Several people report orange lights in Southeast Missouri sky

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Orange lights in the night sky have been reported in Southeast Missouri once again.

H.B. Rice said he was with four people sitting around a friend's pool in Chaffee, Mo., Wednesday night when they saw a bright orange light in the eastern sky moving from the south to the northeast.

"One of my friends said, 'That was a satellite.' Personally, I didn't think it was a satellite," Rice said.

He said the light returned 30 minutes later, about 9:30 p.m., from the direction in which it had been traveling. It stopped abruptly and then disappeared, he said.

"The fact that it stopped is what blew us all away," Rice said.

Carla Lee was with Rice. She did not mention seeing the light twice, but her description of a "big, orange glow" was similar to Rice's account of his second sighting.

"It just sat still, and we were all looking, and then I mean just all of sudden, you know, like 'poof' it was gone. I mean it just disappeared," Lee said.

About 25 miles to the southwest in Bloomfield, Mo., Cecil Haley saw a similar phenomenon Wednesday. He said he stepped outside from a band practice and saw a reddish-orange light in the sky move from southeast to directly north of his location in a span of about 30 seconds. Then it faded out of sight, Haley said.

"It was faster than a plane, but it wasn't like a shooting star or anything," he said.

This is not the first time unusual occurrences have been reported in area skies. A series of sightings of mysterious lights were reported in the Piedmont, Mo., area in the early 1970s. And as recently as spring 2008 there were reports of strange lights near Cape Girardeau.

Some unidentified objects in the region have eventually been identified. In 1973 the Federal Aviation Agency Flight Service Station in Cape Girardeau confirmed that reports of UFO sightings could be attributed to the exhaust of a jet plane. On several occasions flying objects in the area have been identified as large weather balloons.

Dr. Michael Cobb, who teaches physics and astronomy at Southeast Missouri State University, said there is a wide range of possible explanations for the Wednesday night sightings including airplanes, meteors and satellites. He mentioned UFOs as a possibility, but he made no suggestion that these sightings should be attributed to such objects.

Cobb said neither meteors nor satellites change directions in a way consistent with Rice's description. Both satellites and meteors could disappear from sight, he said, but they would not stop. Rice, Lee and Haley all said the light they saw did not resemble an airplane. Rice said the light did not illuminate the surrounding sky the way a meteor does.

Cobb was out of town at the time of the sightings, but he said he did not have any knowledge of recent meteors in the area. Bruce Loy, manager at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, said there were no unusual reports to air traffic control last week.

The Scott County Sheriff's Department said it was not aware of any calls regarding unidentified flying objects, but Rice said he informed a 911 operator at the time of the sighting in case he was not the only person who saw the light.

astephens@semissourian.com

388-3654

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