CROWDS of people in Stretford watched in awe as a formation of mysterious orange lights hovered low over their houses last night.
The intensely bright orbs, the colour of the setting sun, were spotted by dozens of residents between 10 and 11pm.
Motorists stopped their cars and neighbours on several streets congregated outside to watch the orbs pass slowly overhead.
Some took mobile phone videos and photos of the strange lights, while others reported the sightings to Greater Manchester Police who sent two officers to investigate.
Matthew Darsley, 31, of Haworth Drive, said: "It was the strangest thing I've ever seen. They looked as if they were on fire, really bright orange orbs. We spotted eight or nine go over my house between 10 and 11pm.
"They definitely weren't helicopters or planes or anything like that, and there was no smoke or sound.
"We were thinking, `this is it'.
"By the end there were about eight people out in the close watching them go by. My neighbour said she'd seen them as she was leaving the Trafford Centre.
"These things were massive. The first one I saw was just below the cloud line but the others were probably only about 300ft up.
"I took some pictures and video but I couldn't really seem to capture the size of them, just a bit in the middle like the filament of a light bulb."
A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said they had had no reports of unusual activity and the Civil Aviation Authority declined to comment on the sightings.
And a Ministry of Defence spokesman said it examines unidentified flying object reports solely to `establish whether UK airspace may have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised military aircraft'.
Mum Beverley Clarke, a careers advisor in her fifties, watched the orbs with her husband Michael and son Joe from their back garden on Abbey Close.
"It was amazing," she said. "I'd just returned home and we caught sight of one through the trees. It went over one of the houses and was still for a while before slowly fading away.
"Just as it was disappearing another one came again from the same direction. It wasn't something we imagined.
"I don't really believe in flying saucers but they were huge bright orange spheres.
"They were lower than a plane but higher than a helicopter.
"I was saying, `Oh my God', because it was so strange."
Experts in defence intelligence staff reported in 2000 that many UFOs are in fact an atmospheric phenomenon, extremely hot gases (plasmas) created by charges of electricity.
And 20 homes in Manchester and a plane were struck by lightning the night before as electrical storms hit the region.
Steve Mera, of the Manchester Association of Paranormal Investigation and Training, said UFO sightings have increased by 40 per cent this year with 150 in the last three months.
"Many of the reports have been local," he said. "We've had a spate in Northenden recently. There are a lot of things we have to rule out, such as Chinese lanterns, meteor showers, exotic aircraft and meteorological phenomena.
"Still, about six per cent of sightings remain unexplained."
A spokesperson for GMP said: "We received two reports of objects in the skies above Stretford last night. It is believed the lights in the sky occurred naturally, possible as a result of a meteor shower."
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