At least three local law enforcement agencies received calls late Sunday about what appeared to be a ring of fire over Saguaro Lake.
Callers first reported it was a plane going down in a ball of flames about 10:30 p.m. But most people who witnessed the sight said it was likely a meteor, said Alison Cooper, spokeswoman for Rural/ Metro Fire Department.
Rural/Metro, the Phoenix Fire Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office received about six calls, Cooper said. It was first spotted going across the sky from west to east off Bush Highway near Saguaro Lake, and callers said it went down in that area, Cooper said.
Rural/Metro firefighters who searched the area couldn’t find any debris. Firefighters questioned witnesses at the lake until about midnight on Sunday.
“We were out there looking around, but didn’t find anything,” Cooper said.
Steele Watkins, a spokesman at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, said Monday that the observatory didn’t receive any calls about the sighting, but added that it could have been part of the minor meteor showers currently happening.
“Obviously, it was something that was here and gone,” Watkins said about Sunday’s sighting.
The fireball over Saguaro Lake could have been a fragment from an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, said James Ashley, executive director of Minor Planet Research, a nonprofit organization based in Fountain Hills. Those particles that enter the Earth’s atmosphere can create a glow in the sky, he said.
“They’re quite spectacular and create a stir for those lucky enough to see them,” Ashley said. “People say they’re sometimes so bright, you can read by the light of them. Looking up and seeing one in the sky would surprise you, and many of them are only about the size of a basketball.”
On the American Meteor Society’s Web site, www.amsmeteors.org, there have been 315 “fireball” sightings across the United States reported as of Thursday, including several throughout Arizona in cities such as Chandler, Bullhead City, Tucson and Yuma.
For those whose interest in the phenomena is now piqued, Watkins said that a largescale meteor shower, the Orionid shower, is scheduled to happen later this month and peak about Oct. 20.