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Balloon Intercepted by Fighter Jets Was Probably Just a Hobby Craft, NORAD Says

Jeremy Hogan/Getty Images
Jeremy Hogan/Getty Images

The suspicious balloon intercepted by U.S. fighter jets over Utah on Friday was probably just a hobbyist’s craft, NORAD said Saturday.

The agency said the mysterious balloon had left U.S. airspace but did not give any further details on who was operating the balloon or what its purpose was.

On Friday, the balloon was intercepted by military aircraft at an altitude between 43,000 and 45,000 feet, a little higher than most commercial aircraft fly. But it was allowed to continue its flight toward Georgia once NORAD determined it “did not present a threat to national security,” and the agency continued to track the balloon’s path on Friday night.

“After yesterday's fighter intercepts, and in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command monitored the likely hobby balloon via ground radars until it left US airspace overnight,” NORAD said in its statement on Saturday.

Earlier, a U.S. official said the balloon appeared to be made of Mylar and had a small cube-shaped box suspended from it. NORAD did not give any clues as to the craft’s origin or its function.

The balloon’s mysterious appearance roused memories of over a year ago, when the Pentagon raised alarms over a Chinese spy balloon floating over the country. That balloon was tracked across the U.S. and eventually shot down off the coast of South Carolina, straining tensions between the U.S. and China.

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