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In the twilight of an otherwise ordinary Thursday evening, emergency lines -- and Twitter feeds -- lit up across the Middle East and Caspian regions with reports of a mysterious object traveling across the night sky.

Over the next few hours, conjecture-laden tweets (#mideastUFO) poured in from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia as to what the cone-shaped light was.



YouTube users claiming to be in Syria uploaded grainy video of the flying object (below), and the speculation began.



As more images and videos poured in, a general consensus formed that the light was a missile of some sort. At 1:43 AM Moscow time the guesswork came to a grinding halt as the "Voice of Russia" reported that the Russian military had successfully tested a Topol class intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The test missile was fired from Russia into Kazakhstan’s Saryshaghan (map here) missile test field in the central part on the country.


According to RFE/RL's Merhat Sharipzhanov, who served in a missile-targeting unit in the Soviet Army, tests like this are the norm -- and have been for decades. He notes that there are several such test fields in Kazakhstan and the vast tracts of open land in Siberia.

"Ynet" quoted Dr. Yigal Pat-El, chairman of the Israeli Astronomical Association, as saying that the object was indeed a ballistic missile test that "most likely spun out of control and its remnants and the fuel was what people saw. It reached a height of 200-300 kilometers and that's why it was seen from so many locations."

Interestingly, RIA Novosti is hedging a bit -- reporting that the mysterious object "could be" the Russian missile test.


-- Zach Peterson

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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