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Future Event Prediction Experiment - March 1998


NEWSWATCH

By Star-Bulletin Staff
Friday, March 27, 1998

Brilliant light gives night owls a rare treat.

Islanders who happened to be up at 2:41 a.m. today were treated to a spectacular light show in the sky.

"I wish I'd seen it," said Bishop Museum Planetarium Manager Peter Michaud, who was asleep and missed it. "It probably was a once-in-a-lifetime one to see."

But what, exactly, was it?

From talking to people who saw it and called the planetarium, Michaud said it sounds like the light might have been a bolide, or fireball -- a very bright meteor.

On the other hand, it could have been a piece of space junk, he said. "A piece of satellite or discarded rocket element. It's hard to tell.

"It was so bright and people did see different colors, too. Sometimes that's indicative of space junk because of different metals used in spacecraft."

Police dispatchers on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island; the planetarium's security guards; and radio stations all received a lot of calls about the mysterious light.

On Oahu, callers described it as bluish-purple. On the Big Isle, where calls came in from all districts, police said the light made the night sky as bright as day.

The Coast Guard said it appeared to be a large meteor traveling through the sky.

Sporadic meteors -- remnants of the solar system -- are common. "But to have one happen overhead when you happen to be looking up is pretty rare for an average individual," Michaud said.

Having seen one once, Michaud recalled, "It makes your hair stand on end.

"It is a spectacular thing to see but, scientifically, it is probably not all that significant."