December 10, 2009

Mysterious Lights Likely A Failed Russian Missile Launch

A mysterious blue spiral light that appeared in the skies above Norway was likely the result of a failed test launch of a jinxed new Russian missile, the UK's Mail Online reported.

Several newspapers in Moscow today ran a story explaining that the Bulava missile was test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine in the White Sea early on Wednesday but failed at the third stage.

However, earlier reports from Moscow denied a missile launch yesterday and even early today there was no formal confirmation from the Russian Defense Ministry.

Some speculators felt the lights were connected with the aurora borealis, or northern lights, the natural magnetic phenomena that can often be viewed in that part of the world.

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was flooded with telephone calls after the light storm yesterday morning.

Totto Eriksen, from Tromsø, told VG Nett: "It spun and exploded in the sky."

Witnesses described a blue light that seemed to soar up from behind a mountain in the north of the country and then stopped mid-air, before beginning to move in circles.

"We saw it from the Inner Harbor in Tromsø. It was absolutely fantastic. It almost looked like a rocket that spun around and around and then went diagonally down the heavens. It looked like the moon was coming over the mountain, but then came something completely different," said Eriksen.

Within seconds the light formed a giant spiral that covered the entire sky before a green-blue beam of light shot out from its center - lasting for ten to 12 minutes before disappearing completely.

Some onlookers said it looked like "a big fireball that went around, with a great light around it" and "a shooting star that spun around and around".

A Norwegian defense spokesman said yesterday that the display was probably from a failed Russian test launch.

The missile had likely veered out of control and exploded, and the spiral was light reflecting on the leaking fuel, according to Tromsō Geophysical Observatory researcher Truls Lynne Hansen.

However, Russia denied it had been conducting missile tests in the area and a Moscow news outlet quoted the Russian Navy as denying any rocket launches from the White Sea area.

Norway stressed that it should be informed of such launches under international agreements.

Now several morning media reports are claiming that a missile had indeed been launched from the White Sea -- test firings are usually made from the White Sea, close to the Norwegian Arctic region.

A test firing before dawn on Wednesday coincided with the light show in the northern sky, according to a report this morning from Kommersant newspaper.

A new report that emerged today claims that last week Russia formally notified Norway of a window when a missile test might be carried out -- including a seven hour period early on Wednesday at the time when the lights were seen.

Earlier today a Russian military source said that the third stage of the rocket did not work.

So far the Russian Defense Ministry has been unavailable for comment.

Sources say the Bulava, which is crucial to Russia's plans to revamp its weaponry, is becoming an embarrassment after nine failed launches in 13 tests, prompting calls for it to be scrapped.

This missile has a range of 5,000 miles and could carry up to ten nuclear weapons bound for separate targets.

Yury Solomonov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, which is responsible for developing the missile, was forced to resign after a previous failure in July. But he is now working as chief designer on the troubled project.

Celebrity astronomer Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard said he had never seen anything like the lights.

"My first thought was that it was a fireball meteor, but it has lasted far too long," said Ødegaard.

Image Courtesy SCANPIX/Anita Olsen