They're back, it seems.
A mysterious glowing orange sphere evidently appeared above Kiawah Island during the Christmas holiday, a phenomenon that turns up in the sky here every so often.
Debra Thomson looked up from outside her island residence to see the sphere moving toward her, throbbing as it glowed, she said. It was striking — even above a coast crossed by all sorts of satellites, space stations, private, commercial and military aircraft. She grabbed her phone to video it.
The glowing sphere was about half the size of a full moon high in the sky, she said, moving back and forth as she filmed for more than three minutes.
It looked "like a ring within a ring," she said.
That's pretty strange, you might be thinking. But around these parts, not so much.
On New Year's Day night in 2015, a bright orange disc was reported flying across Rivers Avenue. An hour later, a glowing red object was spotted over the ocean off Myrtle Beach and remained in the sky for two hours.
Three weeks later, what was described as an array of sparks crossed Hamlin Sound near Mount Pleasant, according to reports to the Mutual UFO Network, familiarly known as MUFON.
It gets funkier. Last January, glowing orange balls that appeared over Charlotte were reported to MUFON.
Explanations run the gamut, from hovering Chinese lanterns to top secret experimental vehicles. And of course, the eeriest one: aliens.
UFO enthusiasts and skeptics alike have combed through any number of these reports for years. Each new sighting spurs another clamor of hyper-interest in oddities in the sky.
One thing for certain, most people who bother to look up enough see something mysterious sooner or later. Patterned lights, geometrically moving objects, auras and glows evidently have been spotted as long as humans have had records. Add modern technology and there’s more to fixate on.
Three or four UFO sightings per month in South Carolina are reported to MUFON or the National UFO Reporting Center — sightings the groups deem credible. A lot more get rejected, particularly around the Fourth of July.
Most of the credible sightings do get explained, sooner or later. No one was really surprised when the military finally revealed some of its early, alien-looking prototypes for stealth aircraft.
Jim Hoffman, of the Lowcountry Stargazers astronomy club, stares up at the sky as much as anybody, and he considers himself a severe skeptic of alien encounters, he said.
"The first word of UFO is 'unidentified,' which means there is no immediate, or maybe any, explanation. That does not mean it is something from another solar system,” he said.
"I know enough to know, given the vast distances within this magnificent universe, even if there are intelligent beings out there, the odds of even receiving any communications and being able to decipher it is exceptionally remote," he said. "Actually traveling between stellar systems, then joyriding through the atmosphere, seems a bit far out."
Thomson agrees with all that.
"I've seen some strange things out there," she said. "A lot of people around here have. They don't like to talk about it because you can get a reputation. But I've got it on film."