Mystery of the glowing orb: Bizarre fireball that splits in two could be a meteorite burning up in Earth's atmosphere
- Strange fireball was spotted by commuter Ken Roberts as he drove home
- American Meteor Society received 1,500 fireball sightings in the past week
- UFO experts say the bright orb flying in the opposite direction is 'peculiar'
- Sighting has sparked speculation that it may be a UFO or aircraft crashing
- Fireball may have also been a meteorite breaking apart in the atmosphere
A mysterious glowing orb has been filmed breaking away from an unidentified meteorite-like object as it streaked across the sky above California.
The unusual object can be seen moving through the sky leaving a long tail behind that is characteristic of space debris or a meteorite burning up in the atmosphere.
But after a few seconds a second round object separates from the main fireball and moves off in the opposite direction.
UFO hunters have claimed the bright orb may have been some sort of escape pod from a crashing ship.
However, others have said it is more likely to have been a meteorite breaking apart in the atmosphere.
There have been several sightings of meteorite fireballs in the US over the past week, with many reports coming from California.
WHAT IS THE MYSTERY ORB
There have been some suggestions that this may be a meteorite passing through Earth's atmosphere - especially considering the Quadrantids meteorite shower is currently at its peak.
However, most experts think it is travelling too slow to be a meteorite - they usually travel much faster.
It could also be a man-made spacecraft re-entering Earth's atmosphere but, as Ben Biggs of All About Space points out, if it was a large spacecraft then we'd probably know about it.
California is also near Nevada, home of the top secret base Area 51, so it could be some sort of military project.
The predominant theory at the moment, though, is that it is simply a hoax - all the more likely as there are no other videos of the event.
If it had been real, it is likely that it would have been seen and captured on video by many people, not just one.
The past couple of days have also seen astronomers enjoying the peak of the annual Quadrantids meteor shower.
The fireball was spotted by Ken Roberts while he was driving home from work in southern California.
He said: 'I was driving home after work when this UFO or whatever you call it caught my eye.
'I pulled over in front of somebody's house to film it. I would have got a better shot but I didn't want to jump these people's fence.
'Anyway I don't know what the hell to make of it. Couldn't have been a plane cause there was no noise. And I never heard a crash after either.
'The Orb thing flew straight up into the sky and disappeared.'
He posted the video on YouTube on Monday evening but did not say when or where the footage had been filmed, other than the general area of California.
‘I think it could be something re-entering and bits coming off it,’ said Ben Biggs, editor of All About Space magazine.
‘However, if it was a big spacecraft then we’d probably know about it.
‘Could it be a meteorite? It’s a bit slow to be one as they normally travel much faster through the atmosphere, although we are at the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower.
‘It could also simply be some clever photoshop, especially considering there don’t seem to be any other videos of the event which would surely have been seen by many people.
'Also, California is right next to Nevada, home of the top secret base inside Area 51. There's always a chance that this is some military project gone awry.'
Reports of a fireball above California were received by the American Meteor Society on 3 January 2015
The video shows around 30 seconds of footage of the UFO before cutting off abruptly and showing a black screen for the final two minutes.
According to the UFO news site OpenMinds, the smaller orb breaking away from the main fireball is 'peculiar'.
It said: 'The smaller orb UFO in this video behaves differently than typical meteorite debris.'
According to the American Meteor Society, there have been several reports of meteorites across the US over the past week.
It received more than 1,500 eyewitness accounts - mainly in New York but some as far away as Maine and California - of a bright fireball passing through the sky on 29 December.
The society also said it has also received 17 reports from eyewitnesses in northern California of a fireball in the sky on 3 January.
UFO SIGHTINGS AND THE CIA
The Central Intelligence Agency has said that they are responsible for at least half of the UFO sightings reported in the 1950s and 60s.
The US agency explained that many UFO sightings over that period were directly correlated to tests on the U-2 spy plane.
The plane was being flown at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet, once thought an impossible height to fly at.
Analysts at the CIA soon realized that UFO sightings lined up with the place and time the U-2 planes were flying.
The CIA admitted that many UFO sightings in the 1950s and 60s were tests on its U-2 spy plane (shown)
However, they purposefully chose not to let people know that what they were seeing were not aliens but spies.
Now U-2 planes are flown by the United States Air Force and 104 have been built in total.
In 2013 the CIA officially acknowledged the existence of Area 51.
The site, a badly kept secret for decades, has fueled the imaginations of conspiracy theorists and UFO hunters around the world.
Documents released by the CIA confirmed the mysterious airbase existed and revealed its exact location in Nevada.
Official maps usually only show a disused mine at the site or a large area of restricted airspace, however it does feature on Google Maps and in satellite images.
The documents also revealed some strange goings on at the secret base - but not the kind that UFO hunters have believed.
They revealed that among the jobs staff at the site had to perform during the 1960s was a routine of vacuuming the runway to allow the experimental U-2 aircraft to take off without damaging their engines.
Eyewitnesses reported briefly seeing a fireball (top right) in the skies above New York on 29 December 2014
Mike Hankey, from the American Meteor Society, said: 'This video looks fake. It was published on Jan 5th and we had no reports of fireballs in southern california on Jan 5th or Jan 4th.'
One eyewitness calling themselves Subramanian N described the fireball as having a green colour.
They said: 'I saw a secondary little fireball (very light) at the time of maximum brightness of the first fireball.'
Others reported seeing a small flash as the fireball faded from view.
One said: 'Some fragments seemed to emanate from the tail as it fell.'
One man from Eagen, Minnesota, reported seeing what he thought was a satellite in the sky that appeared to break into two objects.
Writing on UFO website Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), he said: 'As the object came next to the moon there was an extremely brief flash from its right side and a momentary trail and secondary object, that looked like a yellow/green fireball slightly larger than the first object, as if shot out or ejected, was observed for less than a second.
'The primary light continued on its straight path for another second or two and then disappeared.
'I am unsure if what I observed and laid out in my narrative is what happened or if some light phenomenon caused by the satellite passing by the brilliantly lit half moon created an effect that I saw.'
However, some commentators have have questioned whether the latest video is genuine and may have been digitally edited after filming.
The annual Quandratid Meteor Shower (seen here above Banff National Park, Canada) reached its peak on Monday and may be responsible for the increase in sightings of fireballs and meteorites in recent days
Mr Roberts did not respond to questions put to him by the MailOnline.
His YouTube account contains only one other video that was uploaded on the same day as the UFO video and claims to be a film of seagulls in New York.
Nigel Watson, author of the UFO Investigation Manual, said regardless of what it was, the video has got UFO believers excited.
He said: 'This could be a meteor or space junk crashing back to Earth, but what the so-called 'white orb' leaving it has certainly got UFO believers excited.
'They wonder if it is an escape pod being ejected from a crashing UFO.
'At first it just looks like something falling out of the trail of the object, but it carries on under its own power rather than falling away as you might expect.
'It makes me wonder if it is a completely different object that just looks as if it is coming out of this fireball trail.
'Whatever these events are, they are very unusual even if they are not flying saucers occupied by little green men plunging to Earth in a spectacular fashion.'
Giles Sparrow, a space and astronomy journalist, said that while unusual, the orb was probably part of a meteorite fireball breaking apart as it entered the atmosphere.
He said: 'It's almost certainly a fireball breaking apart in the upper atmosphere.
'These things have been floating about in space for billion of years, and their interiors are very, very cold.
'They formed from dust grains clumping together in the solar system, and often have cracks and weak spots that can break them apart when their surfaces suddenly heat up - it just so happens that in this case, the crack was in the right place enough to send a large fragment flying off in the other direction.'
He added that the fireball appears to be moving slowly across the sky due to perspective it is filmed from and because of the time of day it was filmed.
He said: 'Meteoroids approaching Earth's 'trailing' hemisphere as it moves through space have to 'catch up' with our planet before they enter the atmosphere.'
Nick Howes, Pro-Am coordinator at the Faulkes Telescope Project, added: 'I'd guess a re-entry of some space junk if I were a betting man.
'It's burning up in the upper atmosphere, indicating a high velocity, it does appear to be moving "slowly" which may be due to the angle from which footage was taken.'