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Bright lights not evidence of UFOs

At 7:30 p.

Wednesday, November 17, 1999

At 7:30 p.m., an unidentified male caller reported bright lights in the sky near Ironton.

"I was driving toward (Ohio) 141 and I saw some big, bright lights go over into the hills toward Hecla, but I did not hear any crash or see any explosion," the caller said, according to Ironton Police Department reports. "Just the bright lights …"

Rather than calling Special Agents Mulder and Scully, IPD officials assured callers that there is no X-File in the city. Police officials didn’t contact the FAA, either. No plane crashes or UFOs visited the city Tuesday night.

Instead, a much more scientific explanation suffices, IPD Chief Rodney McFarland said.

"It was a meteor shower," McFarland said, adding that another, larger shower is predicted for tonight. "It will be mainly in the eastward skies."

Ironton wasn’t the only city with reports of plane crashes or UFOs, either.

Across the state and the Midwest, authorities were busy with reports of fireballs and suspected plane crashes.

The light show was less spectacular farther east, where scientists like Rob Suggs of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said it was the early stage of the Leonid meteor shower – expected to be its dazzling best tonight.

Despite that expert estimate, it seems there is still some speculation as to what the 20-second fireball really was.

Ohio State University astronomy professor Gerald Newsom disputed that, saying the fireball most likely was either a piece of an asteroid or a satellite re-entering the atmosphere.

Other experts speculate it could have been some piece of satellite or some second stage of a rocket that had been in orbit, and still others claim not to know what the reported meteor, which was said to have broken into three or four pieces as it blazed across the sky, actually was.

But, unless Men In Black show up to deny everything, the phenomenon is a completely natural occurrence, experts said.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.