WERE they planes? Were they spaceships? Or were they Chinese lanterns!
That is the question many residents in Comet country are asking themselves today following a number of reported sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs).
On Saturday between 10 pm and 11 pm, Stevenage residents spotted between two and seven orange spheres in the sky, traveling parallel with Luton Airport’s flight path and today (Monday) the Comet has been inundated with calls from people who think they may have spotted extra terrestrial activity.
Sean Riley, who was holding a barbecue in Wisden Road, Stevenage, said: «There were four very bright orange objects going from north to south, one following the other with a fair gap and then going straight up and disappearing. I had not been drinking and 10 other people at my barbecue saw them, also aircraft going to Luton airport were in close proximity.»
A year ago motorists reported a similar sighting between Baldock and Royston on the A505. They saw orange balls of light moving across the sky but Luton Airport said they believed they were Chinese lanterns which had been lit and then released into the air.
Mr Riley added: «We’re fairly logical and reasonable people. They were travelling north to south and the wind was going in the opposite direction so it couldn’t have been Chinese lanterns. Some people look at our photos and say what we saw was the moon but there hasn’t been a full moon for a long time.
Ken Tobin who was at Mr Riley’s barbecue said: «I didn’t believe in UFOs until Saturday. It was quite unbelievable.
«The spheres were silent and travelled in a straight line and then got dimmer and dimmer. I have never seen anything like it.»
Ian Sharp of Jessop Road said: «I was lying in bed when I saw two orange lights glide across the sky about 15 seconds apart. They were following a plane that had just flown over. It was something I’d never seen before.»
They were also spotted on the Jackmans Estate in Letchworth GC and near Bancroft in Hitchin.
Stephen Hague of Bearton Road, Hitchin said: «I have spent 21 years working nights and have seen many sky items but nothing like this. Could it have been a satellite breaking up? Maybe, but it was the regularity that the items passed over that made this unlikely. They were neither planes nor shooting stars, they were way too big and you could see the flickering orange flames.»
On the same evening UFO Investigations UK received a record number of reports of sightings in one night and as a result it has called for an official MoD inquiry.
Speaking to a national newspaper, a spokesman for the organisation said: «More than 200 people got in touch claiming to have seen UFOs on Saturday night. Normally we receive 10 to 15 reports a day. So far we’ve not been able to explain all the sightings. It’s time for an official enquiry.»
A spokesman for Luton Airport said: «We can confirm that these sightings were actually Chinese lanterns, believed to have been released in the Stevenage area over the weekend. These lanterns are similar to hot air balloons in design but about the size of a dustbin liner. The airport would like to reiterate that anyone who plans on releasing lanterns should get clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority before doing so».
In 1976 a mystery object was also spotted flying low over the skies of Stevenage by a man walking his dog. The man was sure he had witnessed a UFO. He said: «I was completely mystified as there was not a cloud in the sky and it was a perfectly still night. If it had been an aeroplane I would have heard it.»
And 35 years ago an unidentified flying object was reported at Hitchin Station and Letchworth’s Grange Estate. The glowing object was said to resemble a long balloon, and the first two reported sightings said it hovered fairly high before disappearing. A North Herts UFO group member said other sightings of the object had been made in the area and a full investigation would go ahead.