On Sunday, an unidentified object was shot down by U.S. fighter jets over Lake Huron, the fourth taken down over North America in less than two weeks
The shootdown of the latest objects over Alaska, Canada and Michigan this weekend is raising questions about what they are and what, if any, danger they pose for the United States.
It’s unclear if there are more objects in and near U.S. airspace, or if officials are finding more because they are looking for more following the flight of a Chinese spy balloon across the U.S. before it was shot down.
While there are still many questions about the objects, here is what we know now:
What is the timeline for the shootdown of the four objects?
Here’s what we know about where the objects were spotted and when they were shot down.
1. First object shot down Saturday, Feb. 4: A huge Chinese spy balloon was shot down over the East Coast on Feb. 4, after it drifted for days across the U.S.
According to military officials, the balloon carried a gondola that was roughly the size of three school buses that contained antennas and solar panels.
The device, which apparently had a guidance system, is believed to be used to gather and send surveillance information. It flew at around 60,000 feet.
2. Second object shot down Friday, Feb. 10: The second object shot down was spotted north of Alaska on Thursday. That object, which lacked any propulsion or system of control, according to military officials, was shot down by F-22 Raptors over the coast of northeastern Alaska. The object was said to be the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, according to US officials.
The Washington Post reported that President Joe Biden was notified about the second object the day before it was shot down, and ordered that it be destroyed, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
According to Kirby, who made the announcement in a White House press briefing, the object posed a threat to civilian air traffic because it was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet. He said on Friday that the U.S. did not know where the object came from.
3. Third object shot down Saturday, Feb. 11: The third object, described by officials as “cylindrical,” was shot down over Canada’s Yukon territory. It had been flying at about 40,000 feet.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) first detected the object Friday evening.
According to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he spoke to Biden and then ordered the object to be shot down after it “violated Canadian airspace.”
“Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled, and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object,” Trudeau said.
The remains of the craft are being recovered, according to Canadian officials.
4. Fourth object shot down Sunday, Feb. 12: The fourth object was first spotted on Saturday near the U.S.-Canada border, about 70 miles north of Montana.
The military first made contact with the object at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday and two F-15 fighters from Portland, Oregon, scrambled to investigate the object that was flying much lower, at 20,000 feet, than the other crafts.
According to the Pentagon, at 6 p.m. the object crossed into U.S. airspace. The fighters were in position near the object, but the sun set and neither the pilots nor radar equipment could see it.
By Sunday, the object, described as “octagonal-shaped,” was confirmed to be moving east across Wisconsin. At 2:42 p.m., an F-16, using an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, shot down the object about 15 nautical miles north of the upper peninsula above Lake Huron.
What are they?
Except for the first object — a surveillance balloon — no one seems able or willing to say exactly what the three other objects are or where they came from.
A Defense Department official said the object shot down Friday is most likely not a balloon.
American officials said Saturday’s object, the one described by Canadian authorities as cylindrical, is more likely a balloon of some kind.
Like the object shot down Friday, the object shot down Sunday probably is not a balloon, one official said, according to the BBC.
According to a report from Reuters, NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said on Sunday that he would not rule out any explanation for the objects, including something sent from another planet.
Asked whether he had ruled out an extraterrestrial origin for three airborne objects shot down by U.S. warplanes VanHerck said: “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything.”
“At this point, we continue to assess every threat or potential threat, unknown, that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it,” VanHerck told reporters Sunday.
Another U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the military had seen no evidence suggesting any of the objects in question were of extraterrestrial origin.
In the White House briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “There is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial with these recent takedowns.”
So far, neither military nor government officials have been able to say what propelled the three objects shot down over the weekend or kept them afloat.
The New York Times writes that a public report released last month said that of 366 unexplained aerial incidents investigated since 2021, 163 were later identified as balloons.