Dec
10
2009

Obviously that’s what the aliens want you to think.

Wondrous lights in the sky!: But, no, this isn't it. This is the Hard Rock Cafe, one of the other signs of the apocalypse.
Wondrous lights in the sky!: But, no, this isn't it. This is the Hard Rock Cafe, one of the other signs of the apocalypse.Courtesy otubo
Early this week, the good people of Norway looked up from their frantic vitamin D foraging into the dark, pre-dawn sky above the city of Tromsø to see a bizarre spectacle. A massive, glowing spiral hung in the sky, its eerie light reflecting from the frosty hair and pale, cod oil-smeared faces of the people below. Some of the understandably bewildered Tromsønians cowered before the surreal apparition, crouching behind boulders and rusted car hulks, while others boldly hissed and flailed at it, scratching ineffectually at the frigid air with fingernails worn to milky stubs from pawing at packed snow to reveal the tender lichen beneath. All were afraid, for they knew that what they beheld was surely the beginnings of an inter-dimensional portal, or the atmospheric wake of an alien spacecraft (if not somehow both.)

I should perhaps mention, at this point, that my understanding of Norway and Norwegians is fairly limited. I do know that Tromsø is 300 km north of the Arctic Circle, so when I said “pre-dawn” I was being a little poetic—Tromsø won’t see sunrise until mid-January. So, to arrive at my conception of a citizen of Tromsø in December, I took what I’m like, in St. Paul, MN, on a pretty chilly December 10th, and moved that image up to the 69th parallel. I imagined something like Gollum, but wearing a fur parka. This doesn’t quite mesh with reality, but I’m pleased with it.

At any rate, these hearty, enlightened Scandinavians (or slippery tundra goblins, whichever you prefer) saw this in the sky recently. Click on that. It’s interesting.

What was it? Alien attack? The Eye of Sauron? (JK. The Eye of Sauron was fiery. Y’all know that.) A woooormhole? Is the aurora borealis fed up with being harmless?

No. It turns out that the remarkable effect was caused by something much more mundane: a malfunctioning rocket. Specifically, it was a Russian missile test failure. A submarine in the White Sea test-fired a Buluva nuclear-capable missile, and the darn thing malfunctioned, said the Russian Ministry of Defense. In its death throes, the missile made some neat-o clouds in the upper atmosphere, and they apparently caught the light in a pretty way.

Here’s a video explaining how such things work. (This was released before the official Russian explanation, I think.)

So there you go. Nothing to worry about. Just an ol’ malfunctionin’ Ruskie nukular missile.

Er… what?

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