Strange Lights Over Canberra Revealed To Be Fake

13/01/2016 9:54 AM AEDT | Updated January 13, 2016 09:54
Youtube/Johnson Thompson

Yet more reason to take everything on the internet with a grain of salt.

A man who posted a video of "strange lights" above Canberra which went viral last week has revealed how he crafted the video, fooling many media outlets with what he claims was a rudimentary practice exercise with new software.

The original video, posted to Youtube on January 3, purportedly showed an odd green haze in the night sky over Canberra as lightning flashed. A large, glowing circular pattern then emerged in the middle of the shot, flashing then quickly disappearing.

The video was covered by several major news outlets, including the ABC and the Canberra Times. The ABC spoke to an astronomer from the Australian National University, whose opinion was that the phenomenon was ball lightning; the Daily Mail, news.com.au and Tech Times floated the idea it could be linked to extraterrestrial activity.

The truth was revealed to be far more mundane as the original YouTube poster 'Johnson Thompson' uploaded another clip claiming the lights video was an artfully forged fake, taking viewers on a step-by-step guide on how it was done.

Using a suite of computer video and photo editing equipment, Thompson said day and night images of Canberra were combined to give the effect of flashing lightning, that images of the Northern Lights were added to give the green hue, and that the "ball lightning" was just a computer simulation.

A user claiming to be Johnson Thompson also posted on Reddit, giving an explanation of how the hoax video made its way to the media.

"I didn't intend for it to be taken seriously, but i made an error in judgement and titled the video as if it was real. Because of this the video went viral. It was reported on by the abc & canberratimes among many others. It was even in the paper," the user wrote.

"During the week the video has been live i have refused to say anything about it or respond to the many journalists trying to get in contact with me. I honestly didn't know how to respond. I also did not license or monitise the video. I have posted a second video explaining how the first video was made. Once again, i did not mean for this to happen. I just hoped it would get a few laughs. I'm sorry if this has caused any grievances."

In the description of the explainer video, Johnson Thompson wrote "Thank you to all who picked that this was not real, and provided great critique. I will use your constructive criticism to improve my compositing skills,"

On the original video, the description has been changed to read "Unfortunately this video is not real," with a link provided to the explainer clip.

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