But the hundreds of worried callers who contacted police claiming to have seen a single blue light bigger than a car, or a burning aeroplane, or (of course) a flying saucer, were wrong. "The Martians haven't landed," one policeman reassured a caller.
Instead, it was a harmless meteor shower, in which none of the rocks was big enough even to hit the ground before burning up.
Police forces in counties running from Devon to the Midlands - and including some as far afield as Wales and Sussex - received calls around midnight on Thursday.
Sergeant John Drake, of Staffordshire Police, said: "We had more than a dozen calls around midnight from people who had seen a single, blue light that was bigger than a car.
"Many officers from police cars also radioed in saying they had seen the same thing.
The lights are caused by the rocks heating up and burning as they fall into the upper atmosphere at about 70,000 kilometres per hour.
An estimated 14 million meteors enter the atmosphere every day. Most are only as big as a grain of sand.