ABC News Illustration / Google Earth
(NEW YORK) — Government officials are closely tracking a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China as it travels across the U.S.
The white balloon, which China’s foreign ministry has claimed to be used for meteorological purposes, is at an altitude of around 60,000 feet with a vessel described as the size of three buses, officials said.
According to U.S. officials, the balloon traveled west of Alaska, south over the Aleutian Islands, over water into southwest Canada and then over Montana.
Social media sightings have been popping up as the balloon moves southeastwardly across the continental U.S.
One of the earliest sightings confirmed by ABC News was around 4:21 p.m. ET Wednesday in Reed Point, Montana.
More than two hours later, around 6:46 p.m. ET, it was filmed east of Reed Point, in Billings, Montana. Other footage captured it over Billings over the next hour, as civilians wondered what the object was.
From Montana, the balloon traveled southwest through South Dakota and Nebraska, according to U.S. officials.
ABC News has not confirmed any other sightings of the balloon until around 9:41 a.m. ET on Friday, when it was filmed over Sabetha, Kansas.
Over an hour later, it appeared farther east over Saint Joseph, Missouri, where it was filmed around 11 a.m. ET.
Video footage captured the balloon farther east, over Cameron, Missouri, between 11:56 a.m. and 12:28 p.m. ET.
About 30 minutes later, it was shot farther south within the Kansas City metro area, in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
The balloon appeared to be heading toward North Carolina, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the situation. ABC News confirmed several sightings of the balloon over the state by Saturday morning.
Around 8:40 a.m. ET, the balloon was filmed over Biltmore Park in Asheville.
The balloon continued to move southeastwardly, with sightings over the Hendersonville and Saluda areas, before being captured over the Eagle Lake neighborhood in Charlotte around 10:22 a.m. ET.
The U.S. will likely wait until the balloon is over the Atlantic Ocean to then try to shoot it down and retrieve it, according to the senior U.S. official.
Chinese Spy Balloon currently over Charlotte, North Carolina pic.twitter.com/iwt6tl5CHT
— Brett Pauley II ® (@BrettSetGo) February 4, 2023
ABC News’ Victoria Beaule, Layla Ferris, Cheryl Gendron, Kerem Inal, Chris Looft, Josh Margolin and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.
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