THE mystery of an unexplained sequence of glowing orange lights that puzzled Stonehaven residents over the weekend has been solved.

On Monday Dan Paton and Graham Philip and their respective wives, Marie and Aileen, spoke of spotting a series of eight UFOs as they left the Carron Restaurant at 8.30m on Saturday night.

They described seeing the lights speed through the sky at three minute intervals at the same height.

Mr Paton, curator of the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, said he believed they were definitely not the navigation lights of a plane or helicopter and that they could not have been balloons or parachute flares.

Following press reports, speculation on the internet was rife as to what the mysterious lights could be, with several other Stonehaven residents reporting they had spotted the glowing orange balls in the sky.

But the Leader can reassure readers that the town has definitely not been visited by little green men.

The mysterious lights were in fact Chinese lanterns bearing the birthday wishes of eleven year old Katie Gillespie and her friends.

A total of nine lanterns were let loose just before 8.30pm from Katie's home in Malcolm's Way, as part of her birthday celebrations.

The ensuing media frenzy has caused great hilarity at Katie's school Dunnottar Primary.

Katie's mum Jo McGregor told the Leader: "My daughter Katie had her eleventh birthday party on Saturday night and for a bit of fun we gave the girls a Chinese wish lantern each to set off.

"To our surprise there were articles in the daily papers on Monday.

"We couldn't believe it - it was just hilarious. Katie took the press cuttings into school with her and they thought it was brilliant."

Chinese floating lanterns are made from a lightweight paper bag with a candle or flame underneath.

Hot air from the flame fills the bag and the lantern then drifts off into the night sky.

The popular lanterns can reach great heights and travel for miles, and have been behind many UFO sightings in recent years.