P a r t y   b a l l o o n s  &  L u m i n o u s   b a l l o o n s 

Every day thousands of balloons of all imaginable shapes and sizes are released into the atmosphere from different corners of the planet. For that reason alone, it should be no surprise that balloons constitute a major cause of UFO/UAP reports.

The best-know balloons are the small, oval-shaped, helium-filled party balloons that are used to add sparkle to fairs and festivals. Because helium gas, like heated air, is lighter than the air that surrounds us, balloons lift and float through the air. When released in large numbers, party balloons are sometimes mistaken for a fleet of UFOs when their shiny latex envelopes reflect the sunlight directly to observers on the ground. Small turbulences in the air stream may cause the balloons to wobble from one side to the other. Because of this, two or more balloons can get entangled, causing them to rotate around one another. Witnesses often believe that the "objects" or "lights" they are watching cannot be balloons because the direction in which they move is different from that of the clouds. What many people (witnesses and investigators alike) ignore, is that winds can blow from different directions at different altitudes. It is therefore important that, in cases were balloons are suspected to have been involved, investigators check not only the direction of the wind as measured at a ground station, but also the direction registered at higher altitudes. Only the soundings from a meteorological balloon, launched at a time and place that is close to the time and place of the reported event, can tell whether or not the direction and speed of the wind matched the travelling direction of the object or objects we want to identify. Party balloons come in a variety of shapes. They can also be tied together in clusters and lift an object or a person into the air. From a distance such a combination can be a puzzling sight.

Also popular at parties is the helium-filled, metallized nylon or foil balloon, also known as mylar balloon ("Mylar" was actually one of the trade names of the strong polyester film these balloons are made of and which was developed in the mid-1950s). Like most balloons, the highly reflective mylar balloons come in different shapes as well. Stars, hearts, animals, rugby balls and miniature blimps for instance can be found in almost any specialized store, but the most common shape is that of a thick, round cushion. From a distance such a balloon looks exactly like a classic flying saucer. Although they are small in diameter - usually between 30 and 50 cm (12 and 20 inches) - mylar balloons are sometimes taken for metres-wide objects, especially when there are no nearby reference points.

A new type of balloon, one that is bound to cause additional UFO/UAP reports in the following years, is the light balloon, a helium-filled balloon illuminated from the inside by tungsten halogen lamps or by powerful High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps. These extraordinary "light balloons" create a bright yet glare-free light. They can be equipped with a combination of lamps and mirrors which mounts up to 16,000 Watt. Because the balloons have a certain diameter (the largest known model has a diameter of 5.5 m or 18 feet), shadows are strongly reduced creating the impression that the surroundings are illuminated by diffuse sun or moonlight (most other lamps can be regarded as point sources which illuminate objects from one side only). These balloon lamps may be mounted on an extensible tripod or tethered on a wire. As far as we could check they can be ball, tube or cushion-shaped. In recent years, the balloons showed up at parties, barbecues, festivals, concerts and sports events, but they also proved their worth at construction sites, film sets and even at crime scenes (where they helped police investigators search for forensic evidence). For safety reasons, the balloons cannot be deployed near airports or at altitudes exceeding 50 m (164 feet).