Tuesday, December 29, 2009

These sky lanterns are creating a stir in New Zealand this year...

Alien lights not out of this world

Liam Heslop spotted mysterious lights in the sky on December 23. Police phone lines around the country (New Zealand), and especially the Coromandel Peninsula, are running hot with calls from people reporting distress flares at night.The calls are bugging the police because the flares are not flares at all; they're small lantern-type fliers powered by small candles and apparently being sold on Coromandel beaches and elsewhere. But released at night they can resemble flares. North Island police communications Inspector Cornell Kluessien said the novelty items were bag-like and made of flimsy paper.When the candle is lit its heat fills the bag, just like a hot air balloon, and it lifts off to float away, higher and higher.

Mr Kluessien said police had taken six calls from the Coromandel last night, three the day before and one from Auckland on Boxing Day."I'm sure the lanterns are pretty but they're causing us big problems, Mr Kluessien said. He added police thought the lanterns were being sold on beaches and appealed for a halt to sales. Mr Kluessien said every reported "flare" sighting had to be taken seriously and the Coastguard alerted.

He described continued sales and lantern launches as "bloody minded and stupid".TARANAKI SKIESThe lanterns may also be behind strange lights reported in the Taranaki night sky. Yesterday, the Taranaki Daily News spoke to two astronomers and showed them photos of the strangelights to see if they could determine what people were seeing. While both men's answers seemed to rule out the possibility of a Santa, Star of Bethlehem or alienmothership sighting, neither was able to give a definitive answer. Regular newspaper columnist Tom Whelan said it wasn't a case of little orange men scouting earth."There are unidentified objects up there and it's our job to identify them," he said. "I'm sorry, I can't give you the answer.

"There's something there, I don't know what it is. "The question you have to ask is, what did these people see?" Mr Whelan had checked for passes of the International Space Station but came up empty-handed.The Taranaki Daily News contacted New Plymouth Airport and the MetService to see if they could provide an answer.An airport control tower worker had witnessed the lights himself, but did not know what they were. He confirmed there were no scheduled domestic flights above New Plymouth at the times the lights werespotted, generally between about 9.30pm and 10.45pm.A MetService forecaster said while the service released weather balloons around New Plymouth, this neverhappened until between 11.30pm and midnight, well after the sightings. The first sighting was reported to the newspaper last week by Liam Heslop, who said he and his wife saw a single light moving in a west to east direction on December 23 about 9.45pm. "It looked like a fireball and then it flickered out," he said. "Then about half an hour later there were another two following the exact same path. It looked to me like aplane on fire really high up."

A further three people reported seeing up to seven of the lights on Christmas night on the weatherwatch.co.nz website and one claims to have video footage. The sightings are not the first around New Zealand this summer with other similar reports of strange lights inAuckland, Christchurch and Tauranga. New Plymouth astronomer Rod Austin said he didn't know what the lights were but he thought they could beballoons with LED candles attached. "That's my feeling, but I can't prove it," he said. Mr Whelan had a similar theory.

The lights could be Chinese sky lanterns, he said, released to mark the fifth anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami.

Easy-to-use sky lanterns are readily and cheaply available on TradeMe. One listing says "folklore has it the lanterns carry away with them bad spirits and misfortune high into the sky and far away, leaving behind only good luck and fortune for the releaser

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