Mystery lights seen in the sky and thought to be UFOs turned out to be something considerably less phenomenal.

The sight left puzzled residents trying to solve the mystery of the orange ‘flame-like’ orbs spotted floating across the sky.

Days later, the 'UFOs' were found to be Chinese lanterns released from separate locations.

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

Back in May 2008 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.

Dorset Echo:

The pagan gathering at which Chinese lanterns were released

Another batch of lanterns was released over Portland and a separate batch from Weymouth.

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

In January 2008, a similar glowing orange ball was found to be a lantern released by a teacher in memory of her friend.

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

Dorset Echo:

Chinese lanterns

David Haigh was among those to spot the unusual lights when he was heading home on the bus from Weymouth town centre to his home in Chickerell.

He said: “We could see these orange lights about the size of a football travelling across the sky.

“There were no navigational lights or anything so it couldn’t have been an aircraft or anything like that.

“They were about a quarter of a mile high and travelling too fast for the wind to be blowing them.”

Mr Haigh said that he and his fellow bus passengers could not come up with an explanation for what they were seeing.

He said: “It was quite strange, I have never seen anything like it. It really spooked us.

“Nobody had any idea what it could have been. UFOs are all we can think they are.”

Over the years, there have been many reports of UFO sightings above the Ridgeway between Weymouth and Dorchester and above the A35.

On Portland, a student and her 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,” she said. “But we found some down here, so bought them and wanted to try them out to see if they worked.”