Lights over Phoenix a UFO hoax

USA Today/April 25, 2008

Unusual red lights that hovered over Phoenix on Monday night captured the attention of Arizonans and reprised an infamous UFO siting in 1997.

Alas, it turns out it was just a nocturnal prank, according to local media:

The man, who did not want to be identified, said he used fishing line to attach road flares to helium-filled balloons, then lit the flares and launched them a minute apart from his back yard. He said he believed turbulence created by a passing jet caused the balloons to move around.

"I feel bad for the people freaking out about this," Lino Mailo, who watched his neighbor launch the balloons, told the Arizona Republic. "I could've put this whole thing to rest."

Here's how another writer at theArizona Republic (a Gannett cousin of USA TODAY) initially explained the light show:

There were absolutely four lights. They appeared to hover in the sky.

They looked red or white, and they flickered. They were visible for nearly 15 minutes on Monday night.

The lights were seen by, among others, a Phoenix police-helicopter pilot, air-traffic controllers and a reporter. There was even an extended videotape.

But the lights were a mystery. A mystery that generated a lot of interest. ...

Many residents recalled the "Phoenix Lights" of March 1997. A Village Voice writer who worked in Phoenix at the time sets everyone straight (mostly the media) about that night's two events and the official explanation for only one.

UFO Evidence has an archive of articles and documents pertaining to the "Phoenix Lights." YouTube has a "documentary."

Over at LiveScience, the Bad Science Columnist offers this reminder of the danger of gullibility: The light show of 2008 shows just how easy it is to fool the public and create a media stir. All it takes is a few balloons and flares, some spare time, and a mischievous streak.

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