Longridge 'UFO' mystery solved

A 'UFO' spotted over Longridge was actually a sighting of the International Space Station orbiting the earth.

Several people reported seeing a 'blazing, flying object' in the skies above the Ribble Valley just after 8pm on Monday, September 22.

Eye witnesses from Longridge, Hurst Green and Chatburn all described the 'UFO' moving in a slow arc across the sky.

But it has now been confirmed by the American government space agency NASA that the sighting was in fact the International Space Station, which due to atmospheric conditions was visible above the Ribble Valley for three minutes from 8.12pm and then again for less than a minute from 9.46pm, tying in exactly with the local sightings.

Sarah Bryant of Chatburn said she and her husband saw the 'UFO' blazing a trail across the sky just after 8pm, while Carol Leonard was outside St Peter's Club, in Hurst Green, with a friend when they both witnessed the mystery object.

Catrol said: "It wasn't a shooting star - I've seen enough of those to know what they look like - so I thought it might be a meteorite that had burnt out.''

Another resident Judith Hughes said: "I also saw the blazing, flying object on Monday. At first my heart skipped a beat as I thought it was a shooting star, but I quickly realised it was around for far too long for that.''

John Jardine also spotted the mystery object at 9.40pm over Longridge, saying: "It was like a meteor, but bigger and slower. The whole episode lasted for about 10-15 seconds and then it was lost to my view.''

John added: "I live on a hill and I regularly see over big distances at night. I do know what aircraft navigation lights are like and have seen the police helicopter hovering and searching too many times to be mistaken. It was weird and fascinating."

Clitheroe resident Peter Townson shed most light on the mystery, saying he believed it was "highly likely" it was the International Space Station, orbiting the earth.

Regular Space Shuttle missions to extend and modify the ISS mean it is growing in size and is now often visible in the night sky, where it reflects light like a bright, slow moving star.

The ISS theory was confirmed by the NASA website, which said it would have been visible at the times reported over the Ribble Valley.

The website also predicts when the ISS will be visible in other locations (it is next likely to be visible in this area today, Wednesday, October 8, for about two minutes from 7.19pm) and for those keen to see the ISS in orbit, the website address is: www.spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/cities/view.cgi?country=United_Kingdomion=England&city=Preston

Other information about the ISS can also be found on www.nasa.gov