Agência Brazil Explains: What are the mysterious lights seen in the sky?

The human fascination with the unknown – and the theories that arise in an attempt to explain apparently inexplicable phenomena – has had fertile ground in the lights that, since the 4th of November, frequent the skies of southern Brazil.

The story gained strength after the dissemination, on the internet, of dialogues between flight operators and pilots, professionals who, although qualified to identify the most diverse atmospheric phenomena, were surprised by what they were witnessing.

Faced with this context of doubts, Agência Brazil sought out the National Observatory, in an attempt to clarify what those lights would be, already so commented on in the media and social networks. Some of the cases – those of lights in uniform motion – already have an explanation scientifically supported by the astronomer from the National Observatory Marcelo De Cicco.

“Another part still has no explanation”, adds the professor of metrology and astrometry at the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (Inmetro), referring to lights that make swirling spiral movements.

According to Marcelo, it cannot be said that the reported lights have an extraterrestrial origin. “At first, we called these sightings Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs). They can be natural phenomena in the atmosphere, planets, clouds or even objects such as drones or balloons,” he told Agência Brazil.


In the specific case of lights in uniform motion, the astronomer has an explanation, the result of an investigation he has already published on the internet. On the website, you can see some of the footage of these objects.

“These are Starlink satellites, one of Elon Musk’s companies. These satellites have a metallic surface, with their base facing the Earth, featuring shields that reflect light more intensely. I made all the calculations, taking into account the positioning of the satellites and the observers, in addition to the angle of illumination of the Earth and the satellites”, the astronomer told Agência Brazil when detailing the research published in the link above.

“Everything is matching, with regard to the appearances of the lights in uniform motion”, he guaranteed.

The reflections of these new satellites were already being reported by the scientific community. “There was even a lot of pressure against the company, due to the fact that these satellites were disturbing observations in the sky”.

According to De Cicco, Starlink even assumed, as a commitment, to give a differentiated gloss treatment to the surfaces of the next satellites, which orbit around 550 km from the surface, in order to avoid such reflections.


“This satellite constellation network orbits a lot at latitudes in the extreme north and south, in the midst of shadows and penumbras. When summer arrives, the satellites pass more quickly through the penumbra and end up being illuminated in the parts facing the surface, causing reflections that are more visible in the south of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. This is happening more and more frequently with the arrival of summer. Subsequently, they will decrease, ”he explained.

Regarding the records of cell phones on board the plane that show lights “apparently still”, the astronomer explains that this perception is probably due to “effects of relative movements and parallax”. This perception is relative and stems from the resultant of the movements of the observer and the object.

There are also records from high-definition cameras that, according to De Cicco, show “features of meteor trails”.

Flight 4675

Reports of lights began in early November. One of them, however, drew attention because, so far, there is no plausible explanation. It was on November 5, between operators and the pilot of Azul flight 4675, when in the airspace of Rio Grande do Sul.

In the recording posted on the internet, the flight operator asks the pilot if he had seen “some light in the southern sector of Porto Alegre”.

“I was going to inform you, but they were going to say that I’m crazy. In fact, we’ve been seeing these lights there since Confins. There are three lights rotating between them, very strong”, replied the pilot who, in the sequence, added that the lights “appear and disappear”, and that they would be “strong and rotating in a spiral”.

Asked what the altitude of the object would be, the pilot said that it was “much higher” than his aircraft, which was flying “at level 380” – which is equivalent to 38,000 feet, or about 12 km in height.

According to the astronomer from the National Observatory, the explanations for the other cases (lights in uniform motion) “do not match this and other reports of lights following aircraft or that are in a swirling motion”.

In the field of “possible explanations” for this and other lights with different movements are the military training of the Brazilian Air Force, which is taking place in the South Region.

“If I were to ‘guess’ what these appearances would be, I would say that they are probably military training. I have even been informed that, in fact, they are taking place, with about 800 military personnel with aircraft and drones, ”he said.

“Now, in fact, at this time, I don’t know of any plausible explanation for these swirling lights. It still lacks explanation from the point of view of nature or human activity. The strangest thing is that both pilots and flight operators reported being surprised by what they were seeing. And they are trained to identify already known phenomena, ”he added.

Other unexplained cases

The astronomer and professor of metrology and astrometry has, among students and professional contacts, several colleagues who work in the Defense area. In particular, technicians in the space and radar areas. According to De Cicco, many of these professionals have already confided to him that they have witnessed phenomena still unexplained in the country’s skies.

“Sightings are facts often reported by many of them in our conversations. I heard several reports that this has been noticed for decades. One of those responsible for introducing radars in the Southern Region, by the way, always spoke of these phenomena, and that there are kilos and kilos of reports not yet revealed for fear of causing panic in the population”, said the astronomer.

He adds that some reports from time to time are released by the Air Force and that many of them have already been made available at the National Archives. “These are pieces of information that deserve the attention of the scientific community, as is already being done by NASA itself”, he said.

De Cicco is referring to the commission set up by the US space agency, made up of 16 scientists with the aim of “studying and detailing in a scientific way” the aerial phenomena that occur in that country. “This is a mature way of doing science even to demystify phenomena and avoid speculation,” he said.

NASA’s independent study team has nine months to lay “the groundwork for future studies of the nature of UAPs” in order to identify how data collected by civil government entities, commercial data and data from other sources could potentially be analyzed to clarify these phenomena (UAPs).

“Next, the team will recommend a roadmap for potential UAP data analysis by the agency going forward. A full report containing the team’s findings will be released to the public in mid-2023.”

Translated to english by RJ983

From Brazil, by EBC News