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Sky Lanterns Research Project

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posted on Aug, 30 2007 @ 08:14 AM
This thread relates to a small research project (Level 1, i.e. expected to last about a week) in relation to sky lanterns (also known as fire balloons / thai lanterns / chinese lanterns).

In recent years in England, there have been an increasing number of “UFO” sightings involving “fleets” of lights floating in the sky. In several of these cases, the relevant lights have been videoed. Sky lanterns released at various celebrations were subsequently put forward as explanations of those sightings.

The goal of the project will be to pooling information and knowledge about the history and characteristics of sky lanterns, including locating and summarizing discussions in relevant UFO literature. The ultimate goal of the project will be to turn the information in the research thread into a tinwiki page entry.

When the next mass sighting caused by fire balloons pops up (tomorrow? next week?) anyone can give a link to this research thread and/or the resulting tinwiki page entry.

Isaackoi (Team Leader)

As far as I am concerned, other Scholars should feel free to post in this thread. If any other Scholar wants to become formal member of the team for this mini-research project, send me a U2U.

posted on Aug, 30 2007 @ 08:33 AM
As a first step, I'll list below the references that I've noted to discussions in UFO books of "fire balloons".

In previous decades, prank "UFO" fire balloons were traditionally been made by using transparent, lightweight plastic laundry bags with birthday candles propped at its base by drinking straws, wires or balsa wood structs. When the candles are lit, the hot air makes the bag rise.

These fire balloons presumably have characteristics that are very similar to "sky lanterns".

I'll summarise the contents of some of these discussions in a further post.

At least one member of ATS, Chorlton, has seen a considerable number of sky lanterns being launched and in flight. I hope he be able to add a summary of his own personal experiences - and indicate the extent to which those experiences are the same as (or differ from) the information I'll post about fire balloons.

I've noted that the following authors have discussed fire balloons in their books on UFOs:

(1) Ann Druffel in her “Firestorm : Dr James E McDonald’s Fight for UFO Science” (2003) at pages 36-38 (in Chapter 2) of the Wild Flower Press softcover edition.

(2) Gabriel Green with Warren Smith in their “Let’s face the facts about Flying Saucers” (1967) at page 106 (in the unnumbered chapter entitled “…Or Was It a Pseudosaucer?”) of the Popular Library paperback edition.

(3) Allan Hendry in his “The UFO Handbook” (1979) at pages 47-48 (in Chapter 2, Nocturnal Lights) of the Sphere softback edition.

(4) Jenny Randles in her “UFOs and How to See Them” (1992) at page 48 (in Chapter 2) of the Brockhampton Press hardback edition.

(5) David Ritchie in his “UFO : The Definitive Guide” (1994) at pages 23-24 (in an entry entitled “balloons”) of the MJF hardback edition.

(6) Frank Salisbury in his “The Utah UFO Display: A Biologist’s Report” (1974) at pages 138 (in Chapter 4), 166-171 (in Chapter 6) of the Devin Adair hardback edition.

Also, there are several discussions of fire balloons in the Condon Report (“Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects”) - including at 90-91 (in Section 3, Chapter 1 “Field Studies”, by Roy Craig), and in Case 18 at pages 458-465 (in Section 4, Case Studies, Case 18) and as Case 45 at pages 605-606 (in Section 4, “Case Studies”, Chapter 2, Case 45) of the edition available free online at the following links:

After posting summaries of the discussions in the above books, I'll post a few links to information about sky lanterns and summarise what I've learnt from those webpages. Just to get the ball rolling on links, I'll note now that several commercial suppliers of sky lanterns have websites, such as the one below:

Also just to get the ball rolling, I'll note that relevant threads on ATS include the following:
Mass Sighting In Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
Multiple UFO's Over London on 02/01/07?

There are also discussions of sky lanterns on various UFO websites and on several news webpages. I haven't collated links to such pages yet. I'll get around to this element of the mini-project in the next few days, unless someone beats me to it.

Kind Regards,


[edit on 30-8-2007 by IsaacKoi]

posted on Sep, 28 2007 @ 03:21 PM
From my earliest times visiting the Far East in the late 60’s I have seen Chinese lanterns (note: I use the name Chinese lanterns to cover all the phenomenon as mentioned above)
I have watched them launched from Land, Sea, Mountains and rivers. In China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and many other small islands and places doted around the South China Sea.
One trick used more recently is to attach fireworks to the base of the lanterns as can be seen here:
Imagine seeing this over Birmingham or London, what would be reportedif you hadn’t seen it launched?

I have to say that whilst the majority of these Lanterns ascend in a very similar way, many many of them do not and sometimes do things that defy explanation.

I have let an awfull lot of them off myself. Its the 'done thing' at festival times in the far east, at certain religious ceremonies, birthdays, wedding deaths and marriages.
Typical 'launch' time from lighting to release depends on various things.
Size of lantern, wind, and actual heat source. However working on the 'normal' sized lantern of around 2-3 ft tall you are probably looking at around 1-2 minutes, sometimes a bit less sometimes a bit more, but the heat inside collects very quickly.
Now duration time is the moot point. I have seen some go up and burn for 5 minutes then go out and drop. Ive seen some go up, get hit by a draft, turn sideways and burn and fall, Ive seen some go up and up and up untill we actually lost sight of them due to the height, but, more importantly Ive seen some go up a hundred feet or so then just stop dead, then some would drop and some would simply hang there.
I have always suspected that this was due to some Temperature inversion or temperature level. I have seen as many as 100+ lanterns just hanging there in the sky yet 50 yards along some were still zooming up!! and 100 yards the other way some were slowly descending. They are totally unpredictable because of so many many factors.
The factors deciding the ascension rate:
Size of lantern
Quality of construction
Size of heat source
Ambient temperature at launch level
Temperature fluctuations at various heights above launch level
Position of Launch place (valley, plain, launch site shaded by wind etc etc)
Wind speed and direction at launch level
Wind speed and direction above launch level

Once a Lantern is ignited and released it is at the mercy of many factors. The first being the actual quality of the construction. These days many lanterns are constructed of very cheap paper and the expansion of the air inside them can often split them either at launch point or later. Whatever, if they do split they can often be seen shooting off at strange angles as the jet of heated air from inside shoots out. If this happens at height the effects can be even more bizarre, with a lantern flying off in a totally different direction than all of those around them. One of the other results of splits and tears is they can be more prone to burst into flame as increased air flowing through the ruptured lantern can cause the lanterns to lean way over, causing the heat source to ignite them At increased height after flying off in a different direction if one of these lanterns catches fire they can be quite spectacular as they slowly descend in a ball of fire.

Lantern History
The History of Lanterns go back many thousands of years. Originally launched for specific purposes mainly related to the spirits and health , these days they are launched for practically any reason, marriages, birthdays, deaths and sometimes just for the hell of it.
The original chinese lanterns were very intricate constructs with many designs painted on them and they were traditionally hung outside of people homes
From earliest times in China people few kites. Then people began releasing their kites as if to release bad spirits in their bodies. People began flying kites at night and then hanging small lanterns on them for pleasure. It is not known when the jump from flying kites with suspended lamps changed to actually putting a heat source inside a lantern and flying that instead of a kite. Whatever it was it became the way to celebrate an occasion.

It has been postulated that the flying lantern was the first ‘identified’ UFO. (
Whether that is true or not, in the 20th century it is well known that many UFO’s are nothing more than Chinese lanterns, let off for some celebration or other. The Internet has also made these lanterns easier to obtain with many companies selling them ready made.

A recent offshoot of these paper lanterns is the ‘Bin Bag Balloon as seen here:

posted on Oct, 13 2007 @ 08:31 AM
After a bit of a delay, I've now typed up one of the more informative discussions of prank fire balloons (so it this information be compared to the characteristics of thai sky lanterns).

The relevant discussion is from Allan Hendry's “The UFO Handbook” (1979) at pages 47-48 (in Chapter 2, Nocturnal Lights) of the Sphere softback edition.

All year long, with an emphasis on the warmer months. Reported from 6 PM to 2.30 AM."

The prank balloon, distinguished from other balloon types by virtue of its home-made construction, usually consists of a transparent, lightweight plastic laundry bag with birthday candles propped at its base by drinking straws, wires, or balsa wood struts. When the candles are lit, the hot air makes the bag rise. The fourteen reports in this study usually reported the duration of perceived flight from one to fifteen minutes. Apparent size was usually restricted to ‘1’ or ‘2’. Descriptions of shape were usually confined to ‘orange point’, ‘dome’, ‘orange sparks’, ‘red, round’, ‘football-shaped’, etc. Once up in the air, the candlelight reflecting off parts of the plastic bag created the illusions of those shapes. In an older case, preceding this study, a witness to one of these balloon launches thought he was looking at a man in a white helmet standing upright in a cylinder. The most common symptom of the prank balloon is the dropping of candle wax from its base coupled with the eventual burn-out of the balloon itself; this manifested itself as:

‘burning metal dropping straight down toward the end’ – case 196
‘three drops of light (and it) extinguished’ – case 471
‘plummeted straight down for three seconds leaving a trail of burning embers’ – case 524
‘disintegrated to ash’ – case 872
‘flared out in three seconds while dropping’ - case 991
‘sputtering flame droplets’ – case 1,067"

As you can imagine, this is an extremely difficult IFO to pin down. Only once did I ever have the luck of finding out exactly who launched one and then only because the police caught him. I am glad that this occurred, though …, since this particular case generated eight separate calls to the police at the ridiculous hour of 1:15 AM, plus prompted a radar ‘confirmation’. In most other circumstances, you will have to rely on the description provided. The important symptom of burning, dripping candle wax and conformance to wind direction prevail here. Remember that winds aloft may differ markedly in direction from ground winds.”

posted on Oct, 13 2007 @ 08:39 AM
Prank fire balloons were also discussed by Jenny Randles in her book “UFOs and How to See Them” (1992), at page 48 (in Chapter 2) of the Brockhampton Press hardback edition.

Jenny gave the following information:

“Hoaxers have perfected small model balloons out of simple things like plastic bags and candles. These can sail through the sky as orange glows which finally catch fire and die. As the fabric of the balloon (e.g. a bag) is lit it can melt and form a trail of burning debris that falls to earth, looking not unlike a ‘stepladder’ descending from the main UFO mass”.

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