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This article was published 6/9/2010 (2509 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of Winnipeg photographers got a long-weekend thrill, when an unexpected -- and unidentified -- visitor invaded an otherwise perfect photograph.
Just before 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, Brad Korponay and a couple of friends were setting up to take some nighttime snaps in Steep Rock, about 240 kilometres north of Winnipeg, when they saw a stunning object sailing through the sky.
The bright orange glow flew across the sky from the east, streaking over Lake Manitoba and descending as it moved westward on a wobbly path. Then it disappeared behind the clouds. "We thought perhaps it was a hot-air balloon, as its flickering colour looked like fire," Korponay said. "It was also moving rather quickly, and the 'flame' burned and flickered constantly as it moved."
Beyond that guess, Korponay and friends were at a loss to explain the light that flashed across the sky for under a minute on a calm and silent night. Even the clouds barely moved during the 273-second photo exposure. Then, to make things even wilder, a short time later a second, similar object flew across the sky, this time coming from the north.
The result: one beautiful picture and one big question: Could one local expert in unidentified flying objects come to the rescue?
This isn't the first curious photo Chris Rutkowski has seen this year. In fact, the astronomer and internationally recognized expert on UFO sightings has had a big year: More than 150 flying thingamajigs were reported in Canada in July and 70 in August. The July number in particular is "very, very unusual" for the season, Rutkowski said.
Ten per cent of Canadians believe they have seen a UFO, but only 10 per cent of those witnesses report the sighting, Rutkowski said, offering kudos to Korponay for reporting the strange object.
But the question remains: What type of object is it?
"It's certainly not a bolide (meteor), because it was seen for too long," Rutkowski mused, noting that he hasn't seen a UFO report from the Steep Rock area in a long time. "It doesn't appear to be an aircraft. If I had to make a guess, it looks like a Chinese lantern. I've seen something like this before... although what someone would have been doing with a Chinese lantern out at Steep Rock, I don't know."
The "sky lanterns" are airborne rice-paper lanterns fitted with a candle or waxy fuel cell.
As the candle burns, the hot air inside the lantern lifts it into the sky, where it drifts on the wind.
Finding out whether the guess is accurate, Rutkowski said, would require interviewing area residents to see if they had released anything into the sky, and checking whether the glowing object was travelling with or against the wind.
But what about the chances it was an alien?
"Very close to nil," Rutkowski chuckled.