When a spectacular bright object descended from the evening sky on Nov. 17 over several cities in Siberia, many people thought they were seeing a UFO -- especially when an official explanation of the event wasn't immediately offered.
The following video, posted to YouTube by PE Omsk -- a local Siberian news service -- shows the object as it was captured on videotape by citizens at different locations:
Initial theories and online comments ran the gamut from UFO to an alien wormhole connecting our galactic neighborhood to another, to an undisclosed secret military rocket launch.
A similar incident took place earlier in November over California when many residents reported seeing almost the same thing that Siberians would witness almost two weeks later.
That West Coast object was identified as "an unarmed missile test-fired from a Navy submarine," the Associated Press reported.
The AP indicated how Navy Strategic Systems Programs frequently conducts classified missile launches "to ensure the continued reliability of the system."
But what about the Siberian event?
"It was the twelfth test in a bizarre Russian missile program to develop defense-penetrating warheads," reports James Oberg, NBC News space consultant on all American, Russian and other foreign space-related issues.
Oberg told The Huffington Post in an email how the Siberian missile episode unfolded.
"The just-launched missile coasts for several minutes and then fires its last stage pushing the warhead downwards into a special radar test range. The plume, then actually higher in the sky, gets to be more than 100 miles long, perhaps 500-600 miles in space before falling back into the atmosphere. Half of the tests have occurred within an hour of sunset. For millions of people along the route, a triangle cloud suddenly appears from nowhere and grows for 60 seconds. Then the nose flares into a brief spiral and fades away."
For those who live in fear of an ET invasion, Oberg's explanation might be comforting. But for the rest of us, who worry over the increased tensions between Russia and NATO members, it's a bit chilling.
Here are more images of the missile as it was seen from different areas above Siberia:
Oberg, a rocket scientist, spent 22 years at NASA's Mission Control in Houston, and has made numerous trips to space launch sites in Siberia and Kazakhstan. He recognizes how these missile tests -- in the U.S. or Russia -- often cause the public to assume what they're seeing in the sky are UFOs.
"The first tests that were visible certainly freaked out the public. But after several repetitions, more of the commentary is from folks who recognized it as another missile test. Nonetheless, some people never seem to get the memo."
As one of the leading UFO skeptics in the world, Oberg isn't happy about the growing amount of faked UFO pictures and videos posted almost daily on YouTube.
"The cynical pseudo-UFO industry is more than just confusing the public. It's also contributing to the chances of important sightings being lost in the noise. Several times on space flights, critical indicators of vehicle malfunctions first showed themselves as unexpected stuff drifting past the windows.
"Sometimes, even governments seem to prefer people think what they saw was aliens, and not the government's secret activities -- and Russian UFO reports have played that role for half a century."
UPDATE: We previously mentioned that James Oberg is an NBC News space consultant. In fact, he has recently retired from that position and is now working on several book projects.