astronomy astrophotography night sky night yosemite national park

Milky Way over the trees, seem from Yosemite Valley around 3am

Last night I attended an impromptu star party in Yosemite attended by only one person total. The sky was really clear, and the Milky Way was very easy to see with camera and the eye.

While taking some photos around 3:30am or so, I saw a bright satellite trawl across the sky. It was quite bright - maybe an Iridium flare?

My eyes started to track it across the sky, but it almost looked like it was dancing instead of advancing steadily. It was going stop-go but very smoothly.

At this point I should mention that I’d drank much more coffee than I really should have, in preparation for the long drive. Despite all the coffee I was getting very tired, which made for a bad combination with driving.

I think the dancing of the satellite was due to the effects of the coffee, that or it was just a natural optical illusion.

The satellite went behind some trees, and soon after that I saw a very bright star emerge over the mountains on the other side of the trees.

Must be a UFO!

I looked at the star intently, and could swear I could see it dancing as well, though a bit more stationary. It was also changing colors - red, blue, white. Obviously a very patriotic UFO.

My delirium-fueled excitement was pushing me to get out my super telephoto, which is exactly what I did. Here I with the perfect equipment, tripod, and RAW video capabilities! A really good UFO video to post to YouTube!

But nope. Zoomed in on a tripod, it was clear it was a fairly stationary star, only moving progressively with the backdrop of the other stars in Yosemite’s real-life planetarium.

It was clear it was time to head to bed. Who knows what else I’d start seeing after a while…

Parked somewhere in a gravel parking lot near Camp Curry and slept in my car (whoohoo for being single and getting to save money).

It was around 4am when I was finally getting to sleep.

Written at the top of Nevada Falls, Yosemite

The "UFO" turned out to be the International Space Station, and when it appeared to come out of the trees over the mountain on the right, it was actually Capella
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