A Jan. 17 report of strange lights over Arkansas that spread like wildfire around the Internet turned out to involve flares used in a routine Air Force mission.

The lights, photographed by retired F-16 fighter pilot Col. Brian Fields, were reported by the online site WorldNetDaily. Other web sites picked up the story, which received widespread attention. The following week, an explanation unfolded.

Pilots from nearby Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana were dropping flares attached to parachutes to light up targets, the web site reported.

"As soon as we saw the story, we knew it was us," Lt. Col. Jim Macaulay, commander of the Air Force Reserve's 47th Fighter Squadron, told the The Shreveport Times.

Fields saw flares dropped over targets by A-10 aircraft, Macaulay said.

Several other supposed alien sightings have been reported around the country in recent weeks and months.