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It doesn't take much to convince people that they've seen an experimental missile or a UFO. A funny-looking cloud or an exceptionally bright planet will usually do the trick. Here, our top 7 things that drive space-related hoaxes.
7. LightningSlide 2 of 15
Mysterious UFO sightings may go hand-in-hand with a natural weather phenomenon known as sprites flashes high in the atmosphere triggered by thunderstorms. Sprites suddenly appear when lightning from thunderstorms excites the electric field above the storm, producing dancing flashes of bright light.
Sprites can take the form of fast-paced balls of electricity, although they can also form streaks or tendrils. "Winter sprites" are common in the northern hemisphere during winter months.Alien Coffee Mug: Get Yours in the SPACE.com StoreSlide 3 of 15
6. Missile TestsSlide 4 of 15
6. Missile Tests
In December 2009, a spectacular spiral light show appeared in the sky above northern Norway: A giant spiral, with a green-blue beam of light shooting from its center, lit up the sky in a raindrop-ripple effect pattern.
It looked like a wormhole to another dimension, but it turned out that the lights were caused by a Russian missile that failed just after launch, according to Russia's defense ministry. The botched Bulava ballistic test missile spun out of control, thus creating the mysterious rotating spiral effect.Slide 5 of 15
5. Weird Cloud FormationsSlide 6 of 15
5. Weird Cloud Formations
Last October, footage of a giant halo in an overcast sky over Moscow surfaced on YouTube. The video had everything needed to ignite UFO rumors. It's grainy. At one point, a dark pointy object appears to bolt out of the ring. There's even a panicked-sounding Russian radio broadcast in the background.
Cool-headed meteorologists were quick to put the story to bed: It was just an optical illusion, the cause of sunlight hitting a cloud disturbed by wind or plane traffic in just the right way. Most likely it was what is known as a hole-punch cloud. These occur in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds, which are often composed of ice crystals and super-cooled water droplets water that is below freezing temperature, but still in liquid form. The physical properties that hold these clouds together are delicate, and when disturbed by a jet plane, wind or even cloud seeding efforts the droplets can freeze instantly or evaporate, the latter of which will form the hole.Slide 7 of 15
4. BalloonsSlide 8 of 15