By TOM SHARPE AND Jason AuslanderSky-watchers across the western U.S. reported seeing bright lights late Sunday, but theories abound on just what they saw.
The New Mexican
The New Mexican
It was probably a meteor, one agency said. A UFO expert said space junk is another possibility.
And depending on the observer, this thing that hurtled across the darkness was either red, orange, yellow, blue or white. Or some combination of the above.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said six people called his dispatcher to report the lights in the sky, including one who thought it might have been a falling airplane.
The National UFO Reporting Center in eastern Washington State reported that about 30 people across the West reported seeing something in the sky, with most of the calls coming from Colorado.
Menka Jain, who was driving near Los Alamos on Sunday night, said she saw what looked to be an orange fiery projectile that exploded into pieces.
Peggy Crumbacher, who lives south of Santa Fe off N.M. 14, said she looked to the north at about 11:15 p.m. ``It went from white to blue, and then I could see it turned toward the north, and then it absolutely disappeared,'' she said. ``This was not a meteor. Meteors would be bright lights.''
Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center said Sunday evening's reports began with a fireball over Seattle about 9:26 p.m. New Mexico time.
He said other reports Sunday evening came from:
_Winslow, Ariz., where a large light green fireball was observed at 10:18 p.m.
_Cheyenne, Wyo., where an airplane pilot flying at 30,000 feet observed to the south at 11:15 p.m. at approximately the same altitude a bright object that seemed to eject five golden objects out its back end at regular intervals. The objects remained visible for about 30 seconds.
_Cascade, Colo., where eight to 10 orange objects were seen flying from north to south for about 10 seconds about 11:15 p.m. An airplane was spotted nearby about 10 seconds later.
_Hartsel, Colo., where eight to 10 glowing orange, yellow and red objects were seen about 11:15 p.m. moving south to north. Several of the objects broke off in different directions, while the lead objects changed their color to blue and white before disappearing within one minute.
_Raton, N.M., where a motel employee observed a large gold star about 11:20 p.m. that split into three, then seven objects that moved in a straight line for several seconds.
Davenport said similar lights were reported Sunday evening in Roseville, Calif.; Boulder, Colo.; Silver City and Las Cruces.
``The first thing that comes to my mind was the possibility of space debris,'' he said. ``But usually when that happens, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) at Peterson Air Force Base (in Colorado) makes a statement. ... And I have not heard from NORAD.''
Davenport said some of Sunday's reports had the characteristics of a meteor -- fragments coming off a main object, objects moving in a straight line, flaring up like a match and lasting only a few seconds.
Federal Aviation Administration officials also said the lights were likely a meteor, according to KOB-TV. A person at LodeStar Astronomy Center in Albuquerque didn't know about the lights, and neither did a person who answered the phone at Santa Fe Community College's planetarium.
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