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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Another spiral "UFO" lights up the sky. And it IS a spaceship.

By Phil Plait

Last week, over the Middle East, people were shocked to see a bright fan of light moving across the sky, which suddenly turned into a gigantic glowing spiral! This is not just some uncorroborated eyewitness story; there's video:

Pretty cool, huh? People are claiming it's a spaceship... and they're right. But it's not an alien spaceship. It's from Russia.

This has been positively identified as a Russian rocket booster, a Topol ICBM. In fact, this isn't even the first time a Topol has been seen doing this! The last one was in December 2009, over Russia itself. And it happened even before then, a day before, over Norway, when a ginormous spiral lit up the sky and freaked the hell out of people (and the Internet). A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster did the same thing over Australia in June 2010, for that matter.

Basically, the booster is in space, where there's very little or no air. It's either leaking or blowing out fuel, which causes the booster to spin, and you get that amazing spiral water-sprinkler effect. I explain the whole thing in the Norway Spiral post.

That of course has not stopped the conspiracy theorists saying this is everything from a UFO to an interdimensional vortex. Ideas as breathless as they are silly popped up immediately. The truth is actually somewhat more mundane, but for a lot of people, that won't even slow them down... and they'll be all over the next one when this happens. That's a conspiracy theory you can bank on.

Related Posts:

- Awesomely bizarre light show freaks out Norway
- Another Russian rocket spiral lights up the sky
- Oh, those Falcon UFOs!
- Followup: Falcon 9 spiral light video

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