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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:44 p.m., Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Very lucky' folks on Maui possibly saw meteor

The Maui News

WAILUKU — A brightly glowing object that streaked across the sky above Maui was reported by a few people up early enough Wednesday morning to witness the phenomenon.

The Maui News received several phone calls from people who said they saw what probably was a large meteor that moved from northwest to southeast or reporting an unusual cloud that remained in the sky after it passed.

Mike Maberry, assistant director of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, said he was not aware of any reports of an object in the sky. But he said its description sounded like a meteor.

"Whoever got to see that was very lucky," he said, adding that chances are "very slim" of a meteor landing in the vicinity of Maui in the middle of the Pacific.

Maberry said the meteor itself would not need to be very large to make a spectacular show.

"They don't have to be much larger than a poi pounder to look really big," he said.

Many of the meteors that make bright streaks across the night sky are only the size of a grain of sand, he said. A meteor is a rock or similar solid material that crosses into the Earth's atmosphere, with the friction from the high-speed entry causing the material to burn. When a space object lands on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Kaleo Evangelista, a paddler with Kihei Canoe Club who was working out with a crew offshore from old Suda Store, said the glowing object made quite a show a few minutes after 5:30 a.m.

"We saw a glow going over us, just like an airplane," he said. But instead of seeing an aircraft the canoe paddlers saw a light blue, almost white object moving from northwest to southeast.

For one to two minutes, the paddlers watched the object move across the sky, leaving a trail of smoke before it disappeared behind Haleakala. Evangelista said he couldn't tell if the object landed on land or in the ocean.

"We didn't see any kind of explosion or flash," he said.

The object traveled roughly parallel to land until it abruptly changed course, "dropping down at a 45-degree angle," he said.

Evangelista called his friend, Charlie Fleck, who lives in Wailuku Heights. Fleck woke up, stepped outside and snapped photos at 5:49 a.m. of the smoke trail with his digital camera, but he didn't see the object itself.

"It was just an amazing looking sight," Fleck said. "The smoke lingered for an hour in the sky. . . . It was big, very noticeable in the sky."

For more Maui news, visit The Maui News.