No-one has come up with an explanation for a very strange sight over northern Norwegian skies early morning local time yesterday or just before 6 pm Australian time.
But millions of people saw it, and thousands of videos and photos were taken.
The phenomenon last about 10 minutes. In this link to a gallery of photos the captions indicate the different locations in northern Norway from which it was simultaneously observed, some of them from places where the sun is nearly over the horizon, and others where there is only varying degrees of twilight at this stage of the darkest weeks of the sub-polar night.
It began as a thin aurora like luminescence oriented with one end toward the point where the sun would either rise, or fail to rise, in the case of observers so far north that it doesn’t rise above the horizon until making a brief appearance in the middle of the day at this time of year.
Then the spiral halo began to appear. There are also knots in the blue or in some images greenish trail typical of the contrails made by missiles, fast jets and large meteors. The baselines between a wide range of observation points mean that the phenomenon had been generated at a very high altitude.
Russian authorities have denied Norwegian press suggestions that it was a missile test that produced a strange contrail. But perhaps it was a military laser or directed energy anti-satellite test.
Whatever it was, it should have been registered by a number of weather and spy satellites, and possibly generated ionospheric radio abnormalities that could give a better understanding of its nature.
This YouTube, a compilation apparently including part of one recorded in a Norwegian household struggling to get to work on time in the darkness of an Arctic morning, is among the many now being posted. Dreadful quality, but that’s what immediacy in on-line media is all about. It is as rough as.
And the spiral object exhibits motion, spinning like a Catherine Wheel. (That’s it, an alien Catherine Wheel gets lost in space and stumbles upon Tromso…)
And the explanation (most likely) is…
…the one Abelard and Michael Slezak have pointed to. A hat tip and bow to ‘Clairedeluna’ or space scientist Claire Tourneur for her logical analysis and crucial additional images of a Russian rocket test that caused the Catherine Wheel from Earth (rather than from a far corner of the universe) to break the routine of the morning peak hour in far northern Norway.
Her blog Blastrophysics is a fine discovery too, and has been added to the collection or blog roll on the right hand of your screen.
BBC report: Russia confirms failed missile test