LONDON — There's an especially starry knight in Britain's latest round of royal honors. Patrick Stewart - "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" Capt. Jean-Luc Picard - becomes Sir Patrick in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year honors list, which also includes a knighthood for theater and film director ...
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A spectacular light show visible from northern Norway has energized the UFO crowd. Was that blazing pinwheel in the sky a signal from the aliens? Was it a practice run for an elaborate worldwide messianic hoax?
You'd expect the experts to come out with a less sensational explanation, and they have: They suggest that the display was caused by a Russian submarine-launched missile that went into a midair spin, causing a spiral-shaped rocket plume.
The glowing spiral, with a bluish column of smoke trailing down toward the horizon, was seen in eastern skies early this morning from a wide area of northern Norway. Photos and video clips of the display quickly proliferated - first in Norwegian news media, then around the world via the Internet. For a sampling, check out NRK, The Daily Mail and SpaceWeather.com.
The effect looks almost too good to be real, and tabloids floated some out-of-this-world suggestions for its cause - such as a previously unknown manifestation of the Northern Lights, a black hole or a "Stargate" to another dimension.
A former UFO analyst for the British Ministry of Defense, Nick Pope, was mystified by the flare-up. "It's ironic that something like this should happen the very week after the [Ministry of Defense] terminated its UFO project,"he told The Sun. "It just goes to show how wrong that decision was."
One Internet forum debated whether the fireworks were a test run for"Project Bluebeam," which supposedly involves creating huge projections in the sky that show scenes of the Second Coming or an alien invasion. The hoax would clear the way for a one-world government to take over - well, at least that's what the conspiracy theorists think.
Russian and Norwegian news reports gave strong support to the missile hypothesis. The Infox.ru news site and Norway's Barents Observer referred to Russian advisories about missile test launches that were to take place around the time of the sighting.
"The missile was most likely yet another failed test launch of a Bulava missile from the Typhoon submarine Dmitry Donskoy in the White Sea area," the Barents Observer said. A similar phenomenon was spotted a month ago, but without the spectacular spiral.
NBC News space analyst James Oberg, an expert on UFO sightings as well as the Russian space program, says the missile spin is a plausible explanation.
"But it is still not clear that the missile actually failed. ... Spiral rocket plumes are also created by rocket stages spinning to create gyroscopic stability," Oberg said in an e-mail. "Also, Norwegian observers were looking 'up the tailpipe' of the rocket as it sped eastward, away from them - so even a slight thrusting wobble might manifest itself as an expanding spiral, exactly what was seen."View article