India's army reportedly spent six months watching "Chinese spy drones" violating its air space, only to find out they were actually Jupiter and Venus. Tensions have been high in the disputed Himalayan border area between the two nations in recent years, with India frequently accusing its neighbour of making incursions onto its territory. Things came to a head during a stand-off in April when Chinese troops were accused of erecting a camp on the Indian side of the de facto boundary known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). By that stage, Indian troops had documented 329 sightings of unidentified objects over a lake in the border region.
Requested by the army, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, deputed
two astronomers to Ladakh to resolve the mystery of the two
objects. The astronomers were told that the first object, viewed from a location about 4,715
metres above sea level near Thakung, appeared in the horizon at about 6pm and
remained visible until about 5am. The second object appeared at 4am and faded
away at 11am.
The sightings emerged amid what defence analysts say
are simmering concerns within the Indian Army about cross-border transgressions
and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the Chinese to look into Indian
“Our task was to determine whether these unidentified
objects were celestial or terrestrial,” Tushar Prabhu, a senior astronomer and a
member of the IIAP team, said. The IIAP operates the world’s highest telescope at
Hanle, Ladakh, about 150km south of the location where the sightings were
reported. Army lance naik Sheminderpal Singh, a regular
observer at Point 4715, told the astronomers that he had noticed a delay of
four minutes in the appearance of one of the objects each consecutive day. Singh
also told them that the object seemed to be the brightest light in the sky and
always appeared to move with respect to the stars.
The IIAP team told the Indian Army to use a theodolite to record the horizontal angle and vertical
elevation of the two objects. Army personnel performed these observations
and submitted the data to the IIAP. The astronomers have concluded that the object
observed from Point 4715 is Jupiter as the observations coincide with the
planet’s diurnal motion and the apparent motion of the object due to the
rotation of the Earth. The description of the second unidentified object that
appeared early in the morning suggests that it is Venus, which is currently
moving behind the Sun and will in the coming months appear as an evening object.