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The big UFO news over the past few days has been a supposed mass sighting of unidentified object hovering over Houston Texas, with the image above being one of the most publicized photos of a few doing the rounds. A search of Twitter shows that over the past day or two this has become a hugely popular story, probably on account of the Daily Mail story linked above.

Could a UFO have visited Texas this week?

Several people have taken it to Twitter to post pictures showing a strange object floating through the Houston clouds during a storm last Monday.

Some of the pictures show a bright oval object hovering. An unrelated picture shows a similar object through clouds. There are others, some showing what appears to be lights underneath the ‘thing.’

Here’s a local news report from immediately after the ‘sighting’ (August 12):

My thoughts: originally on seeing the most popular photos, I wondered why some of the photos show a very stormy night, while others show what appears to be a very clear night. After that, I dug into Twitter a bit to try and find the origins of the most popular photos – and, rather than finding “several people”, the two most popular seem to have originated with the same person, one Nathaniel Xavier (@djnayyz) – photo 1, and photo 2. (Note: in a later tweet @djnayyz then said “I never took that picture I just posted it”, though he has not yet answered commenters asking about the actual origin. He also seems happy to take the national media attention that’s come along with his ‘reposts’).

A couple of days later Xavier then posted a video of the UFO to Instagram:

Is that ball lightning? Or is it just an old favourite CG ‘UFO’ video effect?

Returning to the photos however, there seems to be a fairly simple explanation: the ‘UFO’ is just the reflection of a highway light pole in the car window (a common source for UFO misidentification). See the image below for comparison, and note the number of lights on the UFO:

This would neatly explain how the centre of the UFO seems to be ‘transparent’ – only the lights are showing up in the reflection. Look again at the image at the top of this post, considering whether it might be a reflection of a light on the window…

A guess for how things played out: ‘UFO’ noticed while driving in car, image posted to social media, gains momentum, post another photo, gets on local TV, friend creates a nice CG UFO video, post to social media, international media attention. Purely a guess though, so I welcome your thoughts.

(thanks for the heads-up Kat)