Unidentified 'fast' lights return to night skies

By Roger Moroney


Almost a year after three sightings of mysterious orange lights travelling high across the skies over Hawke's Bay, there has been a return.

Thursday night was just another normal one for Greenmeadows couple Kevin and Shona Otter - until about 7.40pm.

Mrs Otter said she was inside "watching Coronation Street" while Mr Otter was outside on the deck of their home.

His attention was snared by what he described as a fast-moving bright orange light.


"He called out to me 'come out here quick and look at this," Mrs Otter said.

She was stunned by what she saw.

"I've never seen anything like it - it was just bright orange and moving quick."

It was silent as it passed from the northeast (Napier Hill) to the southwest (Taradale).

"I've seen meteors coming in before and I've seen thousands of satellites over the years but this was something else - it was too big to be an aircraft and it was bright orange and round."

Mr Otter reckoned it to be "20 to 50" times brighter than a satellite.

He watched it for about three minutes and, at one point, it did appear to change shape but then returned to a round ball.

"It was so big I thought at one stage it must have been a weather balloon but it was high and bright, and moving too fast for that."

He managed to get one steady shot of the light, although a second attempt wasn't as good.

"My hand was shaking a bit."

Last August, a Havelock North couple reported seeing "a stream" of orange lights crossing the sky.

A fortnight earlier, Napier man Vaughan Brooks and his family watched in amazement as fast-moving red lights crossed the sky from east to west.

And, in September last year, Onekawa man Stephen Carr and two other people watched a bright orange light appear, to be followed by others in pairs until there were eight.

A check with police at the time revealed that they weren't the only ones to have seen the mysterious lights.

The main suspects in such cases are generally put down as glowing space debris returning to Earth, Chinese lanterns or satellites. Mr Otter said none of those fitted the bill for what he, his wife and a neighbour saw.

A check on satellite crosses over the Bay and East Coast showed about 90 a night - although none had the light intensity or the path they described, and, at the moment, the international space station is not crossing the country at night.

Hawke's Bay Astronomical Society president Gary Sparks said the likely culprit was a high-altitude jet. "At that time we can get them on that path between Auckland and Christchurch, and because of their altitude they are still picking up the sunlight - and they will glow and look that colour."

The other scenario was a space satellite or body being "de-orbited", with the oceans off New Zealand being a popular "gravesite" for bringing down redundant objects.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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