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Mysterious high-altitude hobbyist balloon left US airspace overnight

A mysterious high-altitude balloon seen flying over the western United States on Friday was just a hobby device and has already left American airspace, according to reports.

Federal investigators tracked the small balloon as it flew between 43,000 and 45,000 feet until it crossed the U.S. military perimeter at some point during the night, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. he told CBS News.

On Friday, fighter jets from NORAD, the country’s airspace surveillance agency, quickly intercepted the balloon as it hovered over Utah.

Federal investigators determined the balloon was a hobby balloon and posed no threat. AP

Officials were unsure of the balloon’s origin, but quickly determined that the uncontrollable balloon “posed no risk to the safety of flight.”

An official told CBS News that it appeared to be made of Mylar and had a small cube-shaped box about 2 feet long on each side hanging below it.

NORAD first became aware of the balloon’s presence as it flew over Colorado and was drifting significantly eastward, following the path of the jet stream.

A Pentagon official told CBS News that the object was actually a hobby balloon, but provided no further details.

Their presence in the skies over the U.S. mainland began shortly after a U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet shot down a Chinese reconnaissance balloon off the coast of South Carolina after flying across the continent for several days. It was just over a year.

The plane flew over major U.S. military installations multiple times before being shot down.

President Biden faced fierce criticism from Republicans, who described the Chinese balloon’s payload as “two boxcars full of spy equipment” and said it should have come down sooner.