Photographer Captures Strange Flying Object in Death Valley Time-Lapse

In mid-December, photographer Gavin Heffernan and his team braved freezing temps at the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley to capture the beautiful time-lapse footage seen above. They expected to (and did) get some gorgeous shots of dunes and star trails; what they didn’t expect was footage of a strange flying object (we’re purposely avoiding the term UFO because of its affiliation with oblong green men with large eyes) circling the night sky.

Armed only with boxed wine, firewood, and our DSLRs, we had to conquer epic climbs, sand roads with the 4×4 Jeep, and the occasional UFO… The “UFO” appears at (1:30-1:35) and makes three broad circular sweeps over the desert. Though in timelapse it appears to be moving fast, consider the 5 seconds = about 50 minutes, so it’s creeping. There was no sound, so it definitely wasn’t a helicopter.

Here’s a closer view:


The time-lapse itself is very well put together and a joy to watch, but what’s gotten Heffernan so much attention is that strange object buzzing around for 5 seconds worth of video. We won’t venture to guess what it is, but we do want you to. So go check out the close-up on Heffernan’s flickr and if you have any theories, wild and otherwise, feel free to voice them in the comments below.

(via Gizmodo)

  • Mansgame

    a moth?

  • Bear

    It’s just an airplane. It is showing standard red and green navigation lights on its wingtips, plus wingtip strobes that make the white lines. No mystery at all.

  • Guest

    how about a weather balloon? they can do slow movements (either because there’s not much wind on their altitude or because they’re attached to the ground. i assume that they also need to have position lights (so that airplanes don’t fly into them) which would explain the light.

  • Tommy Sar

    I’m not saying it’s aliens, but….

    It’s aliens.

  • Bob

    This is exactly what plane/helicopter nav lights look like on a multi-second exposure It’s no big surprise that the likes of Gizmodo posted it, but that a photography site also fell for it …

  • Chris Daniel

    Airplane. Obvious running lights are obvious. There’s “no sound” because it’s really far away and high up.

  • CGP

    If it’s not an aeroplane it’ll be a piece of space junk slowly rotating and reflecting sunlight to earth. The sky is full of satellites and space junk (used rocket boosters, defunct satellites, etc.) floating around and they’re really easy to see. Just go outside on a starry night and look up for ten minutes and you’re bound to see something moving among the stars.

  • Opie

    Yup. The level of sensationalism here is sort of mindblowing. Hasn’t anyone ever looked up at night?

  • Ted Kinsman

    Wow! I photograph the same UFO about 20 time a night when I shoot meteorites – attached is an image of one! Yes, after close inspection it is a plane. For real entertainment check out the iridium satellite flares.

  • Samuel

    I dont know about US airport geography but it kinda looks like a plane holding at the outer marker for a runway to clear.

  • Markal Firenzi

    a moron, definitely can’t define. normal situation to unidentified.

  • Veet

    100% airplane. There are 2 airports nearby: Furnace creek airport and Stovepipe wells airport. This is what they do when placed in the queue and/or airport is not ready to let them down.

  • John

    Airplane, nav lights (green+red on each side..).

  • Roger Thornhill

    They couldn’t figure out that its an airplane? LOL

  • Jake

    Everyone knows there’s no such thing as “weather balloons.” Damn conspiracy nuts…

  • gabe sturdevant

    “Braving freezing temperatures” ? Really? The record observed low there is 17 degrees. It averages 32 degrees at night and 65 during the day, in mid December.

    My high temp was 12 today with a -3 wind chill.

    Also, that is obviously a plane. Look at the previous holding/landing patterns of other planes.

  • Jason Kirby

    The timelapse alone is worthy of this post, nothing needs to be said about the airplane. But I will admit, it did get me to open the post. So PetaPixel wins there.

  • kb

    That area is heavily trafficked by military aircraft from the Naval Weapons Center, Fort Irwin, Edwards Air Force Base and more.
    Also, when will these internet time lapse videos cease the post-production-applied, fake motion-control zooming and pan/tilting?? It’s just junk.

  • Crudzilla

    Not even a very good time lapse considering that they went to the effort of making themselves appear like a production company. If I’m not mistaken their “sunset” was actually their sunrise shot played backwards…

  • SwedishKiwi

    Satellites and space junk go in straight lines.

  • tertius_decimus


  • EO

    I’m planning a trip. I’m going out to Air Force One. Air Force One, where they found all that stuff. They’re out there, man.

  • guest

    airplane…..I do lots of time lapse…def and airplane

  • Dave Reynolds

    Water freezes at 32 degrees. So, yeah: freezing temperatures.

  • John B. Mueller

    Without getting into classified details, DV is located south of the NTS (Nevada Test Site) which tests many high altitude reconnaissance aircraft, typically at night to replicate intelligence-gathering operations in far off places. The way the aircraft circled resembles those flight paths.

  • gabe sturdevant

    True, but calling it brave to go out in those temps is a little over the top.

  • nab111

    Can we agree on aliens flying a plane?

  • Dave Reynolds

    I’m a Californian and when it’s 30 degrees out, trust me: I’m freezing and don’t want to go out there! :-)

  • Sterling

    Uhh, you mean Area 51?

  • gabe sturdevant

    I am from San Diego, so I know the sentiment.

  • EO

    No, I meant Air Force One.

    But, if you Google “They’re Out There, Man”, you shall find all that heavenly glory. :)

  • Alf

    Aliens are mimicking our planes.

  • Karashamokimala

    Flying object are belong to peace in world.that will showing soon in real never gona beleave until they saw properly in real. Good thing that’s sign for peace .and those are not allieans.