“This morning in arctic Norway, onlookers were stunned when a gigantic luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. “We are used to seeing lots of auroras here in Norway, but this was different,” says Nick Banbury of Harstad who witnessed the phenomenon on his way to work “between 7:50 and 8:00 a.m. local time.” Onlooker Jan Petter Jorgensen took this photo:
The first reaction of many readers when they see this picture is Photoshop! Surely this must be a fake. But no, many independent observers witnessed and phtotographed the apparition. It is real.
Banbury continues: “It consisted initially of a green beam of light similar in color to the aurora with a mysterious rotating spiral at one end. This spiral then got bigger and bigger until it turned into a huge halo in the sky with the green beam extending down to Earth. According to press reports, this could be seen all over northern Norway and must therefore have been very high up in the atmosphere to be seen hundreds of km apart.”
UPDATE: Circumstantial evidence is mounting that the phenomenon was caused by a malfunctioning rocket, possibly an ICBM launched from a Russian submarine. A Navtex no-fly alert was issued for the White Sea on Dec. 9th, and photographers appear to have recorded the initial boost phase of a launch below the spiral (see inset). A rocket motor spinning out of control could indeed explain the spiral pattern, so this explanation seems plausible, although it has not yet been confirmed.” (SpaceWeather.com via julia)