Falling UFO Makes
Blazing Appearance In OZ
By John Huxley
The Sydney Morning Herald
From Stig Agermose <>

It sounded, as a perplexed police spokeswoman later admitted, like something straight from the pages of The X-Files. Soon after 6am yesterday, Ron Arscott, a Berowra newsagent, was delivering papers along The Gully Road when the windscreen of his car was suddenly filled with a white light ... an impossibly bright, extraterrestrial light.
"This thing was flaming, falling fast, perpendicular to the horizon," he said. "I tell you, I got the fright of my life. For one moment, I thought, "I have been chosen'."
Spooky. But Mr Arscott, a sensible man accustomed to seeing shooting stars ("and this wasn't one of them"), was not alone.
From as far north as the Sunshine Coast, as far south as the Royal National Park, early risers telephoned police stations, emergency services and radio switchboards with similar stories.
Various people saw various things: "a black ball with a fiery tail"; a UFO "a quarter of the moon's size"; "a piece of space junk"; a distress flare; and, possibly even a light plane.
Its destination was variously reported as the F3 motorway, the Hawkesbury River, "somewhere north of Killcare", and Newcastle.
For almost three hours, the main target area, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, was searched on land by police and emergency services and from air by Polair and NRMA CareFlight choppers.
Nothing. No wreckage. No flares. Certainly no alien life-forms, though the police spokeswoman retained an open mind.
"If Mulder and Scully [of The X-Files] do walk in, we'll know why."
The down-to-earth explanation was provided by Jonathan Nally, of Sky & Space Magazine. "It was a fireball. A bloody big meteor basically."
How big?
"Oh, perhaps the size of a football, though it probably fragmented before hitting the ground.
"I'm not suggesting that people are twits, but these things are very deceptive. They appear much bigger and much closer than they are."
As the meteor approaches Earth at 30 kilometres a second, it appears to burn as the density of the atmosphere increases about 80 kilometres up. In fact, the outer shell is heated by friction and the surrounding air is ionised.
"What you see is brightly glowing air - not flames shooting from the back of the thing," Mr Nally said.
At 40 kilometres, the meteor has slowed and cooled.
"If it hasn't burned off completely, it enters a period of "dark flight' - a great term, Steven Spielberg stuff - where it follows a trajectory to ground."
Because of speed and angle of descent, this could be more than 200 kilometres from the observer.
Meteorites - as meteors become when they reach Earth - offer valuable information about the origins of life.
"My word," Mr Nally said. "To find a pristine one, newly arrived, would be ... ooh, wonderful."
This week, Mr Nally will try to pinpoint "the 6.13 from outer space" by checking with witnesses and amateur astronomers, many of whom have cameras pre-set to take pictures every few seconds.
He is not optimistic.
"Ultimately, it depends on information available and type of terrain identified," he said.
"I fear that as dawn broke, many cameras will have switched off automatically. Pressed, I could only say it came down somewhere midway between Sydney and Brisbane." In 1989, an intensive search for a meteorite that landed in the Tamworth area was unsuccessful despite a $2 million reward offer and help from opal miners.
Lumps of rock falling from the skies. Bugs in the water. Is this some apocalyptic warning?
Not in the meteorites, says Mr Nally.
Sure, an asteroid 1.6 kilometres wide is predicted to pass within 42,000 kilometres of Earth on October 27, 2028. Seriously.
But football-size lumps?
"One or two a month would be visible from any given location," Mr Nally said. "People don't see them because it's too light, too cloudy, or just the wrong time.
"There's a surprising number of people up and about at 6am."