26 September 2023

Misleading: South Korean rocket mistaken for UFO in Poland

Misleading social media posts claiming a UFO was spotted and shot down by Polish Air Force came with a video that showed a South Korean rocket test in December 2022.

A video showing a jellyfish-like smoke pattern has been widely shared across social media with a misleading claim that it was a UFO being shot down by Polish air forces in February.

The claim spread to multiple platforms and languages, including Chinese, Arabic and English, picking up more than one million views as well as thousands of likes and reposts.

However, Annie Lab can confirm that the video is actually showing an unannounced rocket launch in the northern region of South Korea on Dec. 30 last year.

In the video, voices could be heard in the background speaking in Korean, asking what the object was in the sky.

We found an array of social media content showing the same space “jellyfish” posted on the same day, mostly by South Korean users from the northern region, including Seoul, Gangwon, Gyeonggi and Chungcheong Nam areas.

These social media images matched with the video aired by Arirang News, a Seoul-based English language television network, on the same evening. According to the TV report, the test was successfully conducted at around 6:50 p.m.

Annie Lab also corroborated the social media posts and the news report with an official statement from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense.

It said the Agency for Defense Development had successfully conducted the flight test of a solid-fuel space launch vehicle on Dec. 30, 2022.

Three days later, MND recapped the event on its official Twitter post, with a 39-second video showing the rocket launch at sea.

Screenshot of the Twitter post by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense on the rocket launch.

The unannounced test launch seems to have caused public panic in the country as citizens have filed hundreds of reports about sightings of UFOs to the police and emergency services, according to media reports by the AP and the South China Morning Post.

Science journalists say the “space jellyfish” phenomenon could be observed when a rocket lifts off during morning or evening twilight.

An NPR article explains that as the rocket reaches high altitudes, “the sun’s rays illuminate the plume of gasses in its trail,” creating the jellyfish shape in the sky.

The claim was also fact-checked by India Today.