WELLINGTON, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- Chinese lanterns or life from a distant planet?
New Zealand meteorologists said Monday they were opting for the former and other mundane explanations after being inundated with reports of UFOs since the start of the New Year.
WeatherWatch.co.nz said it normally received "a handful" of eyewitness reports of meteors and lights in the sky, with about 10 reports on a busy day.
However, since Sunday, the reports of "floating orbs" and UFOs had been flooding in from around the world at a rate of about 10 each hour.
WeatherWatch.co.nz weather analyst Philip Duncan said the reports ranged from "normal meteor sightings to the strange and unusual."
"Many people around the world have been outside celebrating the New Year," said Duncan in a statement.
"In the U.S., where most of the sightings came from, conditions were fairly mild and dry in many areas - so more people were outside to see things. Finally, it's 2012, the year the world is supposed to end according to the Mayans and it seems many are already worrying."
One report from Ireland on the weather information company's website said, "At half ten new years eve as My mother and I were heading out of our house to go to town we both saw a strange orange pulsing light. My first guess was it could be a Chinese lantern but it was moving very fast in a perfect straight line. There was no wing and a lantern would sway a little and go up not straight across. The light then began to slow and slightly fade. After a few seconds it got brighter and sped up again until we lost sight of it behind our house. My mother saw the same thing around ten past twelve later that night in the same general area."
The statement quoted other reports, including one from Spain: " My father and I saw them in Spain at 00:45 am, but there were 5 or 6 of them all in a vertical line quite close to the earth."
"Susana" wrote from an unknown location, "yesterday around 1230 or 1245 there were some red brownish lights first i saw one of them and kind of got my attention and of the sudden there were a BUNCH of them i couldnt count them but i can say there were around 30 lights UFO'S OR CANDLE LIGHTS who knows all i know i saw those lights and were beautiful. Are we ready for the 2012? are we enough educated not to panic?"
The WeatherWatch.co.nz statement branded the reports "2012 hysteria."
"WeatherWatch.co.nz believes most people witnessed meteors, or shooting stars, Chinese lanterns (which appear as slow moving orange lights) and other normal aircraft such as helicopters and planes," it said.