Fireball Over Polk County.

POLK COUNTY, FL -- A Polk County man videotapes a strange fireball in the sky over Polk County. Rhett Marcotes and his family saw the phenomenon on January 7th just before dusk outside his home in Davenport. Marcotes and his wife grabbed their video camera and began filming. The results were stunning.

Marcotes says they couldn't figure out what it was. The filmed it for about nine minutes until it passed the tree line. They showed the tape to co-workers, friends, and family. Marcotes says everyone has a theory to the fireball over Polk County. Some said space junk, others said meteors, and some even said it was aliens.

Marcotes and his family weren't the only ones to see the fireball. Several people called 9-1-1 in Polk County to report the fire in the sky. The sheriff's office provided us copies of the tapes and you can hear them here.

We took the tape to two professors at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. That's about 30 miles from where Marcotes saw the fireball. Doctors Mossayeb Jamshid and Peter Bias say they don't believe the video shows a celestial event. They say the contrail and brightness suggest jets or engines of some sort enormously high in the atmosphere.

We also showed a copy to Stephen Nipper. He's the Manager of Planetarium and Senior Programs at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

Steve Nipper- Museum of Science and Industry:
"This video is a good example of how an ordinary object, under slightly unusual viewing conditions can present a spectacular visual (and video) image. It is definitely a condensation trail, or contrail, from a jet aircraft. There were no re-entries of space debris on that day, and no reports which
I could find in the scientific or aeronautical communities of a significant meteor entry. "

"In addition, at around 6 minutes into the video, there is a second, fainter and lower, but similar object crossing the field of view perpendicular to the path of the first object.
Also, the duration of the sighting indicates that the object was moving at a slow speed in comparison to a meteor or orbiting space debris. The speed at which the object crossed the sky is very typical of a high flying jet."

"The combination of upper atmosphere conditions which produced contrails which rapidly evaporated, along with a low angle of the Sun and the smoke in the air from the fire which got out of control, lit the contrail brightly and reddened it significantly."