Has E.T. finally arrived? That's what thousands of locals in northern Russia recently feared after the sudden appearance of an enormous glowing orb in the Siberian night sky, which briefly stirred up a "War of the Worlds"-esque frenzy on social media.
"At first I was taken aback for a few minutes, not understanding what was happening," recalled photographer Sergey Anisimov, to the Siberian Times. "The glowing ball rose from behind the trees and moved in my direction. My first thought was about the most powerful searchlight, but the speed of changing everything around changed the idea of what was happening."
Anisimov snapped some spellbinding photos of the otherworldly phenomenon as it leered over the aurora borealis. It's easy to understand why so many people were frightened by the mysterious event.
"I went out to smoke a cigarette and thought it was the end of the world," remarked another onlooker.
As pictures began to pour into local social media circles, so did the theories. Alien invasion pronouncements were especially rampant; others speculated about a rip in the spacetime continuum, or about wormholes to another dimension.
The orb certainly had a ghostly quality, almost like a specter of the moon. Witnesses also claim that as it hung in the sky, it began to expand, giving the initial impression that it might consume the night sky, before eventually forming into an arc and dissipating.
Amidst the panic, one inquisitive photographer, Alexey Yakovlev, quietly guessed the true cause of the phenomenon: "It seems I accidentally shoot the launch of a secret space rocket from Plesetsk," he wrote.
Indeed, official word from the Russian Defense Ministry later confirmed that the event was caused by a test launch of the country's much-hyped Satan 2 Topol-M rocket. In fact, a series of publicized intercontinental ballistic missile tests were performed throughout the day, from Plesetsk in the west to the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s furthermost eastern point.
It's true that rocket launches at night can create some fascinating light illusions in the sky once they reach into the upper levels of the atmosphere. So, it would seem that the mystery has been solved, though perhaps the real explanation is even more ominous than our wildest, albeit imagined, fears.