WAS it a UFO? A flying saucer? A celestial message from on high? Sadly none of the above.

The conspiracy theorists can pack up their notebooks for now.

The mysterious orange orbs spotted floating across Weymouth and Portland at the weekend can now be identified merely as Chinese lanterns.

The paper objects, which glow with the light of candles placed inside, were released over Portland on Friday and then from two different locations around Weymouth on Saturday.

Around 40 lanterns were released at the annual pagan Beltane gathering at Rodden, near Langton Herring, as part of a celebration heralding the start of summer.

Organised by Weymouth-based pagans from the Dolmen Grove, the Spirit of Rebirth gathering attracted more than 200 people, many of whom put wishes in the lanterns and let them fly into the night.

Shamus Herron, meanwhile, watched his neighbours in Spring Avenue, Rodwell, releasing three or four Chinese lanterns from their garden on Saturday night.

He said: “I think they were left over from New Year. I was just going to bed when I saw these things rising up – they just kept going higher and higher.”

On Portland, student Catherine Watch and her partner Chris Williams, 24, decided they wanted to test out their Chinese lanterns ahead of the Glastonbury Festival in June.

They released theirs near the Kimberlin Club at the top of Portland on Friday night.

“Lots of people let them off at Glastonbury but we can never find any when we are there,” said Catherine, 24. “But we found some down here, so bought them and wanted to try them out to see if they worked.”

The lanterns seem to confuse people as they float silently and tend to follow a steady but rapid course once caught on the wind.

It is not the first time lanterns have been responsible for a rash of supposed UFO sightings.

In January, a similar glowing orange ball was found to be a lantern released by Budmouth Technology College teacher Tammy Riley in memory of her friend, Tristram Baker.

A Portland coastguard spokesman said that lanterns were often mistaken for UFOs or distress flares.