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"One of our news crews spotted some mysterious lights in the sky during Tuesday's 11 p.m. news, and now we're trying to figure out what it was.
A series of glowing reddish lights, almost like floating flames, dominated the sky Tuesday night in University Heights looking east. The unidentified objects soared into the darkness, eventually appearing to burn themselves out, adding to the intrigue. Police say they had no reports of any unusual sky activity, nor did renowned local astronomer Dennis Mammana.
"Something like this would have definitely crossed my radar screen," he said.
Tuesday night's sighting comes at a time of other popular sky shows, from the Northern Lights to last month's meteor show.
"A few weeks ago you had that great fireball crossing the sky. People saw it all the way from Las Vegas to San Diego," Mammana said.
So what were the mysterious balls of fire?
"The fact they were ascending sounds like they were being fired from some place on the ground," Mammana said.
One theory is floating Chinese sky lanterns -- essentially mini-hot air balloons -- that are carried into the air by rising heat from candles, or flares burning inside them. Mammana says in the past he has witnessed similar fireworks in the sky.
"Sparklers, flares... I don't know if it was these Chinese fireworks, but it can be quite befuddling if you walk away without watching them," he said.
Whether or not what we saw last night was actually Chinese sky lanterns is not clear. What is certain though is fire officials say launching these devices clearly presents a fire hazard, and whoever is responsible for setting them off could be held responsible for any damage they may cause.
A similar phenomenon of glowing red lights floating in the sky was reported in El Cajon back on New Year's Eve 2009. While never officially determined, fire officials at that time said they were most likely sky lanterns as well."