May 23, 2012: Six flying red globes flying over my residential subdivision.
Jan. 14, 2013: Glowing lights appear to hover and then disappear. Number of objects range from one to four at a time.
Jan. 13, 2014: Two white lights moving across sky — one changes direction, goes back and then stops.
For years, Maricopa residents have reported seeing strange lights in the night sky. Such cases, like the ones above, have been documented on the Mutual UFO Network webpage, which allows people worldwide to anonymously submit descriptions of their sightings and upload photos and videos.
Most of the reports describe glowing lights — white, orange or red. None of them delve into the theories of E.T. or provide the cliché flying saucer account.
Curiosity — and a want for explanation — is a common theme.
“We often go outside for (a) smoke break and see these odd lights,” a person wrote for the Jan. 14, 2013 report. “They are very, very bright. They just appear for minutes and then quickly disappear. We would like to know what they are or if others are reporting them.”
If there’s one thing certain about the unidentified flying objects, it’s that other Maricopa residents are reporting them.
InMaricopa.com recently asked readers on its Facebook page whether they’ve seen strange lights in the sky. The post received 41 comments, 36 likes and 13 shares.
Brad Misewicz posted: “Anytime after 8 p.m. I see orange lights off to the right back above the middle of nowhere (way out of town.) They hover, gradually fade, sometimes disappear and reappear. I’ve seen them a lot over the past few years.”
Josh N Becca wrote: “I see them all the time. I thought we were the only ones … they look like airplanes that can stop in mid air and hover sometimes three or four in a row (I probably sound super crazy I know) lol.”
Commentor Trent Roberts welcomed Facebook users to watch a video he posted to YouTube in April 2012.
The video shows a glowing orange light that suddenly becomes two or three lights. It’s unclear how many appear because the video is shaky.
In his Facebook post on InMaricopa.com’s page, Roberts wrote: “I’ve seen military flares many times and what I’ve seen in the skies around Maricopa are far from.”
Nick Pope, a UFO expert who used to investigate unidentified flying objects for the UK’s Ministry of Defense, offered explanations to the sightings that Maricopa residents are seeing in the sky.
In an email to InMaricopa.com, Pope said he lives in Tucson for part of the year and is familiar with Arizona skies.
“Many reports of orange lights turn out to be caused by people launching Chinese lanterns, while some other sightings are probably military flares,” he said.
Chinese lanterns — usually made of paper — are like small, hot air balloons that rise into the air using the heat generated from a candle.
Chinese lanterns are typically launched to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other occasions, Pope said. Some people even release the lanterns into the air “deliberately to generate UFO reports.”
A YouTube video titled “UFO Balloons, Chinese Lanterns & Misidentifications” demonstrates how these lanterns can be mistaken for a UFO. The video shows the lighted paper lanterns swaying in the nighttime sky, resembling similar videos documenting strange lights.
“Chinese lanterns are probably the biggest single cause of UFO reports at the present time,” Pope said. “If someone hasn’t seen one before, they can look truly spectacular and mysterious.”
Military activity could probably explain a lot of sightings, Pope said, and Arizona is where such activity is taking place.
America’s air power certainly has a presence in the state with Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Luke Air Force Base in Glendale and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
“Indeed, some skeptics attribute Arizona’s most famous UFO sighting — the so-called Phoenix Lights incident of March 13, 1997 — to a military exercise involving A-10 aircraft dropping flares at the Barry M. Goldwater Range,” he said.The Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range is a military bombing range in southwest Arizona 87 miles from Maricopa. It’s operated by the 56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office. InMaricopa.com reached out to the office for comment about UFO’s, but did not receive a response.
Some of the people who commented on InMaricopa.com’s Facebook page welcomed the military theory.
Jose Linares wrote: “As a former Maricopa resident I used to see lights to (the) west and all they were were flares from testing over the Goldwater range, so all these UFO wackos don’t get excited.”
Others were skeptical of the theory. As Ty Treadway pointed out: “I’ve never seen flares that burn for hours and don’t fall from the sky!?”
None of the Facebook users mentioned Chinese lanterns.
Pope said the counter-argument to these UFO theories in Arizona is that Arizonans tend to know more about astronomy than most, and wouldn’t misidentify strange lights.