“[I]t was extremely bright, appearing as though we were looking directly into its landing lights….it simply looked roughly rectangular and extremely bright bluish white light in color (emitting light).”
I fly as a professional commercial airline pilot for a regional airline. While flying a Salt Lake to Denver leg in an empty Canadair CRJ-200 Regional Jet on 22 August, the Captain and I witnessed a brilliant bluish white object as we descended through 19000 feet AMSL and crossed the “TOMSN” intersection in the area of Estes Park Colorado, some 60 miles Northwest of the Denver International Airport.
As we levelled off at 19000 feet, we began slowing from 310 knots indicated to 250 knots indicated airspeed, as instructed by ATC. At this time we noticed a bright white light off to our right (south of us) at about the 3:30 position and apparently the same altitude as us. It appeared to be another aircraft descending parallel to us into the Denver Area, but it was extremely bright, appearing as though we were looking directly into its landing lights. We asked the Denver Approach controller on 119.30 Mhz if he could see any other aircraft off to our right, and he said there were none. We also had no indication of any aircraft off to our right on our onboard TCAS (collision avoidance) system display.
We observed this aircraft (?) from approx 8:07 to 8:09 pm (less than 3 minutes) and it appeared to move eastbound parallel to our course, less than 10 miles off to the right (south) of our position, in the area of Longs Peak and Rocky Mountain Nat’l. Park. We know it was not a great distance away, since we saw it pass between us and a rain/virga shower in the vicinity of Long’s Peak, off to the right (south) of our track. It appeared to have at least similar speed to ours (250 to 300 knots), although this is difficult to judge–it seemed to be a bit faster than we were, going eastbound. As we both began to observe it closely, it literally faded from bright and sharply visible to completely gone in less than three seconds.
It did not appear to accelerate or change course–it just faded rapidly from view and was gone. Another two quick inqiries to the Denver Approach controller yielded the same answer–he saw neither an aircraft transponder return in that area nor any “primary” return (an aircraft or object simply reflecting radar waves off of its skin). This was most puzzling to us as we both clearly saw this bright large object and observed it for over two minutes. It appeared roughly elongate rectangular and very large–perhaps the size of a large jumbo jet(at least 200-300 feet long)…but this is difficult to judge without distance information–I believe it was at least 5 to 8 miles off to our right. Hard to discern surface detail–it simply looked roughly rectangular and extremely bright bluish white light in color (emitting light).
I did not have binoculars or a camera with me on this particular flight, so I cannot give much more close detail than this. Please feel free to call me with any questions you may have. I am thinking of requesting the radar tapes from ATC. Our flight number was SkyWest 1008, and we were communicating with Denver Center on 126.50Mhz and then Denver Approach Control on 119.30Mhz when the event occurred.