Some called it a weather balloon. Some speculated it was a nebula, and others speculated we’ve been visited from another world.
A mysterious, translucent orb in the sky caught the attention of sky-gazers across the Fraser Valley. While it’s often difficult to definitively solve a sky-borne mystery, some local researchers may have cracked the case – and the answer may not be what you think.
Pictures of the orb appeared all over local social media, and among the jokes, the photos and the otherworldly theories, Don McTighe posted a screenshot of a flight map. The map detailed the journey of a balloon connected to Project Loon – a now-scrapped “moonshot” project designed to bring Internet access to rural and remote areas all over the world.
This particular balloon – Flight HBAL546 – was last seen above Princeton at 18,000 feet at the blistering speed of 11 kph, as of publication. Before that, it was seen over Lillooet, Pemberton, Hope, Osoyoos and across the border into Washington and Idaho.
Project Loon balloons stretch out to be about the size of a tennis court and are made of polyethylene filled with helium, designed to withstand severe conditions at 20 kilometres above the ground, including temperatures as low as – 90 C. The attached high-speed internet transceivers are solar-powered.
After nine years, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, shut down Project Loon earlier this year after it was deemed not commercially viable at this time. However, there are apparently some balloons are still aloft, like the one reportedly spotted above the Fraser Valley.
Prior to its shutdown, Project Loon saw its share of triumphs, providing internet access to more than 200,000 people in Puerto Rio after Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017, and it most recently provided commercial service in Kenya in 2020. To help Kenya keep access going, Alphabet gave $10 million to non-profits and businesses working toward better internet access.
– With Files from The Associated Press