Strange Airborne Lights Over Red Butte Startle Concertgoers.

Background: UFOs Northwest became aware of this sighting through contact with Erica Lukes who is a local UFO investigator in Salt Lake City, Utah. Erica learned of the report through a newspaper article in the Salt Lake City Tribune. (See article below.) Subsequently Erica contacted other witnesses and requested our assistance in the analysis of radar and meteorological data.

A concert was held at the Red Butte Amphitheater and several concertgoers saw formations of orange-white lights move over the concert area when the band was performing. The Red Butte Amphitheater is about 6 miles East of downtown Salt Lake City.

The newspaper article, witness reports and analysis of radar and meteorological data follow.

This sighting gained attention through the following article from the Salt Lake Tribune:
By COURTNEY TANNER | The Salt Lake Tribune connect

First Published Sep 21 2016 11:37 PM – Last Updated Sep 25 2016 10:11 PM

Strange lights in the sky over Red Butte startle concertgoers, but they’re likely ‘more terrestrial than extraterrestrial’


Description of lights “seems more terrestrial than extraterrestial,” says Clark Planetarium director.

Seth Jarvis has seen stranger things.

As the director of Clark Planetarium and a fan of astronomical phenomena, Jarvis knows when something in the sky is odd: And the spinning lights that attendees of a Red Butte Garden concert reported seeing Tuesday night were nothing out of the ordinary.

“Weird lights in the sky,” he said, “are nothing new.”

The lights, described as about 20 to 30 orbs stretched out in the dark sky, hung over the foothills of eastern Salt Lake City about 8:30 p.m. Several people attending the Tears for Fears concert stopped to take pictures, but the lights didn’t show up, one attendee said. Some feared it might be alien activity or space junk burning in the atmosphere, while others thought it could be birds flying overhead with the concert lights reflecting off their wings. But Jarvis said it’s likely something much more benign: floating lanterns with candles or helium balloons with glow sticks.

More Information on Sep 20, 2016 Red Butte Amphitheatre Sighting
Per conversation with Utah UFO Researcher Erica Lukes:

There were 7 to 10 white objects flying north in a “V” formation. The objects were the size of a thumbnail held at arm’s length. The object formation was described as like “ a school of fish.” The objects were moving to the north (or from southeast to northwest). No sound was heard. There were over 10,000 people at the concert at the Amphitheatre.

Two other witnesses saw a total of 60 to 100 objects. The objects would appear in groups of around 20 and would “flash” in unison. There were several clusters noted. The objects were orange-white in color and were moving straight north. They appeared to be flying in a “V” formation. They were visible for about 10 minutes. The band was playing at the time that the objects were sighted. The witnesses thought that the sighting was a few minutes before 9 PM MDT. They said that the stage lights were quite bright and therefore no videos or photos were taken. The witnesses were convinced that the objects were not Chinese Lanterns. They were “mesmerized” by what they saw.

Erica Lukes also had a discussion with a contact to the south of the amphitheater who stated that a family in the area was known to launch Chinese Lanterns. The contact is a neighbor to the family and no Chinese Lanterns were seen on the night of the concert.

Meteorological and Radar Data Analysis Follow:

As soon as I learned of the sighting from Erica Lukes I wrote a FOIA (Freedom of Information Request) to the FAA requesting aviation radar data for the Salt Lake City area. A couple of months later I received data, but it was unreadable. Subsequently I received data in the correct format. I actually received more data than I requested. I received radar data from Salt Lake as well as Provo and Francis Peak, Utah. I did not use the Provo, Utah data in this analysis because the radar only picks up regular aircraft and therefore would not track UFO activity.

Weather Conditions – Sep 20, 2016
The high temperature for the day was 89 degrees F. It was a warm day and only two degrees below the all time record. At 9 PM (time of concert) the temperature was 77 degrees F, winds were from the South-Southeast at 4 MPH, the relative humidity was 24%. Visibility was 10 miles and there were scattered clouds at 15,000 feet.

Table One Below Displays the Winds by Layer in the Lower 15,000 Feet of the Atmosphere:





The winds aloft shown in table one indicate that the objects were moving with the wind. This does not mean that they were not propelled, but is suggestive that they could have been flotation devices (balloons, lanterns, etc.). Weather conditions above show that skies were mostly clear with good visibility so objects would have been not been obscured.

Radar data from Francis Peak, Utah and the Salt Lake City Local Traffic Control were used in the analysis. Both radars showed numerous returns many of which were angels, birds, ground traffic and weather. A refined analysis was focused on the immediate area of the Red Butte Amphitheater because witnesses reported the objects overhead.  This analysis showed that only the Francis Peak radar tracked any returns near the Red Butte Amphitheater.  (See figure one.)  The tracking showed an object (or objects) moving northwest and then north at speeds varying from 20 to 110 MPH.  (The radar may have produced one return for a group of objects.) The object(s) were tracked from 8:26 to 8:27 PM. The object or objects were about 1/4 mile to the west of the amphitheater. For some reason the Salt Lake City radar did not pick up the objects.  The Salt Lake radar is about 8 miles to the west-northwest of the amphitheater while the Francis Peak radar is about 18 miles to the north.  The Francis Peak radar has a range of 220 nautical miles versus 60 nautical miles for the Salt Lake radar. Perhaps the longer range of the Francis Peak radar would allow it to pick up more objects than the Salt Lake radar, but this is speculation.  The Francis Peak radar has a longer wavelength than the Salt Lake radar and more energy output. This also could be the reason for the more “sensitive” detection?

One needs to ask the question: Are the returns detected by radar being propelled by the wind? If one takes into account the winds aloft in the lower 15,000 feet of the atmosphere (table one), then the answer would be no. Radar showed the objects moving between 20 and 110 MPH.  The winds aloft were no more than 15 MPH in the lower 15,000 feet of the atmosphere. (Of course this assumes that the objects were no higher than 15,000 feet.)  Also radar showed that the object or objects made a direction change moving northwest and then north.  Table one shows very little change in direction so this suggests that the object(s) were under propulsion.

Another question to ask: Were the objects detected by radar seen by the witnesses? The time and direction of movement and angle of viewing would suggest so. The newspaper article above pegged the time of the sightings as around 8:30 PM. Radar indicated the detection time of the objects as between 8:26 to 8:27 PM. This is close to 8:30 PM. Radar showed that the objects were approximately 1/4 mile the west of the amphitheater. Using trigonometry if the objects were at 10,000 feet, the angle of viewing (above the horizon) would have been 82 degrees which is close to zenith (straight up). If the objects were flying at 15,000 feet, the angle of viewing would have been 85 degrees (almost straight up). The witnesses said that the objects were overhead so it is reasonable to say that the radar detected objects could have been what the witnesses saw.

A few minutes later (8:30 to 8:31 PM) an aircraft was tracked moving from the southwest, then turned to the north, to the northwest and then turned back to the north. (See green track in figure one.) The craft was moving at 110 MPH and was ascending from 4,800 to 5,100 feet.  This craft could have been a helicopter.


On Sep 20, 2016 around 8:30 PM several concertgoers at the Red Butte Amphitheater saw several (up to 100 objects) moving northward. The objects were orange-white and observed in individual clusters. Weather conditions were fair and the winds in the lower 15,000 feet of the atmosphere were from the south at light speeds (no more than 15 MPH) indicating that the objects were moving with the wind and could have been flotation devices.  Radar data were available from 3 radar sites (Salt Lake, Provo and Francis Peak). The Provo data were not used because it only is designed to detect regular aircraft. Only the Francis Peak radar tracked any returns near the amphitheater. The returns moved northwest and then north at speeds from 20 to 110 MPH. An aircraft flying at 110 MPH was detected moving northeast, north, northwest and then north. This craft could have been a helicopter.  So what were the objects?  They could have been flotation devices (e.g. balloons) and radar may have detected some of them. However, the directional change and speed changes of the objects detected by radar would indicate that they had some sort of propulsion.  Also the time, direction of movement and nearly “straight up” position of the objects suggest that some of the objects observed by the witnesses were detected by radar.

The witnesses interviewed did not think that the objects were balloons (or Chinese Lanterns). Also interviews with citizens who live south of the amphitheater did not see any Chinese Lanterns or balloons launched.



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This entry was posted in Formation of Lights, Orb(s) of Light, Possible Chinese lanterns, Radar Detection., Special Reports, UFO Sightings 2017, UFO Sightings Utah. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Strange Airborne Lights Over Red Butte Startle Concertgoers.

  1. Douglas L. says:

    I was there with my wife and everyone around us were amazed. It looked like a large craft that was being “cloaked.” Most around us were thinking it was a UFO.

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