AN Unidentified Flying Object scudded through the sky over Shetland at

the weekend leaving a trail of sparks and a vapour cone in its wake.

At least 19 sightings were reported of the object, glowing white, red,

and orange, which whizzed at supersonic speed over Sullom Voe oil

terminal and south-east over the water on Saturday night.

A detailed description of the UFO was given yesterday by Mr John

Winchester, the Coastguard officer at Sullom Voe. He said he had a good

view for at least 30 seconds on a clear night and the moon was almost


''It was travelling at a very low angle, well within the atmosphere,

and above the clouds, which were perhaps 10,000ft high. It appeared as

if there was some sort of mass at the head of it, with pieces burning

off it, making sparks.

''Behind it there was a vapour cone, like you would see from a jet

engine, only bigger. At the centre there was a dull red glow, with

brighter light at the edges.''

Mr Winchester said it came out of the north-west and appeared to pass

between the village of Brae and the oil terminal.

As it flew towards the south-east the light dimmed and then

disappeared. It was moving ''faster than a jet fighter aircraft but

slower than a shooting star''.

Eighteen other reports from a 40-mile area along the east coast of

Shetland described a large white light and smaller lights of various

colours travelling at the same speed. One said it looked like an

aircraft on fire. Witnesses included a police chief inspector and an


Mrs Hazel Hughson and her husband Roy, of Fladdabister, stopped their

car south of Lerwick when they saw the object.

They said at first it looked like a helicopter with a searchlight.

''As it got higher in the sky we saw there was a big tail behind it,''

Mrs Hughson said.

''There was no sound but there were sparks coming off it. We both saw

bits breaking off. It went very far out over the sea towards the

south-eastern horizon, like it was just sailing through the sky.''

Lerwick Observatory did not log the UFO. It was unaware of any natural

phenomena on Saturday night, such as ball lightning, which could explain

widespread sightings by so many reliable witnesses.

At Britain's most northerly air defence radar station, on the hill of

Saxa Vord in Unst, the RAF station commander said nothing unusual had

been spotted. He added, however, that radars equipment was usually

concentrated on a different area of the sky.

Air traffic controllers told Coastguards there was no military or

civilian aircraft in the area at the time of the sightings, just before


The object could have been a piece of ''space junk'' or a large meteor

burning up in the atmosphere.

Astronomer Dr Fiona Vincent, who writes a local magazine series on the

night sky in Shetland, had predicted a meteor shower, peaking around

December 13.