A Chinese spy balloon has been spotted over Montana. NORAD says they saw it before that, and it was probably launched from China. It’s at an altitude above that of commercial flights, which probably means above 50,000 feet, but it can be seen from those flights, according to reports. There are a few videos that claim to be of the balloon, but who knows, and some of them are of the moon, which is in its gibbous phase, so it’s a nice roundish thing in a blue sky.
Most likely, NORAD hasn’t shot it down because it looks like a surveillance vehicle, rather than weapon-equipped, regardless of the jokers (I’ve only seen jokers so far on this subject) who are shouting “EMP”! Montana suggests that the subject of surveillance has to do with our missile silos in that part of the country, and the balloon is most likely designed to pick up signals. Satellites can do the optical job quite nicely.
Presumably the desired signals have been shut down, and US facilities are monitoring the balloon for whatever transmissions it may produce. That’s smarter than shooting it down.
Balloons can be steered by choosing the altitude to find the wind direction you want, but it’s always erratic.
Some interesting tweets:
Steffan is following US government planes in the area, so he’s worth a follow if you’re on Twitter.
Ah, here’s a goodish photo, just came across my Twitter feed.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner