LONDON – Mysterious lights in the sky? Some British soldiers thought they might be unidentified flying objects.
Then again, they might be those blazing Chinese lanterns released by the partygoers down the road.
Britain's Ministry of Defense has received numerous reports of a squadron of rotating, cube-like UFOs in June, including one from a soldier who used his mobile phone to record video footage of the suspected space visitors.
The UFO sightings earlier this month included one made by a police helicopter crew in Wales, prompting at least the Sun tabloid to announce Wednesday that an "Alien Army" was gathering above the seemingly tranquil British countryside.
A Ministry of Defense spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity as required by government policy, confirmed that military officials had investigated the reports from the first weekend in June to make sure there was no hostile military action threatening the United Kingdom.
Once they had been reassured on that count, they did not try to determine the basis for the reports, the spokesman said.
"Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, there is no attempt to identify the nature of each sighting reported," he said.
Some UFO experts are not convinced there is anything unusual going on, especially in light of a new craze that has spread to England — the practice of releasing lit Chinese lanterns into the night sky to celebrate weddings and other special events. Once they are lit, the small lanterns rise into the sky, much like a hot air balloon.
It turns out that two newlyweds who had purchased 100 lanterns to celebrate their wedding had released them into the sky shortly before the purported UFO sighting in Wales, offering a logical explanation for the lights seen in the sky.
David Clarke, a UFO expert who helped the National Archives prepare thousands of pages of UFO documents for public release in May, said a helicopter pilot seeing the blazing lanterns at night could easily think he was looking at another aircraft.
"Call me cynical, but what are the chances that a flying saucer would come down from outer space in exactly the same place where lanterns have been released?" he said.