my wife and i were standing on our balcony that faces west in guelph, ontario. we observed a very large cloud cover at approximately 15,000 – 20,000 feet. sort of a salmon type cloud shape covering the majority of the moon. the moon was a half moon and more off towards the north-west at approximately 30 degrees to the horizon. as we stood looking off the balcony we observed these search lights coming from the area of the waterloo airport. it is very often we observe airplanes coming from the west towards toronto airport for landing however they are typically 5,000 – 10,000 feet setting up for landing. these search lights were above the cloud cover and we could see them scanning the clouds. the search lights were not penetrating the cloud cover but lighting up the area in which they were shining. there were 3 distinct lights starting at a narrow spectrum and widening up to a larger spectrum. i would suggest they were likely 20,000 + feet above the cloud cover. the 3 narrow beams were close together but very powerful to be observed through the cloud cover. noting we could not see the moon light through the cloud cover whatsoever. the 3 beams then scanned towards the east widening and within 1/2 second altered their direction towards the north.
now noting there are typically airplanes landing headed this direction we have observed the headlights of airplanes very often. they typically can look ominous through the clouds as they decelerate for landing. the oddity here is airplane lights you can generally see maybe 1-2 kms in front of the plane. the search lights were extending well above 10 – 20 kms from the source beam above the clouds. the amount of lumens necessary for projecting a beam would be equivalent to a ground based search light. however, these lights were originating above the cloud cover.
we noted there was no air traffic in the area; the cloud cover was not covering the entire sky this night; approximately half the sky in our observing zone was covered.
inclusively, plane head lamps cannot in my experience start with a narrow light spectrum and widen many kms wide and back narrow again; additionally a plane cannot alter its head lamps from west to north within 1/2 second.
these beams occurred and then disappeared; followed with another sighting approximately 3-4 minutes later however completely searching north.
there was no noise of air craft; and no air craft present in the sky. i would suggest this to be odd because typically we do see air traffic headed toward toronto airport or air traffic toward waterloo air port.
it makes me wonder if there was some type of diversion around the air port last night due to a radar signature.
i consider myself a very reliable witness. i have investigated a lot of accidents due to my range of employment and would consider myself a trained observer. additionally, i am a mufon member and supporter thereby looking “up” has become my habit.
my wife observed the exact same lights that i did this night.
as we are accustomed to seeing airplane traffic and their head lamps it certainly was not an air plane. the sheer vast intensity of these search lights were exactly the same as a ground based search light except above 20,000 feet above the cloud cover.
if i am correct that fixed wing aircraft have only fixed head lamps and cannot be silent this was an anomaly i had to report. i am certain others within the guelph, kitchener-waterloo area would have seen similar sightings as it seemed to be over the airport.
we did grab our cell phone and tried to take video of the lights but they never re-appeared. i did attempt to get my small little red laser light we use for the cats and pointed it in the direction to see if i could arouse some sort of repeat search light with the cell phone. i felt comfortable enough to do this as there was no air traffic or sound of air traffic which we hear all the time.
i would love to have some feedback on what type of search lights operate at this altitude? i did check the iss schedule and it was not flying past guelph at this particular time of day.