A bright blue light lit up the New York skyline on Thursday night after a transformer exploded at an energy facility.
The blast prompted a brief fire at a sprawling Con Edison facility in Queens — but no injuries — and a spectacular illumination that generated a flurry of online commentary.
The explosion affected subway service in the area and caused a brief ground stop at LaGuardia Airport, which experienced power outages.
Governor Andrew Cuomo described a “major electrical failure” at the electrical substation along the East River, near the Rikers Island prison complex and across a small bay from LaGuardia.
Power had been largely restored to LaGuardia by 11pm and the airport was resuming normal operations.
The lights caused a stir on social media as several witnesses posted photographs and videos of a bright, blue flash that filled the night’s sky.
The Manhattan skyline and iconic East River bridges were suddenly silhouetted against a backdrop of pulsating light.
People flocked to social media to find out what happened and to share their views of the plumes of smoke pouring from the transformer.
“It was pitch black outside and then suddenly the whole side of the eastern sky was lighting up and changing colours,” said Madeleine Frank Reeves, who saw the lights from her Upper West Side apartment. “It lasted a couple of minutes.”
Some observers wondered whether aliens were invading and joked that the trend of gender reveal parties had finally gone too far.
Television host Keith Olbermann referred to the episode as the “Blue Light Special.”
“Something insane is happening in the sky above Manhattan right now,” New York University sociologist Eric Klineberg wrote on Twitter under a video of the flashing sky.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesman Eric Phillips tweeted that the lights were attributable to a “blown transformer.”
“Not aliens,” Phillips tweeted.
John Tebbett, who lives two blocks away from the facility, told NY1 the explosion was followed for about five minutes by a loud roar.
The blast had caused the lights in his home to flicker off and on, he said.