At 5:08 pm local time, a Twitter account belonging to Billings, Montana, resident Dolly Moore made two tweets, where she claimed she “saw a jet go by so fast and then explosion in the sky,” adding that she believes “something may have been shot down.”
Ok, so here’s what I just caught I few minutes ago out my window. I saw a jet go by so fast and then explosion in the sky. Holy crap! Billings MT. pic.twitter.com/swr8ERC6pf
— Dolly Moore (@MMtTreasures) February 4, 2023
The tweet, which was picked up by Dataminr’s First Alert, was quickly the center of attention by local and national media outlets amidst the societal craze over the Chinese ISR balloon drifting over the United States. Within the next several hours, the video had gone viral and broadcasted on several major news outlets, leaving viewers with more questions than answers.
Was there even an “explosion?”
To start things off, many people automatically contributed the reported “blast” to the ongoing situation involving the Chinese ISR balloon drifting across the country. The balloon, however, was confirmed to have been in Missouri at the time Dolly Moore made her tweet. While she did not specifically say the footage was regarding the balloon and even later tweeted out “We are making no claim that we have any idea what it was,” many still correlated the two.
Having been aware of the tweet minutes after it was made, our team did not find any other claims or posts of a blast or jet activity from the city.
Next, there was nothing out of the ordinary on flight radar at the time the tweet was made. Since the balloon was well out of the region, commercial flights had resumed in and out of Billings. At the time the tweet was made, two commercial aircraft flew directly over Billings. Dolly did not specify what kind of “jet” she saw, whether military or commercial, and has yet to even in interviews with the press.
BREAKING — Montana Governor Greg Gianforte tells Fox’s Tucker Carlson he was just informed of a reported explosion in Billings, Montana. The governor says they are "monitoring the situation."
— Election Wizard ?? (@ElectionWiz) February 4, 2023
By Friday night, the video was being shown on Fox News, where Tucker Carlson asked Montana Governor Greg Gianforte if he had any information about the video. At the time, Governor Gianforte said that while he was notified about the video, he had no information on it.
The city of Billings tweeted out at 6:44 pm local time that “We are aware of the video shared on Twitter and claims of a “massive explosion” over Billings. However, our PD, Fire & airport have NOT been called to any incidents related to this video and haven’t been any plane crashes picked up on radar.”
We have confirmed with @MontanaDES & @GovGianforte that there have not been any explosions in, around, or across #Montana. They are aware of the video and it can not be substantiated. https://t.co/LDz0jyTC6g
— City of Billings (@BillingsMT) February 4, 2023
Later in the night the city said it confirmed with Governor Gianforte and the Montana Disaster Emergency Services that “there have not been any explosions in, around, or across Montana. They are aware of the video and it can not be substantiated.”
So what was captured on the video?
The most likely explanation is that what was filmed was contrails from commercial aircraft flying over Billings, but what about the flashes of light and “bang” heard in the footage?
First we will address the flashes, which appear to be caused by her iPhone’s auto-focus, which automatically sets the camera’s focus, exposure, and contrast. iPhone’s utilize Contrast-Detection Autofocus (CDA) which corrects an image’s focus by measuring the intensity of contrast in an image. Dude to the brightness of the sky in the background and the relative darkness of the roof of the house in the foreground, the “flash” is caused the camera lens adjusting, which quickly changes focus and contrast. When looking at a real explosion, the light caused by it would wash out the camera in light, rather than just brighten the background. Simply put, there was no flash of light, but rather a a change in contrast to the background.
Next is the muted “blast” noise heard in the footage. Knowing that the flash is caused by camera auto focus, the noise was likely something dropped in the house. The sound to me sounds like someone shaking tinfoil and dropping it.
However, pretending that the flash was not caused by the camera, but rather an explosion, the noise would still be impossible. As you may know, light and noise do not travel at the same speed. The sequence in the video goes “flash” then the “bang” slightly before the second “flash.” If the “bang” was caused by the first flash, there was no second bang from the second blast. Or let’s say the bang was from the second flash, which means Dolly would have been directly next to whatever went off, which we know she wasn’t. It just makes no sense. If there was a blast outside, there would be one flash followed by a large explosion noise a few seconds afterwards depending on the distance, one that would rattle the entire city and not sound like something dropping in the kitchen.
Bozeman, Montana, a couple hours ago. Looks like the state's readiness protocols have been activated in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon. pic.twitter.com/nA3lAH2NTw
— Timothy Alberino (@TimothyAlberino) February 3, 2023
Just wanted to note the reports of helicopters flying around as well. They had been airborne well before Dolly’s footage and are related to ongoing national guard operations. The helicopters caught on camera in Billings yesterday were airborne around the city well before Dolly posted her video.
Overall what does this all mean? That this video was of nothing. Have a nice day.