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Aliens? Lights in sky over Arctic Circle transfix travellers

April 11, 2019 Headline News No Comments

Strange lights in the sky over the Arctic Circle – not the Northern Lights but weird formations that one observer said looked like an alien attack – have drawn a statement and admission from NASA after photos were published on the website of a Sweden-based adventure travel photography company.

The lights, at times resembling huge jellyfish floating in the sky, mystified travellers, alarmed some and may have freaked out a few others. Comments flowed fast after photos and video of the strange phenomena were published on the website of Lights Over Lapland, a small, family-run company that specialises in photography trips to see the northern lights in Sweden’s Abisko National Park.

NASA, the US space agency, finally stepped in, dismissing speculation that the mysterious lights were created by aliens. Neither were they the Northern Lights, NASA said. NASA admitted the lights were from one of its Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE) rockets, which left tracers of trimethylaluminum and a mixture of barium and strontium to react in the ionosphere and create an incredible light show.

“I first spotted the lights on our Aurora Web Cam which continually captures the night sky above Abisko in Sweden, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Chad Blakley, a Northern Lights photography expert and founder of Lights Over Lapland, told Forbes magazine.

“It was completely out of this world!”

The Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE), as captured by Chad Blakley’s Aurora web cam between 12.24am and 1,04am on Saturday, 6 April 2019.

Another photographer, Michael Theusner, aboard the MV Trollfjord on Vestfjord, Norway, shot a time-lapse video. He said he had no explanation when he saw the “colourful, expanding clouds” and had never seen anything like them.

“It looked like an alien attack,” Theusner said.

NASA conceded “the atmosphere over northern Norway appeared quite strange for about 30 minutes last Friday when colourful clouds, dots, and plumes suddenly appeared.

“The colours were actually created by the NASA-funded Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE) which dispersed gas tracers to probe winds in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

“AZURE’s tracers originated from two short-lived sounding rockets launched from the Andøya Space Center in Norway. The harmless gases, trimethylaluminum and a barium/strontium mixture, were released into the ionosphere at altitudes of 115 and 250 km. The vapor trails were observed dispersing from several ground stations.

Alien-like lights against a starry sky. The mysterious blue lights have been claimed by NASA, which said its AZURE rockets left tracers of trimethylaluminum and a mixture of barium and strontium that reacted to create an incredible light show. 


“Mapping how AZURE’s vapors dispersed should increase humanity’s understanding of how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers aurora,” NASA said.

So that’s the official explanation.

The publicity will benefit Lights Over Lapland, founded in 2010 and specialising in in Abisko National Park (which was founded 101 years earlier).

“Since our inaugural season in 2010 we have grown into one of the the most respected tourism companies in Sweden and helped Abisko build its reputation as one of the best places on Earth to see the northern lights,” Lights Over Lapland says.

No aliens in sight. Personnel from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia conduct payload tests for the AZURE mission at the Andøya Space Center in Norway. Photo: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

All Lights Over Lapland guides are award-winning, full-time professional photographers “whose number-one focus is to help you see and photograph the northern lights during your adventure in Abisko”.

Chad Blakley is a professional photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana, who moved to Sweden to concentrate on aurora photography. Oliver Wright is one of few photographers who has managed to get images included in the prestigious British Wildlife Photography Award for six consecutive years. Sarah Skinner was in 2017 the overall winner in the mammals category in the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, one of the world’s largest and most respected photographic competitions.

Written by Peter Needham

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