Chinese Lanterns or UFO's.My take.

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Chinese Lanterns or UFO's.My take.

Postby Chorlton » Mon Oct 15, 2007 7:47 am

Chinese Lanterns. My Experiences over 35 years

These are actual experiences of watching Chinese lanterns/Sky Lanterns/Sky Balloons and the possible reasons they are mistaken for UFO's

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: ... 2470833674
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Postby ryguy » Mon Oct 15, 2007 2:27 pm

That is a fascinating hypothesis. Several ways to explore it - determine which States in the U.S. have the highest concentration of Asians and correlate with the proportion of "orb" sightings. Also consider the dates (and any cluster sightings) in correlation with the Asian religious holidays where these are typically set off... Are these even legal in the U.S.? One would think that if they reach a particular altitude, the FAA would not be very happy.

Funny...I found a blog of someone selling these things:

Skylighter just got its first shipment of Sky Lanterns in. If you read about the beautiful Chinese Sky Lanterns in our blog in January, we just got our very first shipment of them.

If you don't know what Sky Lanterns are, click here to check out the Sky Lantern Festival videos on YouTube.

Of course, I will tell you to order them right away. You know that. But honestly, I really don't care if you do or not. I'm having too much fun lighting them every night myself. Here are some pictures of the ones that Anne and I launched last night. The damned things are addictive: I can't do just one; I gotta do ten at a time!

These are absolutely wonderful little gizmos, and I am positively high on them. I brought 15 of them back in my suitcase from Hong Kong to try out over here. Everyone who has seen them has gone ga-ga over 'em. Nobody doesn't like 'em!

Every time I tried to light one myself last night, Anne snatched the lighter away from me! She wanted to do it!

A few things to know:

- The "fuel" for the fire is cardboard square soaked in wax. You light it, the balloon fills with hot air, and up they go.
- They fly a mile or more up and God knows how far.
- They burn for about 4.5 minutes.
- Once the fire goes out, they drop to the ground.
- They are completely biodegradable.

- Launch them only in still air. If you have enough wind to make them difficult to lift off, don't let them go. The wind actually deflates the lanterns, and then there's not enough hot air in them to lift off.
- Only when they burn out will they drop. But if you launch them in a wind, they can be blown down or sideways and possibly start a fire. Don't launch them when the wind is blowing. Got it?
- The paper shell of the balloon is fire retardant. You can burn/char it, but it does not catch fire.
- They may be illegal some places. Check your fire code and fireworks laws to be sure they're legal in your area.
- Don't tie anything to them. They are finely balanced--almost anything adding weight to them will cause them not to lift off.

- Anytime, nighttime or daytime. This variety looks best at night, but you will undoubtedly want to see what they do in daytime, so you can follow them visually.
- Weddings: launch them after the wedding vows in an outdoor ceremony, or as the bride and groom exit the reception.
- Funerals: I want them used at mine. You probably will, too. I am not kidding. Think about the soft, glowing, fading light as your Sky Lantern goes slowly toward heaven.
- Fireworks events: as a daytime and nighttime feature.
- July 4th: start or finish your July 4th fireworks with Sky Lanterns.
- Parties: add them to give your outdoor party a very special quality your guests will not forget.
- Anyplace you want really quiet fire effects.
- When you need to create a swarm of UFOs in your neighborhood.
- For the pure fun of it. They are absolutely wonderful.

Another thing to check for correlation - are most "glowing orb" sightings during weather conditions when there's little to no wind...


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Postby Chorlton » Mon Oct 15, 2007 2:38 pm

There are a lot of places to buy these Chinese Lanterns in the UK, theres also a lot of Chinese people and SE Asians living in the UK and, compared to the US, the UK is quite tiny.

But the whole idea of letting of Chinese lanterns for any event is now becoming a usual thing. Party organisers even include them in their Party offerings.

Expect a lot more of them. Especially from around the end of January to the end of February, traditional Chinese New year time.
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