Reality check - could it be something else?

Phenomena that can sometimes explain UFO/ UAP sightings:


Aircraft at night - landing lights from an approaching aircraft can sometimes give the appearance of a stationary light.
Mis-identified aircraft - it can be difficult for the brain to make out objects seen at a distance. To compensate, it fills in parts of the image, turning it into something that seems appropriate.  Aircraft wings and tail are difficult to see at a distance. 
Police helicopters/working helicopters - helicopters often use spotlights and searchlights, have hovering capabilities and flashing lights.

Police helicopter, Sth Auckland.


  • Ball lightning - a phenomenon where a bright ball of electricity moves without any apparent attachment to any physical object.
  • Fast moving clouds - fast moving clouds across the sky can give the false impression that a bright star or planet is in fact a moving light.
  • Lenticular clouds - Lenticular clouds are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction. Lenticular clouds have been mistaken for UFOs (or "visual cover" for UFOs) because these clouds have a characteristic smooth saucer-like shape.
  • Lightning strikes - if lightning strikes a transformer, it can create a mushroom cloud that dissipates, leaving a free-floating black ring in the sky.
  • Light pollution/reflection - The amount of light reflecting into our night sky around cities can distort our true vision of what may be an aircraft.
  • Sundogs - bright orbs that are a reflection of the sun from ice particles in the sky.
  • Weather balloons - Sometimes drift high in the atmosphere.

Lenticular cloud

Astronomical / space

  • ‘Fireball’ - An extremely bright meteor (also known as bolides), fireballs can be several times brighter than the full Moon and brighter than Venus (magnitude -4). A sonic boom often follows a fireball.
  • Meteorite - a part of a meteoroid that survives through the Earth's atmosphere and reaches the ground (meteoroid - a small rock in space).
  • Meteor - the luminous phenomenon seen when a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, commonly known as a shooting star. Small rocky and/or icy particles that travel across the sky in a very short time, from less than a second to several seconds. They are tens of miles above the surface of the Earth.
  • Meteor showers - generally thought to be produced by the debris left by comets as the latter orbit the sun. (Comets, on the other hand, are not in our atmosphere but are much further away than is our own Moon; therefore, comets do not "streak" across the sky as do meteors - a common misconception among the general public.)
  • Satellite flare - (also known as satellite glint) is the phenomenon caused by the reflective surfaces on satellites (such as antennas or solar panels) reflecting sunlight directly onto the Earth below and appearing as a brief, bright ‘flare’.
  • Iridium satellite flare - the Iridium communication satellites have a peculiar shape with three polished door-sized antennas, 120 degrees apart and at 40 degree angles with the main bus. The forward antenna faces the direction in which the satellite is travelling. Occasionally an antenna will reflect sunlight directly down to the Earth, creating a predictable and quickly moving illuminated spot. To an observer this looks like an extremely bright flare in the sky with a duration of a few seconds. Ranging up to -8 magnitude (rarely to a brilliant -9.5), some of the flares are so bright that they can be seen at daytime, but they are most impressive at night.
  • Artificial satellites - when not flaring, satellites are often visible crossing the night sky at a typical magnitude of 6, similar to a dim star.
  • International Space Station - the International Space Station (ISS) is a joint research facility being assembled in space, beginning in 1998. The space station is in a low Earth orbit and can be seen from Earth with the naked eye: it has an altitude of about 350 km (217 mi) above the surface of the Earth, and travels at an average speed of 27,700 km (17,210 statute miles) per hour, completing 15.77 orbits per day.
  • Venus - Planet Venus can appear exceptionally bright in the sky (both early day, and night).

Comet McNaught, Copyright Munford.


  • Fireworks
  • Flares / distress flares
  • Searchlights / spotlights
  • Festival lanterns / orange Chinese lanterns / sky lanterns 
  • Laser lights
  • Blimps tethered on a cable
  • Reflections on windows
  • Distant street lights or lights on hills
  • Bunches of helium balloons

Chinese Lantern


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