'Fireballs' probably Chinese lanterns

Last updated 16:05 11/02/2013

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A pair of ''fireballs'' seen dancing in Wanuiomata's night sky on Sunday were probably wayward Chinese lanterns, an astronomer says.

At 1.05am on Sunday - the start of the Chinese New Year - Michelle Turner and a group of 10 friends partying in a garage were baffled when they watched ''two bright orange fire balls heading across the sky at the same distance apart''. 

The lights travelled horizontally from the east across the Hutt Valley suburb.

''It was just so weird. They were travelling at the same speed, then they turned at the same time in another direction and one looked like it disappeared, then came back, then disappeared again, then the other one disappeared,'' Ms Turner said.

Carter Observatory astronomer Claire Bretherton said the observatory often fielded reports of unidentified objects in the night sky at Chinese New Year, and  given the timing the most likely candidate for the glowing fireballs was a Chinese lantern or similar.

''They were probably moving with the prevailing wind. If it was something like a fireball or meteor it would not change direction.''

No other reports of the glowing objects had filtered in to the observatory, she said.People often mistook satellites like the International Space Station and bright planets like Venus and Jupiter for UFOs.

''At the end of the day when people see something like this it could be anything to the untrained eye so I suppose the term UFO refers to anything you can't identify,'' Dr Bretherton said.

Contact Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter
Email: matt.stewart@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @smatape

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