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Santa Seen Over Santee?

A vacationing Michigan resident snaps a photos of an unidentified aerial object that oddly resembles Old Saint Nick on Christmas Eve.

It was Christmas Eve, around 11 p.m. We stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy the crisp Santa Ana air, when someone pointed out a funny light in the sky. A satellite? Blimp? Santa Claus? We wondered aloud.

The orange light wasn't strobing, like most airplane lights, and was larger than any single light normally appears on airborne craft – something my cousin, visiting from Michigan, where he's months from finishing his pilot schooling, pointed out right away.

"That's not a normal airplane," he said, with 500+ hours in the air to back it up.

I mentioned that San Diego is chock-full of military aircraft, and any unidentified flying object could likely be attributed to that factor. Especially since the local flight path is clearly visible from the balcony.

But the object didn't seem to be moving fast enough for a normal plane, more like a blimp speed, and seemed rather low to the ground, maybe half the height of normal aircraft in the area. Once my brother yelled, "It's Santa!" all hope of rational discovery left the balcony. I'm actually surprised my neighbors didn't come out to see why a bunch of people were yelling about Santa Claus- but my wacky neighborhood is another story.

The object came from the east, over Santee and the rest of East County, then seemingly turned and passed Mt. Helix, headed toward the beach, until it flickered once and disappeared. We watched it in awe.

The orange color, speed, and odd disappearance leads me to believe it was a Chinese sky lantern, let off in celebration of the season. But, in doing some research about them, they usually look to be smaller than the object seemed to be. Either the flame went out, or it disappeared into another dimension – surely one of the two.

The next day, Nick shared the picture he took with his iPhone. I figured it would just be a meaningless blob of light – not worth even examining. But, when he blew it up on his iPad, it looks like some sort of Santa/Snowman head with a red cap on. Go figure!

Now, you might say it's just some lens refraction, some artifact of the image, or some other distortion mixed with pareidolia (seeing faces in everything), but what fun is that?!

Now that I have the picture, I can share it with you. What do you think it is?

Whatever it was, it brought a bit of mystery back to Christmas for everyone on that balcony- and made Christmas a bit more interesting.

Did anyone else see something odd on Christmas?

Phil Owens December 28, 2011 at 02:17 AM
We saw 6 or 7 of them Christmas night around 7. They were being released in the Big Rock area.
SheilaR December 28, 2011 at 05:03 PM
Ya that's a sky lantern. We have some and that is about the same size. I did a Google search for snowman sky lanterns and they have some but didn't look the same as this picture. My guess is they used the big plain white lanterns then maybe painted pictures on them? ??

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