I’ve had an interest in UFO’s for a long time now, I try to analyse every sighting video or photo I find, trying to figure out what the hell it is. I’m always eager and excited at the prospect of something otherworldly or truly unexplainable, but I’m usually left disappointed. One major source of disappointment over the last couple of years, is a flood of a very consistent type of sighting, of eerie orange orbs floating over cities across the UK, and the rest of the world. These orb sightings are something quite mundane 99.9% of the time, and seem to take up a similar percentage of the amount of sightings reported (at least in the UK). These sightings are usually Chinese lanterns, also known as Sky lanterns. The sheer amount of these trash sightings makes it ever more difficult to find that gem of a sighting that could actually be something interesting.
I’ve seen several of these Chinese lanterns, even in my remote little town, and have even released some myself to further explore the visual traits that give away these lights as something quite identifiable. But regardless of their quite distinctive nature, a lot of people still aren’t familiar with how they look, and so think they are seeing something quite extraordinary. Here’s a quick run-down of the primary features that give away these objects are entirely identifiable phenomenon. These points are what I use as my personal identification checklist, and serve as the basis for the questions I tend to ask someone who has reported having seen a strange orb floating through the sky.
Was it following the wind direction?
This is the first thing to check for, as these lanterns always follow the wind direction. This can be deceptive however, as the wind speed can vary higher up in the sky compared to where the observer is on the ground. So regardless of how much faster or slower the object seems to be going compared to your estimate of the wind speed, if the object is going in the same direction as the wind, it’s likely a floating terrestrial object.
Did it maintain a consistent path?
Because they are essentially primitive hot air balloons, these lanterns don’t have any way to change path other than following the whims of the wind. Unless it was particularly stormy, or you live in a region prone to erratic gusts, they should have a consistent path through the sky. The area I live in, for example, is a coastal town with pretty strong and erratic wind, and I’ve seen Chinese lanterns released into the sky here when it was windy, that looked like they were being pushed and pulled about the sky erratically.
Was it orange* in colouration?
* Orange is by far the most popular colour, however the lanterns can be bought with a paper shell of any colour. So while I include it here because of the popularity of this particular colour, the object not being orange has little bearing on whether it was a Chinese Lantern or not.
Was it an orb* shape?
* Slightly elongated Orbs are by far the most popular shape, however the lanterns can be bought in many geometric shapes. So again, I include it here purely because of how much more common an orb shape is, the object not having been an orb does not rule Chinese Lanterns out.
Did it stay a consistent colour and shape?
The colour and shape of each individual lantern could not change mid-flight.
Did it flicker or pulsate?
Because of the naked flame within the lantern, they will nearly always flicker, may seem to slightly pulsate from a distance. The further away the lantern is from you, the more difficult it’ll be to notice this trait.
Was it entirely silent?
Because these are non-powered floating lights, there is no engine or moving parts to generate sound. Someone would have to attach an electronic device with some pretty powerful speakers to be noticeably heard from a distance.
Were there more than one?
These lanterns are usually bought in large packs, and several may be released, usually one at a time, and may form a straight or staggered line in the sky. The distance apart could vary dramatically depending on how quickly each one is lit and released.
Did it eventually fade and disappear?
After a while, the flame inside the lantern will start to burn out, and the source of light will fade and then disappear. The light may even start to fall to the ground as the light fights. The further you are from the lantern, the more sudden this will seem.
After going through the above list, you should hopefully have a good idea of what you would expect from a Chinese Lantern, and will know what to look out for should you see a Chinese Lantern in the sky.