Bizarre Sky Spiral Caused by Failed Missile
Norway residents got front-row seats to a bizarre light show: a giant spiral with a green-blue beam of light shooting from its center and lighting up the sky.
Credit: Dagfinn Rapp.

A spectacular spiral light show in the sky above Norway Wednesday was caused by a Russian missile that failed just after launch, according to Russia?s defense ministry.

When the rocket motor spun out of control, it likely created the heavenly spiral of white light near where the missile was launched from a submarine in the White Sea. The Russian defense ministry confirmed to the Itar-Tass news agency that a Bulava ballistic missile test had failed.

"This cloud was very spectacular, and when we looked at the videos people submitted to the media, we quickly concluded that it looked like a rocket or missile out of control, thus the spiraling effect," Paal Brekke, a senior advisor at the Norwegian Space Centre in Oslo, told SPACE.com. "I think this is the first time we have seen such a display from a launch failure."

The phenomenon was seen by people all over northern Norway.

"It was a fairly stunning display, and we were really surprised to see it so well observed," Brekke said.

Viewers described an eerie white cloud with a piercing blue-green beam coming out of it.

"It consisted initially of a green beam of light similar in color to the aurora with a mysterious rotating spiral at one end," Nick Banbury of Harstad, Norway told Spaceweather.com. "This spiral then got bigger and bigger until it turned into a huge halo in the sky with the green beam extending down to Earth."

Banbury said he saw the lights on his way to work between 7:50 and 8:00 a.m. local time, or 1:50 and 2:00 a.m. EST (0650 and 7000 GMT).

"We are used to seeing lots of auroras here in Norway, but this was different," he said.

Before the missile test was confirmed, many people suggested the bright light pattern might have been a UFO. Russia finally admitted to the accident, which is an embarrassing mishap for a rocket that had already failed six of 13 previous tests, according to the BBC.

The Bulava missile is designed to carry six individually targeted nuclear warheads over a range of 6,200 miles (10,000 km), the BBC reported.

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