For the second time in less than a week, the US military has expelled an intruder from the country’s skies.
A fighter jet shot down a mysterious object near the north coast of Alaska at 1:45 pm EST (1845 GMT) on Friday (Feb. 10), Defense Department officials said.
“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,000 meters) and posed a reasonable threat to civilian flight safety,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. General Pat Ryder said during a press conference on Friday.
Related: Previous Chinese spy balloons over US were classified as UFOs: report
Friday’s high-altitude action comes just six days after an F-22 fighter shot down a Chinese spy balloon with a Sidewinder missile off the coast of South Carolina. But there may not be a connection between the two fallen objects.
The Chinese spy balloon was huge; its inflated envelope was about 200 feet (60 meters) high, and the lattice structure (presumably studded with instruments) that hung below it was the size of several school buses.
The object that was shot down over Alaska on Friday was “the size of a small car, therefore not similar in size or shape to the high-altitude surveillance balloon that was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.” . Ryder said.
Ground radar detected the Alaskan intruder on Thursday (Feb. 9), he added. Fighter jets later investigated, confirming the object’s presence and altitude. US President Joe Biden ordered the object removed, and the military quickly did so.
“We don’t have further details about the object at this time, including a description of its capabilities, purpose or origin,” Ryder said.
Crews have already started looking for pieces of the wrecked object from Alaska, Ryder added. He also gave an update on similar efforts with debris from the Chinese balloon, which landed just 10 kilometers off shore in water about 14 meters deep.
“Rescuers have mapped the debris field and are in the process of searching and identifying debris on the ocean floor,” Ryder said, referring to the pieces of the Chinese balloon. “The debris that has been recovered so far is being loaded onto ships, taken ashore, cataloged and then forwarded to laboratories for further analysis.”
These teams, he added, “have located a significant amount of debris so far that will be useful to our further understanding of this balloon and its surveillance capabilities.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab)or in Facebook (opens in new tab) It is Instagram (opens in new tab).