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
) 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.
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