Strange light spotted over Tauranga

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RATIONAL EXPLANATION: Stuart Murray of the Tauranga Astronomical Society says reports of strange lights can be caused by Chinese lanterns. PHOTO / FILE
RATIONAL EXPLANATION: Stuart Murray of the Tauranga Astronomical Society says reports of strange lights can be caused by Chinese lanterns. PHOTO / FILE

It was just before bedtime, and Colton Lambert was having a smoke outside his Papamoa home when he chanced to look up towards the stars.

Just below the pot of Orion, and a little to the left, he saw a bright red light that he at first took to be a star or an aircraft flying in late to Tauranga Airport.

But then it grew larger, and larger, as it apparently moved towards him.

After a while, the light stopped expanding and kept its size.

"It was bigger than a star," said the 56-year-old. "And what really intrigued me was that it wasn't flashing."

After holding its position for a short time, the light retreated at such an astonishing speed it was gone within three or four seconds.

"The way it disappeared, mate . . . I thought 'whoa, that's travelling fast'."

The sighting, at 10.40pm last night, came exactly one week after several people reported seeing lights near Greymouth and Barrytown.

Mr Lambert said he was unaware of those reports.

But Mr Lambert was not alone in seeing a strange light over Tauranga on Thursday night.

Pete Belcher, 48, was outside having a smoke between 9.30pm and 10pm when he spotted something odd from his position near the Omanu Surf Club.

He said an orange light that was travelling too fast to be an aircraft moved from the sea towards the land, passing Mt Maunganui at about the same height as the top of Mauao. He watched it for about five minutes.

"It just stood out," Mr Belcher said. "I'm going to have another look tonight."

News of the sightings prompted another man, Richard Sharplin, to come forward with a description of five orange lights hovering between Pyes Pa Rd and the Kaimai Range at the end of November.

Tauranga Astronomical Society president Stuart Murray had received no reports of the light.

"All I can put it down to is a Chinese lantern," he said. "I'm basing that on previous situations."

Spokespeople for Tauranga-based Ufocus, which archives and researches unusual aerial sightings, said they had received no phone calls about the light.

Tauranga City Council and Tauranga Aiport also had no reports, according to a spokeswoman.

In May and June of last year, several people reported seeing swirling lights over Tauranga. One man videoed the lights on his phone camera.

DID YOU SEE THE LIGHTS?

Contact the newsroom: news@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

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