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The sky over New York City was filled with strange blue lights on Thursday night, shocking locals and causing wild speculation on social media. People thought it was everything from an alien invasion to the crowning of a new Pizza Rat. The real answer turned out to be much more mundane.
A transformer explosion at the Con Ed substation in the Astoria area of Queens caused the strange light show. No one was injured but LaGuardia Airport lost power, grounding flights. Several homes in the area also briefly lost power and the No. 7 train was delayed.
Light show over northern Manhattan just now? Plus distant humming? pic.twitter.com/28PilJtgJQ— Samson Zhang (@wwsalmon) December 28, 2018
Blue skies in New York, what’s going on? 😱 pic.twitter.com/yBPKeYeh44— Andres Rios (@andresriosfit) December 28, 2018
Crazy pulsating blue light with plumes of smoke either from north-western Queens or just across the river pic.twitter.com/cUxiDtEF9l— Dan Saltzstein (@dansaltzstein) December 28, 2018
Just landed at very dark LGA. Pilot says terminals evacuated, w/no power. Said we may have to go to Philadelphia or Hartford. pic.twitter.com/H0iGcq9A8S— carolynryan (@carolynryan) December 28, 2018
“What people were seeing was an electric arc flash,” Bob McGee, a spokesman for Con Ed said, according to the New York Times. “The electrical arc of that magnitude is similar to a thunder and lightning event.”
The New York Police Department did not report a cause for the explosion but did rule out an alien invasion.
Without a clear explanation, New Yorkers were happy to offer up their best guesses.
Con Edison, Queens https://t.co/nouIQ7Z1bH— Josh (@JoshLishnev) December 28, 2018
Blue smoke in Queens means a new Pizza Rat has been chosen pic.twitter.com/JI8IBujbZB— Zack Bornstein (@ZackBornstein) December 28, 2018
congrats to astoria on electing a new pope— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) December 28, 2018
It’s that scene from Ghostbusters. You know the one. https://t.co/GAv83uoSea— Matt Higgins (@ByMattHiggins) December 28, 2018
Fucking gender reveal parties pic.twitter.com/i9u0mpo4wQ— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) December 28, 2018
ATTENTION EVERYONE IN THE NEW YORK AREA— Herb Marselas (@HerbMarselas) December 28, 2018
Your superpowers will begin to develop over the next few days
Please do not choose any superhero names that are copyright Marvel or DC
Stranger Things season 3 is going to be wild https://t.co/yDhFT6Koe7— Josefa Velasquez (@J__Velasquez) December 28, 2018
Space Force! https://t.co/4aIAp0ycp2— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) December 28, 2018
The next morning, one man lamented the press for missing out on the perfect headline for the blue lights.
The fact that the Queens explosion isn't on the cover with the headline "Astoria Borealis" is a dereliction of tabloid duty. pic.twitter.com/J9nM2nF0iF— Jody Avirgan (@jodyavirgan) December 28, 2018
Con Ed tweeted an apology to anyone who lost power and said that “powers lines servicing the area are stable.”
Last night’s electrical fault caused a sustained electrical arc flash & transmission disturbance. There were no injuries and all the power lines serving the area are stable. We apologize for the disruption to customers. Photo: Wall Street Journal. #Queens #Astoria pic.twitter.com/c6chBF4BFL— Con Edison (@ConEdison) December 28, 2018
Con Ed also tweeted a picture of employees working on the problem in the Friday morning light, in case anyone suspected they were slacking off.
So no aliens, no superhero battles, no wrath of god. It was just another day in New York City, and really, isn’t that exciting enough?
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.