VIRGIE, Ky. (WSAZ) - A major technology company is reportedly claiming responsibility for sightings of an unidentified flying object in Eastern Kentucky.
Dozens of people in the region reported a strange object in the sky in October 2012.
But Google officials now say they were simply test-flying a new piece of technology.
It's called Project Loon, a Google initiative aimed at providing wireless internet access from a balloon 65,000 feet above the Earth.
Google officials told Wired magazine the mysterious object seen by folks in Eastern Kentucky is actually one of their balloons.
"Project Loon works by putting up a whole bunch of small, relatively inexpensive balloons that circle the earth in a band and beam the internet to the ground," the project's chief technical architect, Richard DeVaul, said in a video interview provided by the company.
But astronomer Allen Epling, whose photographs and videos of the UFO floating in the sky have garnered worldwide fame, is skeptical about Google's story.
"My reports that I've received of this object being seen more than a year ago doesn't fit with Google's press release that they began that project this year," said Epling, who lives in the Pike County community of Virgie. "I have reports of people who saw something similar to this two years ago."
The image Epling photographed and Google's image of the Project Loon balloon also look nothing alike, Epling said.
"It's still an unidentified flying object," he said. "That doesn't mean it's from space or aliens or anything else. It just means it's something that's unidentified."
Calls to Google on Monday were not immediately returned.
"It wasn't anything I recognized. Definitely not an airplane, and I've never seen a helicopter that looked like that," said Allen Epling.
Sightings of the object have been reported in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, but it has yet to be identified.
Epling says even with his background in astronomy, it is unlike anything he has ever seen.
"Looked like two fluorescent bulbs, side by side, parallel, shining very brightly," said Epling. "It would get so bright they would seem to merge, and you could see it very clearly with the naked eye. Then it would dim down almost invisible."
Even stranger, the object barely moved. It hovered in the same area for more than two hours.
"I don't understand how it could stay up there in one place. There was no sign of propellers or any kind of proportion system. No gas is coming out," said Epling.
Police in the area say they received a handful of calls about the object, but they were unable to locate it.
Airport officials say they do not have any records of aircraft flying through the area at that time.
Epling says his best guess is that it is some sort of balloon, but his research has not turned up anything similar. And he says it had to be hovering at an altitude of at least 100,000 feet.
"Contradictory, if it's a balloon, how could it maintain its structure at that altitude?" Epling said.
For now it remains unidentified, better known as a UFO.
Epling put his video of the object on YouTube. It has had more than 30,000 views.
+ Ashland, KY
+ Athens, OH
+ Beckley, WV
+ Charleston, WV
+ Clarksburg, WV
+ Clay, WV
+ Gallipolis, OH
+ Huntington, WV
+ Ironton, OH
+ Logan, WV
+ Morgantown, WV
+ Paintsville, KY
+ Parkersburg, WV
+ Pikeville, KY
+ Pomeroy, OH
+ Ripley, WV
+ Spencer, WV
+ Sutton, WV
+ Wayne, WV
+ Wheeling, WV
+ Williamson, WV