The mysterious light orbs that appeared over Siberia weren’t a sign of the apocalypse, nor were they a fleet of alien spacecraft. The truth is out there, but it can be relatively, surprisingly mundane.
A UFO, a sign of the apocalypse, or a portal to another dimension? [Photo by Alexey Yakovlev/The Siberian Times]
Not that intercontinental ballistic missile tests are mundane, but they kind of are compared to apocalyptic omens and UFOs. When locals across the north of Russia reported seeing these balls of light in their skies, they probably didn’t think of missile tests at first. "I went out to smoke a cigarette and thought it was the end of the world," said one user on the Russian social media site VKontakte. "The glowing ball rose from behind the trees and moved in my direction,” related photographer Sergey Anisimov. "Kids (5-6 years old) walking in the yard emotionally began to tell me about an unusual phenomenon, using the words 'aliens', 'the portal to another dimension' and the like.”
The orbs made an appearance at the same time as the aurora borealis. [Photo by Alexey Yakovlev/The Siberian Times]
The orbs appeared in the Arctic regions, where they upstaged a the aurora borealis. Meanwhile, 500 kilometers south from this region, the orbs appeared against a dark night sky. Those who witnessed the phenomenon reported that they first saw the orbs as solid spheres, before they expanded and eventually dissipated.
According to a statement by officials from the Russian defense ministry, the orbs were the result of intercontinental ballistic missile tests being held in the region. The defense ministry apparently fired a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk region in the west to the Kamchatka peninsula in the east. A Topol missile can carry nuclear weapons, though officials state that the missiles they tested were unloaded.
"These were indeed missile tests," astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics confirms. "Four ballistic missiles were launched and at least one of them was widely observed. There is no doubt about the identification of these observations with the missile tests."
Eventually, the orbs of light dissipated into a faint halo, until it disappeared. [Photo by Alexey Yakovlev/The Siberian Times]
Usually, nighttime missile tests and rocket launches can cause strange phenomenon. For example, a failed 2009 test launch in Norway produced a bizarre spiral of light that grew bigger and bigger until it eventually disappeared. According to the defense ministry, this phenomenon was due to a rocket malfunction.
While these phenomena seemed to have supernatural origins, they actually have a worldly provenance. Missile tests may not be as exciting as UFO or the impending apocalypse, but they’re definitely still compelling.
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