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Friday, June 12, 1998 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK


They came from space ...

An impression of how the objects might have appeared

Blazing bright blue objects in the sky which sparked a flying saucer alert across much of England are being dismissed as a meteor shower by the government.

BBC News' John Andrew reports on the strange phenomenon
The objects were spotted by hundreds of people from Devon to the Midlands for several hours from about 2300 on Thursday.

They were seen both as one big light and a group of smaller lights, travelling in a north easterly direction

Sightings spark alert

Many people rang the police to report a flying saucer, while others feared they had seen a burning aeroplane.

Sergeant John Drake, of Staffordshire police, said: "We had more than a dozen calls around midnight from people who had seen a single, blue light that was bigger than a car.

"Many officers from police cars also radioed in saying they had seen the same thing.

An eye witness describes how the sky lit up
"Some people described a tail behind the light, while others said it looked like it was burning or flaming. We had calls from Keele in the north of the county to Tamworth in the south."

In southern England, Thames Valley Police contacted Air Traffic Control at Heathrow Airport after receiving a call from High Wycombe that a burning plane had been seen coming into land.

They also received calls from drivers on the M4 motorway, near Reading in Berkshire.

Ministry blames meteors

But the Ministry of Defence has tried to dispel fears of an imminent martian invasion.

A spokesman said: "Initial reports suggest it was an unusually large meteor shower which takes place when material and debris from outer space comes through the upper atmosphere.

"When the material passes from a zero-gravity zone into the gravity of the upper atmosphere, it burns up because of the friction.

"It is not unusual on a smaller scale, but last night's shower seems to have been quite big.

There was no evidence of any meteors hitting the ground, he added.

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10 Jun 98 | Sci/Tech
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