More than 20 people from around the country have reported sightings of unidentified floating orange lights after a Bay of Plenty man shared his bizarre experience in yesterday's Bay of Plenty Times.
Tony Hutchins, 62, was on his front lawn about 10.10pm on Thursday when he noticed a bright orange light directly above Fraser Cove.
"I saw this orange light in the sky and I just saw it drop down then float off to the right," he said. The Bay of Plenty Times was inundated with messages yesterday with similar sightings and possible explanations.
Bay of Plenty Times facebook follower Stacey Marsh commented that she saw the same lights as Mr Hutchins.
"I saw those too!!! From Maungatapu as well. I just assumed it was a helicopter or something ... stared at them for ages!!"
Twitter user @paora420nz said his daughter had seen the same light and @tonitones said, "my husband saw these too - it was lanterns - on the same morning he and my daughter watched a lantern take off in the same place ... we assumed they were lanterns for matariki celebrations."
Matariki celebrations are happening in Tauranga from June 15 to July 18.
Tauranga man Rick Van believed he saw the same lights as Mr Hutchins and also believed they were chinese lanterns.
"I saw them from the 18th Ave area over the Welcome Bay hills around 21.45 at night. I could clearly see them rise from the hills. The flickering of the candles was also visible."
Two other readers said they saw similar floating lights in Tauranga two weeks ago.
"Dunno what it is, but my wife and I saw one orange light like that over Papamoa two weeks ago," Noel Remacle commented.
Michelle Lambert said, "I saw them here in Gate Pa between Cambridge Heights about two weeks ago. Similar in colour to the street lights but in the wrong height level and moving along the toll road type of route."
Astronomical Society committee member David Greig originally said the case was a mystery, but after reading Mr Hutchins' full account and seeing the photos, he also concluded it must have been chinese lanterns.
The landscape over the harbour between Fraser Cove, Matapihi and Maungatapu may have created differing wind patterns and could have explained why they were carried in a different direction to the wind that Mr Hutchins felt, he said.
In a strange twist of events, Mr Greig discovered Mr Hutchins' sighting was in fact on World UFO Day.
"It is quite possible that Chinese Lanterns ... were launched by someone with World UFO Day in mind," Mr Greig said.