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Last Updated: Monday August 21 2006 19:26 GMT

Meteor shower sparks plane alert

A meteor shower

A huge meteor shower sparked panic in the Hebrides after loads of people mistook it for a plane crash.

Coastguards in the Stornoway area received about 40 calls from worried people reporting a fireball falling from the sky just off the coast.

Lifeboat crews began preparing for a disaster but it soon became clear that a harmless shooting star had caused Friday night's huge light show.

Experts said the fireball was caused by a meteor shower called Kappa Cygnid.

A coastguard spokesman said: "We received numerous 999 calls with around 40 alone on Friday night.

"People were reporting seeing something like a plane going down with a trail of smoke behind it."

Debris from space

A meteor shower

Coastguards checked with nearby RAF Kinloss who confirmed the fireball was caused by Kappa Cygnid, which throws out big fireballs every seven years.

Meteor showers are caused by debris from a comet burning up in Earth's atmosphere.

This produces amazing shooting stars - or jets of light - which blaze across the sky.