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 Case summary

The image below is a cropped still from a video posted on January 2, 2008 on YouTube.

Iraq light pillars

The man who shot the video - marine chief "FordGuyInNY" (FG) - posted the document along with the following information: "My soldiers and I witnessed what I think is some sort of natural phenomenon in the sky over Iraq".

In the audio of the video one can hear FG and his fellow marines commenting on what these "big vertical streaks over the mainland" could possibly be.

The video, taken with the help of a night vision device, sparked some discussion on the forum of, a popular web site that deals with what the webmaster himself calls "Conspiracy Theory, UFO and Alternative Topics". Hoping to find out more about the lights he had videotaped, FG complied with a request of one of the forum members to join the debate and answer some of the questions that had been raised.

Below is FG's sober and informative reply, posted on the Above Top Secret web site on January 7, 2008.

Hello all.

I am the Soldier that recorded the video, and I have been invited here by one of the persons who posted in the thread.

I've read through the thread and I'll try to answer some questions. I have limited time, as everyone here in Iraq is allotted a certain amount of time to use the MWR computers for entertainment.

The phenomena could be seen with the naked eye, but just barely. it appeared as a faint red spot with a dark red haze around it. It was somewhere between 45-60 degrees above the horizon, so the color was puzzling to me.

The lights on the ground are purely coincidental. Because of the limitations of a night vision device, you can't tell that the object in question and the ground light source are actually at much different ranges. They only appear to be at the same spot in the video, and about 80 - 90 percent of the rest of the lights (there were about 30 in all) had no corresponding ground light at any range.

For those of you who thought we weren't doing our job and not reporting it: don't pretend to know everything about what we did from a 2 minute clip. I assure you we took all precautions that we are trained to do. Also, don't presume that those few Soldiers speaking were the only ones present.

I have seen all types of aircraft, aircraft exhaust, flares, missiles, and all types of things of that sort in my military career, in the day and the night. The objects in question do not fit my pattern of experiences when it comes to military equipment.

Most of us who witnessed it (if not all) do not believe it is an aircraft-manmade or otherwise-because we have seen many strange things with simple explanations before.

It does get cold here in Iraq, especially in the north. However, I couldn't see any kind of icy haze through my night vision.

The camera and the NV were separate devices. The camera couldn't see in the night without it, even though the object was visible to the naked eye.

I assure you the video is not a hoax, and all my devices and optics were in perfect working order. My skills as a cameraman may be suspect, however.

I did take much more video, but this is the only segment that doesn't compromise our identities, our unit, or our mission.

If there are any other questions, feel free to ask.


For reasons pointed out in the one but last paragraph of FG's reply, the exact location is not revealed. However, more info was found on, where it is mentioned that another YouTube user - a certain "Brintonsdad" (BD) - had also uploaded the video, but three days later. According to BD, the video was sent to him by "a nephew who is a squad leader serving in Iraq". He believes the footage was most likely captured in the Eastern part of the country. BD further informs us that the incident had occurred on the night of January 2.


- (Strange lights in the sky)


- "Strange objects hanging in night sky over Iraq", thread posted by "Alanjw72" on the forum of



We will keep this discussion short. Regular visitors to our web site will be familiar with the lights in the Iraqi video and will already have identified them as the typical, pillar-shaped reflections of bright, ground-based light sources in semi-transparent ice-crystal layers at high altitudes. In this particular case, the most likely source of the lights are the flares from the many oil and gas fields that form a belt along the eastern edge of Iraq. Flares would also account for the red colour of the streaks. Light sources responsible for this type of optical atmospheric phenomenon can be many miles away from the observer, which explains why not all the reflections had a corresponding glow on the horizon (some of the flares may have been located behind the horizon line).

As far as we know, this is the first time such light pillars have been recorded on film. An infrared system is indeed an ideal tool to accomplish this, since the light of the reflected images is usually too weak to appear on a normal video camera.

Just as we were about to publish this case example, FG posted another message on YouTube:

I discovered the source of the phenomenon. It is indeed, as many people suspected, some sort of light reflection/refraction from ground sources. I have been able to observe the same phenomenon in the same location, although not with the same intensity and not with the naked eye. As soon as I can see it with enough intensity to record on my camera and through the night vision, I will post a video response.

You can also see that some of the lights had sources of light on the ground beneath them. I was skeptical of this as the cause initially, because not all of them had that. However, it turns out there were sources on the ground that were beneath all of them that were obstructed from my view. It was a very beautiful and unique phenomenon, but nothing extraordinary. I plan to remove this video in a short time, because I posted to get tips on finding the source, and now I have done that.

video response The announced video response - a frame of which can be seen on the left - was posted on YouTube on January 12, 2008. The full video can be viewed at (Strange lights explained).

For detailed info on the phenomenon of light pillars we direct visitors to the article light pillars in cirriform clouds and to the description that precedes the picture gallery we dedicated to this phenomenon.

 Our opinion

The lights in the video from Iraq are the reflections of bright, ground-based light sources (probably flares from oil and gas wells) reflected off an ice-crystal cloud.