On the afternoon of December 11th, 2018, an unusually large blob materialized over southern Illinois, slid across the horn of southern Indiana into Kentucky and finally vanished over Tennessee. Kentucky’s National Weather Service posted a radar-tracking video of the mysterious shape.

Evansville’s Eyewitness News Chief Meteorologist Wayne Hart decided the blob, which lasted about ten hours and drifted hundreds of miles, was worth some phone calls, and hours after the original post, he took to Twitter:

Chaff is made from a variety of reflective materials, but all has the same purpose: as a countermeasure to confuse radar systems. Since World War II, aviators have used to chaff to disguise clandestine military aircraft and weaponry.

Unlike the material on a modern stealth aircraft, which renders it invisible to aircraft, chaff acts more like a smokescreen, displaying a massive, globular target. Chaff used during World War II was simply strips of aluminum foil, and in that time, it hasn’t changed much.

But why release it over Illinois and Indiana in the middle of the day?

C-130 Hercules

Apparently, a C-130 Hercules, one of the military’s 100-foot long workhorse transport planes (and the longest continuously manufactured plane in military history at 60 years), dropped a load of chaff during an unannounced military exercise over Illinois.

That was as specific as anyone would get. Nothing to see here.

The story threaded its way through the conspiracy corridors of Twitter almost immediately and blew up. From which military airfield did the C-130 originate? No Indiana-based plane had chaff in the air at the time. How did it linger for ten hours and float hundreds of miles? Was it a new, classified material? Why was it released at 10,000 feet, an oddly-low altitude for a military plane?

Answers flooded in from the craziest corners of the United States. New, state-of-the-art aircraft. Terrorists. Aliens. Military coverups. Aliens. Incompetent radar operators. Incompetent weathermen. Tumbling spacecraft. Contrails and vaccine connections and stratospheric aerosol injections, oh my!

And aliens.

The US military knows that in the absence of disclosure, the vacuum is filled by crackpots, so the Air National Guard sighed, shrugged, and graciously filled in the blanks, offering a tale marginally less interesting than aliens with anal probes.

A C-130 Hercules out of West Virginia crossed Illinois after participating in an exercise on the West Coast. Before landing in West Virginia, it needed to eject its chaff cartridges as a safety precaution, and was given permission to do so at a low altitude over Illinois, minimizing any interference with civilian aircraft.

Did this simple explanation satisfy the tweeting tweekers? Haha.

Here’s one follow-up reply:  

So what have we learned from this article?

We learned a little about C-130s and radar-masking chaff.

We also learned that when it comes to the comings and goings of the military, speculation is about as effective as unclogging a toilet with a house cat.