What were the lights in the sky?

UPDATED 5/21/14: We may now know what may have caused mysterious lights in the sky Tuesday night. According to the Dept. of Defense, there was a missile launch at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai around the same time when mysterious lights were spotted. In a statement, the department said:

The Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Navy, and sailors at the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex and Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), successfully conducted the first flight test involving components of the Aegis Ashore system. During the test, a simulated ballistic missile target was acquired, tracked, and engaged by the Aegis Weapon System.

At approximately 7:35 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, May 20 (1:35 a.m. EDT, May 21), the Aegis Weapon System fired a Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IB guided missile from the Vertical Launch System. Several fire control and engagement functions were exercised during the test. A live target missile launch was not planned for this flight test.

The primary purpose of the test, designated Aegis Ashore Controlled Test Vehicle (AA CTV)-01, was to confirm the functionality of Aegis Ashore by launching a land-based SM-3. The Aegis Ashore system uses a nearly identical configuration of the Vertical Launch System, fire control system, and SPY-1 radar currently in use aboard Aegis cruisers and destroyers deployed around the world.

This flight test supports development of the Aegis Ashore capability of Phase 2 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach, planned to begin operations in Romania in 2015.

Watch the above video, provided by DVIDS - Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System, for a closer look at the actual missile launch.

In a related release, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard issued the following statement after a live viewing of the test:

“I appreciated remotely viewing this first-ever, historic flight test from a land-based Aegis ballistic missile defense system, and was pleased that it was executed successfully. The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex on Kaua‘i confirms Hawaii’s important strategic role in our nation’s investment in our ballistic missile defense capabilities. The Aegis Ashore system has great relevance in the Asia-Pacific region, where recent and repeated threats from North Korea have escalated against our nation and our allies. Not only have missile threats from North Korea been increasing, so are their capabilities – putting the U.S., and the people and national defense assets in Hawaii, under threat.”


On Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, dozens of people reported seeing strange lights in the sky Tuesday evening.

On Oahu, folks in Wahiawa, Mililani, and Mokuleia say the lights appeared in the sky around 6 p.m.

Viewer submitted photo gallery (photo: Kalae Fukushima)
Viewer submitted photo gallery (photo: Kalae Fukushima)

Viewers we spoke with all said the same thing — the lights were bright and were zig-zagging across the sky.

The KHON2 newsroom started getting calls about these strange lights at around 6 p.m.

The calls were mainly from viewers living in Central and West Oahu saying it stayed up for up to 10 minutes, and at what appears to be at high altitude.

The National Weather Service said it is definitely not weather-related.

According to the State of Hawaii Dept. of Defense spokesperson, a missile was launched at about 7:35 p.m. from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

Viewers described what they saw.

“I just started yelling because I saw like three points in the sky and this line just connected through it. And it is like glowing too,” Mililani Mauka resident Lori Tungplan said. “It started intersecting. It started going every where. It started spreading.”

“Really bright steam between Molokai and Lanai. So we just kind of watched it. I’m not trying to say it was like a missile or anything but it looked like it had kind of like a rocket basically,” Maui resident Ravin Ah Puck said.

Photos and videos seem to look like a meteor smoke trail.

The zig zagging form could come from different wind directions at different altitudes of the atmosphere.

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