ACT News


'Strange lights above Canberra' video creator admits it's fake, apologises for viral hoax

The person who uploaded footage of "strange lights" over the Canberra sky that fooled even astronomers and meteorologists has admitted the video was fake and apologised for unintentionally wasting viewers' time.

The video, posted to Reddit and YouTube on January 3, showed an aurora-like colouring in the sky and a donut-shaped flash of light, which experts thought might have been the rare phenomenon of "ball lightning".

But the uploader, Johnson Thompson, appears to have had a change of heart after the clip unexpectedly went viral, garnering more than 300,000 views on YouTube and extensive media coverage, posting a second video on Friday explaining how they'd "accidentally created" the hoax with Adobe After Effects.

"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," the uploader said in a post on Reddit.

"The worst thing to come out of this is that I caused Canberra astronomer, Dr Brad Tucker and senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology Sean Carson to take time out of their day to talk about the video.


"I'm extremely sorry for that. I messed up bad."

Thompson said the attention the video attracted had been unexpected and didn't think the special effects, a result of experimenting with the newly-purchased software, were convincing.

"I hadn't heard of ball lightening prior to making this video," the second video said.

"At most I hoped it would get a few laughs and/or critiques on the Canberra subreddit.

"Nothing interesting ever happens in Canberra, ever."

Thompson has since added the words "unfortunately this video is not real" to the original YouTube clip.