating in a sea of silver light, and when I raised my gaze to the sky, I thought I was looking at the sun.  My brain went “bonkers,” and slipped into cognitive dissonance for a moment as i said to myself :


“Did I miss the dawn? …  Am I on my way to Holland?” <simultaneously Thinking of Lindberg + “Holland Tunnel”>


I glanced forward once again to see the land was still dimly lit with now brighter green and yellow “tiger stripes” wavering cross the Connecticut hills. I could see 2 “rectagular lakes,” which later turned out to be local reservoirs.


Looking back at “The Sun,” I noticed that it had dropped a couple of degrees in declination and now had a white aura surrounding it, so my next thought was “O my God, It’s a Supernova.” but as i thought it, I saw the luminosity drop nd stop twice move, vertically, like a spider sometime  “drops and stops” suddenly while hanging on its silken thread. 


The object was now lower than before and the aura around it looked like was boiling, at which point it leapt and streaked right toward me and an intersection with my airplane’s line of flight, ‘bouncing” twice (like the bouncing ball in old cartoons) and covering a distance of  50-75  miles in two “hops” lasting only 2 seconds in duration.


the object was now nearly upon me and realizing it was meteoric, I scream or yelled out loudly out “METEOR!” to alert my co-pilot and my passenger in the rear seat, a USAF Tech Sgt. named William Larrea.


The object seemed to slow down suddenly and changed color and shape from bright white roundness to a long fiery green and red object, shaped like a black apple see, with a ruby colored “belt” or ring around its center and a “ruby knuckle” like ajewel on a ring, and spinning/rotating like a beacon.

My inner voice said “Don’t stare at the ruby belt ’cause you’ll miss the rest of it!” 

So, I broke my fixation on the spinning ruby belt to take in the rest of it, which was a green color of every possible shade and hue  of green from lime green to Kelly green and the  saw a 100 foot long acetylene torch like tail , and as my flight line was on a collision course with the streaking object, I said to myself:


“If I fly through that tail, it will shear my wing and ‘Bang!, ” my plane will explode and the NTSB accident report will only say “pilot error.”

To be continued …

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