NASA scientist: Mystery light over Valley likely a fireball

Posted: Updated:

UPDATE: A NASA scientist says he's convinced that a brilliant light seen darting across the Southwest night sky was most likely a piece of asteroid that entered Earth's atmosphere.

Scores of people from Southern California to Arizona saw the light hurtle quickly from west to east at around 7:45 Wednesday night.

NASA Near-Earth Object Program manager Don Yeomans said he was convinced it was a fireball -- a fragment of an asteroid the size of a baseball or basketball that hit the atmosphere and disintegrated before reaching the ground.

He says it's unusual for an object of that size to be seen over populated areas.

Yeomans ruled out a dead spacecraft falling back to Earth because such events can be predicted ahead of time.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

ORIGINAL STORY: A mystery light that ripped across the Valley's western skyline had witnesses lighting up telephone switchboards wondering what they saw Wednesday night.

CBS 5 received a slew of calls from viewers looking for an explanation. Angie Wendling said it was like a "shooting star." Many people described it as a bluish-green light.

Madeline Mattlich said it was traveling north to south. Another viewer wrote in a Facebook post, "I was just on the sofa and it really caught my eye."

Resident Geneva Ward said, "I thought it was lightning but it went horizontal."

One viewer, Jazziette Devereaux, a former KFNX radio talk show host, sent CBS 5 an artist's rendering of what the mysterious light in the sky looked like over Scottsdale at 7:45 p.m.

Angie Wendling, who lives in the far northwest valley, said she was "kind of freaked out a little."  She said what she was a blue and purple light, streaking across the sky.  The colors then faded to a reddish-orange. 

The National Weather Service said it wasn't a weather event.  NWS meteorologists said they were at a loss.  They said there have been sightings all the way to Los Angeles.

"My hubby was outside," said Stephanie Scovell in a Facebook post. "He said it was like a meteor burning up."

Another viewer said he thought it was an American satellite that was falling out of orbit and breaking apart.

Read more of our viewer's reports on our Facebook page. reported there has been recent concern at NASA about a dead satellite that would likely fall to Earth sometime between late September and October. The web site said the satellite ran out of fuel in 2005.

After the famous "Phoenix Lights" incident, people in the Valley like keeping their eyes glued to the skies.

In March 1997, a series of lights hovered over the Valley. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a massive black craft overhead. The National Guard eventually came out years later saying the lights were flares.

Copyright 2011 KPHO. All rights reserved.