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Mysterious Flash Lights Up Western Sky
'I've never seen anything like it'
October 4, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A mysterious flash lit the Western sky from San Francisco to central New Mexico, fueling speculation that a UFO whizzed by, a low-flying plane swooped overhead or a chunk of space rock fell from the sky.
What the thing was remains a mystery, though an astronomer said it might have been a "piece of asteroid."
People from California to New Mexico reported the strange flash shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday. Witnesses said it was an intensely bright bluish-green light which streaked across the sky for just a few seconds.
Kevin Mullins with Kern County California Fire Department told CNN they received several calls from people claiming to have seen the mysterious light.
Christine Church of Belen, New Mexico, described the object as having a row of five to six lights lined up horizontally. At first, she thought it was an airplane about to crash, but when she went out to investigate she found nothing.
"There was no noise, no crash and the lights were gone," Church told CNN. "I've never seen anything like it."
A television news helicopter pilot said he swerved to avoid what he at first thought was a spotlight from another helicopter.
But NASA officials downplayed the sightings saying the object might have been a falling satellite, and an astronomer at Los Angeles' Griffith Park Observatory said the flash was probably caused by space debris burning up as it entered the atmosphere.
"This is probably the biggest flash we've seen in two years," said astronomer John Moseley. "The meteor was probably a crumbly piece of asteroid, or possibly a fragment of a comet."