On the night of Aug. 9-10, 2011 (though from my notes it might have been 10-11, I can't remember - I wrote down 12:25am 10 Aug. 2011 - I think I meant it had just turned the 10th but I'm not sure).
East Peoria, Tazewell County, Illinois, USA.
I was stargazing with binoculars. Laying on my back in my suburban driveway on a night of about 3rd magnitude seeing approximately ( +/- ...from memory). It was completely cloudless until about 15 or 20 minutes after the event. I was looking through binoculars the entire time and didn't feel that I could take the binoculars down to check with normal eyesight for fear of losing track of what I was seeing.
As I was looking through binoculars (7x35 with 10 degree field) pretty much straight overhead but slightly to the north in or around the constellation of Cepheus or Cygnus I saw several objects come into my field of view from the north. There were approximately 7 objects though they pretty much filled up the field of view East-west (which was top to bottom based on how I was laying) so it is possible they extended beyond the field of view and may have been more numerous though not many if any more than that number I believe.
They appeared to be flying in a formation similar to an echelon - my distinct impression at the moment was a "missing man" formation where a gap was left where another object would have filled out a chevron (I'm attaching a sketch I made). I also thought of a flock of geese formation though there were distinct differences as I'll describe below.
Their appearance was completely consistent the whole time - they looked like the color of a reflected searchlight off the bottom of clouds - that sort of faint grayish white. My instant first thought was that someone somehow knew I was stargazing and was shining some kind of flashlight into my binoculars (which wasn't true) or shining a spotlight up at the clouds - but it was a completely cloudless night (why I was out stargazing).
I'm an astronomer so have seen alot of interesting phenomena but this really, really struck me - in the guts - I felt I was looking at something very otherworldly, though I've thought of all the more mundane possibilities but nothing quite rings true. I'll give a more detailed description:
A formation of rectangular objects, each much bigger than a star or planet in binoculars, about the length of the full moon and 1/4 its width I would estimate. They were a faint light gray, like from reflected light. There were no other lights of any kind on them - so if they were any kind of aircraft they were running with no lights that I could see. It was just after midnight so for it to be reflected light from the setting sun I don't know if that would even still be possible at that hour, though that is exactly what the illumination looked like.
They entered my field of view from the north and moved steadily south, staying in formation. There were ever so slight variations, very small variations in their formation - I would say they stayed 95% true to the original formation. As I was lying on my back I kept slowly rolling onto my side to keep them in my binocular's field of view until I finally lost them in the south near Scorpius in the glow of a pretty full moon. I wrote down that the entire event lasted only 20 seconds, but ticking away at the time it seemed longer and I tried to mentally record every detail I could.
In terms of distance/size this is important - the formation's longest dimension was east/west (top to bottom in my view) as they traveled north-south. The east-west dimension nearly filled my entire field of view, which would be approximately 10 degrees in these binoculars. If I knew their altitude I could determine their dimensions from trigonometry but I don't. One could estimate that if they were at satellite elevation they must have been enormous to appear the size they did - which I considered as being how high they would have to be if they were reflecting sunlight.
The easiest (and only??) mundane explanation is a flock of geese. But at midnight I cannot believe they could have enough reflected light from only a full moon out, though I'm open to hearing an explanation of that. They only appeared as slightly fuzzy rectangles - I say fuzzy because though the outlines were distinct, the light gray illumination made them slightly indistinct overall. But obviously they weren't "geese-shaped" with wings and a long neck and though there was a very slight undulation in their movements it didn't appear nearly as much as geese when they fly in formation. And the pattern wasn't the classic V-shaped one. Though geese or similar birds is still the only obvious thing I can think of.
But the impression in my guts were that this was a "fleet" of something - an actual formation of aircraft of some kind with pilots in them. But totally inexplicable to me.
I've attached a bmp sketch. There are two different formations I sketched trying to recreate the impression of the original one I saw. I can't tell which is more accurate. I tried to paint it in my mind as it was happening and either of these would do it justice but I think the one on the right is closer. It does represent the shape and color and outline pretty well.